Mirror-mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest weather fan base of them all? And who has the most loyal fans in baseball? Those are the questions we set out to answer, using a statistical approach. Last week we tackled the American League, this week we shift our attention to the National League. To be clear, our definition of loyalty in this case is not whether fans of a team stay fans from year to year, but whether they continue to support their team by attending games even in bad seasons. There are a variety of ways to have a bad season. Sometimes a fan base knows their team will be bad before the first pitch of the season is thrown, sometimes a team stinks more than expected, and sometimes a team gets off to a good start and then blows it down the stretch.
We were interested in looking at how fans respond to bad play from their teams. We used season long average home game attendance as our measure of fan support, and total regular season losses as our measure of a team’s relative “lousiness”. We pulled data from the last 10 seasons for each MLB team (2006-2015). Using a program called R, we conducted a regression analysis and generated figures that look like this:
You can clearly see from this figure that average attendance at Pittsburgh Pirates home games drops in seasons where the Pirates are losing more (it should be noted that researchers in essentially all fields of science would KILL for data this tight). By looking at the relative slope of that line compared to the lines for other teams, we can determine which fan bases abandon their teams the most when times get tough (steep dropping line), and which ones stick it out through bad seasons (flatter line). We ran this analysis for each team and separated them into general categories based on what the stats told us. This week we present the National League teams.
The Colorado Rockies rated as the most loyal NL fan base, showing very consistent attendance in both good seasons and bad. Hey, it’s Colorado, we know for a fact that the ball sails in the thin air which boosts offense. Maybe the promise of more offensive shoot-outs keeps attendance high even in seasons when the home team is losing a lot?
The St. Louis Cardinals are next in this group but with an asterisk. Over the last ten years (the data we used), the Cardinals have not had any truly bad seasons that would test a fan base’s loyalty (the worst season in that stretch was only 6 games under .500). But the numbers are what they are. Cincinnati and San Francisco showed consistent attendance as well. And in the bottom half of this group we found the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Braves, and Padres to all have relatively loyal fans.
In general, the NL had more teams classified as “loyal” than the AL (coming to the The Renaissance Fan soon!).
THE FANS THAT FADE
The next group includes fan bases that show wavering attendance in bad seasons. It’s not a mad dash for the exit, but it’s a noticeable drop for these clubs. The LA Dodgers, Washington Nationals, and Milwaukee Brewers came out, in that order, as the next most loyal fans. We understand, and maybe expected, more fickle fans from our nation’s most superficial city and the city that is currently the symbol for disfunction and low approval ratings, but Milwaukee?! It’s supposed to be the Heartland. And what else are you going to do in Milwaukee?
THE FAIREST OF THE FAIR-WEATHER FANS
Now we come to the fairest of fair weather fan bases. The Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadephia Phillies, and New York Mets round out the bottom of the list. The figure for the Pirates was shown earlier, and I reiterate, that thing is tight! The pattern for the Phillies is similar:
Which leaves us with the Mets. Mets fans, particularly celebrity Mets fans, love to lament about how tortured they are as a fan base. But can you consider yourself a tortured (or loyal) fan base if you just stop coming to the ballpark in “bad” seasons? In seasons where the Mets are just a few games under .500 the average attendance is about 18,000 fans lower per game than seasons when they have a winning record. Fair weather fandom at its finest.
THE SHINY NEW STADIUM EFFECT
Like the Minnesota Twins in our AL analysis, the Miami Marlins get booted out of the analysis by virtue of getting a new stadium right in the middle of our timeframe. Whether the team sucks or not, people like being in new buildings. That’s particularly true of baseball stadiums that appear to be designed by Willy Wonka where they also torture fish.
Of course this analysis doesn’t mean any individual person is a bad fan and doesn’t support their team (as always, you are welcome to profess your fandom and loyalty in the comments section), but the data are what they are. Some teams’ fans keep coming to the ballpark through tough times (crazy promotions might help). Some don’t. Click here to see the results from the American League!