FanDuel - WFBC

April 24, 2014

The Borders of Baseball: Using Facebook likes data, the New York Times has created a map that shows the territory held by each baseball team. See where the Munson-Nixon line dividing New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox fans lies, and the precise street-level split in Chicago between the Cubs and White Sox.

posted by rcade to baseball at 11:13 AM - 16 comments

The thing I found interesting was seeing the teams that don't show up at all on the main map: Mets, Blue Jays (though this is just a US map), A's. The White Sox name doesn't show up until you zoom in once, though they do have the small grey blob in Chicago.

posted by opel70 at 12:57 PM on April 24

Why is there no tiny li'l, red Kings XI Punjab dot covering my zip code?

posted by NoMich at 01:15 PM on April 24

One thing this map shows is that a team in North Carolina would grab a huge chunk of ground really quickly.

posted by rcade at 02:05 PM on April 24

My take away is that Oakland gets no love...even in Oakland.

I would have thought there might have been some Blue Jays love near the northern borders (especially around Washington state or northern New York state), but I guess not.

If you did a heat map of Canada, you'd have large swaths of Blue Jays (obviously), some Nationals (people still clinging to the Expos), and huge pockets of Tigers (south west Ontario), Yankees & Red Sox (Maritimes), and Mariners (British Columbia), with a smattering of the Twins (near the Minnesota border).

posted by grum@work at 03:29 PM on April 24

That huge swath of blue south of Atlanta should have been taken into account by the Braves I'd think.

posted by flannelenigma at 03:38 PM on April 24

Grum, BC is still Blue Jays territory - far, far more Jays games on local TV and who is going to watch the Mariners if given the choice? It hurts...

posted by deflated at 04:18 PM on April 24

I thought it was pretty well-established that ESPN's Bristol headquarters was in the debatable lands between Yankees and Red Sox territory, and though the map hands it to the Yankees, I very definitely remember Hartford, CT being a split city and I'm not going to consider Facebook data as decisive here.

posted by etagloh at 05:01 PM on April 24

One thing this map shows is that a team in North Carolina would grab a huge chunk of ground really quickly.

Perhaps not quickly: as the NFL map shows, there's still legacy Steelers support in large chunks of NC despite the presence of the Panthers, and when you look at the number of Yankee fans in NC (and VA) and the relatively small support area for the Nationals, it suggests an affiliation that could last a while.

In addition, it's an area that seems to like its minor league teams well enough -- look at the cluster in NC/SC/TN -- and MLB owners may prefer it that way for their farm systems.

posted by etagloh at 05:13 PM on April 24

Why is there no tiny li'l, red Kings XI Punjab dot covering my zip code?

The NSA has that map. Along with some questions for you about your loyalty, citizen.

posted by yerfatma at 05:17 PM on April 24

I think a team in North Carolina would be to the Carolinas what the Rockies were to Colorado.

I was surprised my area didn't show up as Atlanta Braves country. That's the only team the local sports radio hosts talk about as their own.

How is it possible that Oakland's favorite team is the Giants?

posted by rcade at 05:53 PM on April 24

A bit spooky to enlarge the map a bit and mouse over states county by county to see the allegiance percentages. I felt like I was secretly helping the Koch boys redraw Congressional districts.

Amazing how much of the West cares more about the Red Sox and Yankees than the Rockies, Giants, Mariners. I never would have expected that.

Also remarkable that more areas in the West did not show up bigger for the Cardinals, which used to be the westernmost team and once claimed large untamed expanses of allegiance territory.

posted by beaverboard at 09:01 PM on April 24

As noted by etalgoh, I would not put too much stock in the Facebook data other than just painting a broad brush picture of things.

First, if some teams are more encouraging/solicitous of getting "likes" or otherwise more social media-savvy, seems they would be over represented. Red Sox and Yankees seem they would fit in this case.

Second, seems some fan bases, based on demographics, would probably be more likely to have more fans with Facebook accounts (or Facebook accounts at which a user would tend to "like" things rather than just use to keep up with photos of grandkids) than others.

