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Comparing spring confidence across fans of all 30 teams

Confidence among D-backs fans is higher than last year. But how does it compare around the league?

MLB: NL Wildcard-Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We are now in the third season of running our spring confidence polls, in which we take the temperature of how D-backs’ fandom is feeling about the team. The last results, from the poll taken at the beginning of February, showed a confidence score of 6.50, sharply up on the 4.42 figure at the same point last year. That’s no surprise, as the team delivered not just its first playoff campaign in confidence poll history, but the first season without a losing record. But how does it compare to how fans of the other 29 teams around baseball? That’s something I had wondered about.

Enter SportFacts, a research company who have asked a similar question. Both this spring and last, they surveyed fans of all the franchises, and used this along with other factors (previous year’s record, projected wins tally for this season) to come up with an “optimism score”. The charts for 2017 and 2018 provide a rather interesting glimpse into the ebb and flow of fan confidence around the league, and how success (or lack thereof) can cause optimism to rocket or crater. The chart below shows the scores for 2017 and 2018, along with the TOTAL number of wins last year (including post-season ones). It’s ordered in order of change, with the biggest increase of optimism at the top.

Optimism 2017 + 2018

Team 2017 Optimism 2017 Wins 2018 Optimism Change
Team 2017 Optimism 2017 Wins 2018 Optimism Change
Houston Astros 21.00 112 49.00 +28.00
Arizona Diamondbacks 13.00 94 39.00 +26.00
Minnesota Twins 4.00 85 27.25 +23.25
Los Angeles Angels 14.00 80 36.00 +22.00
Milwaukee Brewers 14.00 86 32.00 +18.00
New York Yankees 24.00 98 42.00 +18.00
Tampa Bay Rays 8.00 80 24.75 +16.75
St. Louis Cardinals 20.00 83 35.50 +15.50
Colorado Rockies 20.00 87 30.00 +10.00
Los Angeles Dodgers 39.00 114 46.50 +7.50
Pittsburgh Pirates 14.00 75 20.50 +6.50
Oakland Athletics 12.00 75 18.00 +6.00
Atlanta Braves 10.00 72 15.75 +5.75
San Diego Padres 9.00 71 7.75 -1.25
Cleveland Indians 46.00 104 44.00 -2.00
Cincinnati Reds 15.00 68 12.00 -3.00
Washington Nationals 47.00 99 44.00 -3.00
Boston Red Sox 42.00 94 38.25 -3.75
Chicago White Sox 17.00 67 12.50 -4.50
New York Mets 31.00 70 26.00 -5.00
Toronto Blue Jays 30.00 76 24.25 -5.75
Chicago Cubs 48.00 96 40.00 -8.00
Philadelphia Phillies 22.00 66 14.00 -8.00
Miami Marlins 21.00 77 9.00 -12.00
Kansas City Royals 19.00 80 6.50 -12.50
San Francisco Giants 34.00 64 21.50 -12.50
Texas Rangers 41.00 78 24.00 -17.00
Seattle Mariners 42.00 78 22.00 -20.00
Baltimore Orioles 43.00 75 13.00 -30.00
Detroit Tigers 39.00 64 4.50 -34.50

The teams at the top of the list are likely no surprise. The World Series winning Astros, plus the D-backs and Twins, who both leaped from losing records and little hope to unexpected berths in the post-season. There’s a significant degree of the “plexiglass principle” here: if your team has low confidence going into a year, it’s obviously easier for your optimism to improve, than if it’s already high. The Astros are the only one of the five teams to post the biggest increases, who were already above the median (21) going into the 2017 season. Conversely, all six of the teams at the bottom of the list, whose optimism took the biggest hit, were more confident than most going into the campaign.

The median optimism has ticked up a bit in 2018, coming in at 24.5. Most of the teams above that are those that had winning seasons, though the Rays are a bit higher than I’d expect. Maybe they’re just glad not to be Marlins’ fans? But I thought it might be interesting to plot wins last season against optimism now, and see if there is the expected connection. That’s what the graph below shows:

As you would expect, the correlation between 2017 wins and 2018 optimism is very high: 0.761, which means the wins are responsible for about 87% of optimism. What I find interesting are the teams which are the greatest distance away from the line - those that are more or less optimistic, than might be expected from their performance last year. The biggest outliers above the line (surprisingly optimistic, given 2017 results) are fans of the Giants, Mets and Angels, and you can perhaps see why. All three teams were significant players in the free-agent market this winter, adding the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce and Shohei Ohtani respectively.

At the other end, the gloomiest Gusses in major-league baseball are Royals’ fans. Despite falling just one game short of .500 in 2017, their optimism is in the tank, and is ahead only of Tigers’ supporters. While the future in Kansas City certainly doesn’t look great, I would have said the glow of a World Series win in 2015, after an American League pennant the previous year, should have kept fans’ hearts warm for a little longer. We D-backs sit slightly above what our win tally would appear to have justified, but the figure (39.00) is basically the same as the Red Sox (38.25), who also won 94 games last year and bowed out in the Division Series.

It’ll be interesting to revisit this next spring and see what the 2018 campaign has done to fan confidence around the country.