Third, for at least some portion/age groups of the population, seems that one might be more likely to "like" certain teams where that team is not the local/regional team, just because being, say, a Red Sox fan in Wyoming is something worth trumpeting as distinct as opposed to making a conscientious effort to "like" the Rockies when everyone knows that everyone in your town likes the Rockies.

Fourth, my guess is that, say in the case of the Giants, they got more likes in recent years as folks jumped on the bandwagon during their recent two recent successful World Series runs, whereas the A's get no such love despite having made the playoffs several times in the last few years.

Looks like those who put the map together probably adjusted and tried to control for some of this stuff and other noise/sample size issues ("We applied an algorithm to smooth the data and fill in gaps where data was missing."), but to me this map suggests a level of accuracy that is very much unfounded.

posted by holden at 01:59 PM on April 25

First, if some teams are more encouraging/solicitous of getting "likes" or otherwise more social media-savvy, seems they would be over represented. Red Sox and Yankees seem they would fit in this case.

Why would you assume that two of the teams that attract the most media coverage and fan passion would be overrepresented? I see Yankees and Red Sox gear everywhere. If they're getting more likes, it's because they're more liked.

As for demographics, 133 million Americans have Facebook accounts. That's such widespread use any differences in fan affluence aren't going to be significant, in my opinion.

posted by rcade at 05:04 PM on April 25

On the first point, I mean overrepresented by Facebook likes relative to the proportion of true fandom they represent. Of course, if these are the two most popular teams, they should theoretically have the most likes. However, they can still be overrepresented in terms of teams that get "likes" because, for instance, they send out an email to people on their mailing lists saying "Like us on Facebook and be entered into a drawing to win tickets!" or some such. I would not take likes as anything more than a rough measure because of this. Maybe the Yankees and Red Sox fit in this category (hell, the Red Sox sold memberships in "Red Sox Nation", so they certainly are marketing savvy, if not specifically social media savvy), maybe they don't (and were thus a bad example), but the general point still stands.

With respect to the 133 million Americans having Facebook accounts, that's great in that it creates this huge data sample, but that does not get to whether some types of people are more likely to "like" a brand/team and thus be overrepresented in a quasi-scientific study that is based solely on the number of likes.

Look, it's a fun little chart, but all it shows us is what teams garner a lot of likes on Facebook in what areas. I don't doubt that it is largely accurate/representative of the boundaries of fandom as a whole, but the way this map seems to have been reported/described oversells it significantly in terms of the level of scientific precision reflected.

posted by holden at 05:30 PM on April 25

I think a team in North Carolina would be to the Carolinas what the Rockies were to Colorado.

Colorado has Denver for everything in the big leagues, and can draw on a relatively concentrated metro population there; NC has Charlotte for the NBA and NFL but Raleigh for NHL, and its two biggest minor league baseball teams are the AAA Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights, both of which have 10,000-capacity stadiums. And like I said, the A and High-A teams tend to pull decent crowds as well. The Carolinas and Virginia are a bit like 18th-century Germany: lots of little fiefdoms that have cheap tickets, cheap beer, good outreach to their areas, nice old-school parks... and higher allegiance to distant sovereigns.

You'd assume that if MLB wanted a Carolinas team, they'd look to the Triangle and the Bulls for the heritage and (perhaps) some of the demographics, but that leaves Charlotte out of the picture, which is the big reason it's trickier than Colorado. But as this Bulls fan suggests, if we're spitballin' here, how about moving the MLB franchise to Durham and making the Rays the AAA affiliate?

posted by etagloh at 05:39 PM on April 25

Back when the Twin were threatening to leave Minneapolis if they didn't get a new stadium, Greensboro, NC was rumored to be a destination. However, the fine citizens of Gate City said NO WAY to a taxpayer-funded stadium. It would actually be a pretty good location for a MLB team as it's only about an hour from Raleigh and about an hour and a half from Charlotte. Buuuuuut, if the team stinks, ain't no one gonna make that drive.

posted by NoMich at 06:59 PM on April 25

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