Behind the ScoreboardMarch 16, 2010
Franchise Strengh Index History for All 30 Teams
By Sky Andrecheck

Apologies for the short post today. Recently, I presented a model of predicting attendance for major league teams. Last week, I presented "Franchise Strength Index", an index measuring the strength of the franchise controlling for the quality of the team on the field, new ballparks, playoff appearances, etc. Essentially, the Franchise Strength Index is just the residuals of the attendance model. A Franchise Strength Index of greater than 1 indicates the team draws better than one would expect, while an index less than one indicates a weaker franchise that is drawing fewer fans than expected.

In response to some readers, I've decided to present graphs of every MLB team's Franchise Strength Index throughout their history. What follows are the graphs, followed by a few brief comments. Last week many commenters made some great observations concerning the expansion era moves and I encourage people to do the same here.


- The Tigers used to be one of the power franchises in the MLB. Now, even though they are sometimes considered "small-market", they rate as about average.

- The last few years aside, the White Sox have franchise strength has steadily declined since the Black Sox era.


Interesting Notes:
- The Orioles were actually the AL East's strongest franchise during the 1990's and 2000's.

- The Red Sox actually haven't been all that strong throughout their history (recent history should be disregarded however, since the Red Sox have a small ballpark that has reached capacity).

- The Yankees brand actually fell below average in the early 1990's.


Interesting Notes:
- Despite playing second fiddle to the Dodgers, the Angels are still a tremendously strong franchise.

- The Mariners popularity increased dramatically with the presence of Ken Griffey Jr. and was further cemented by the 1995 team.


Interesting Notes:
- The Cubs are the strongest they have been since the 1920's.

- The Cardinals franchise benefited tremendously from the St. Louis Browns leaving town.

- The Pirates are actually in a stronger position now than they were when they were winning in the 1970's.


Interesting Notes:
- The Mets of the 1960's were baseball's most popular team ever relative to their performance.

- Despite their big market reputation, the Phillies don't have tremendous attendance. Veteran's Stadium was one of the biggest ballpark boosts ever received.

- Florida's in real trouble and has been for some time.


- The Dodgers are bar-none baseball's strongest franchise.

- The Rockies started as one of baseball's strongest expansion teams, but have fallen considerably.



I would be interested in seeing a distribution of all these numbers. Do they look normal? If so, you could make some serious inference about which years are truly outperforming assuming things look normal.

Also, I see you are controlling for confounding variables like first year park and first year expansion, but your index still shows serious signs of being correlated with those things. Is that just a function of what you are displaying or do you think there is something else happening?

Maybe I missed it but does this take into account how much the people going into the park are paying? That would be a significant measure of how strong a brand is, wouldn't it? Let's say that one park had only, oh, 35,000 seats but the fans buying them were paying 1/3 to 1/2 more per ticket than the average team. If 45,000 people will pay X to see one team but 35,000 will pay 1.5X, which brand is actually stronger?

Okay. My mistake.
I immediately jumped to post a comment after your declaration about the strength of the Orioles brand which you essentially negate with your later Red Sox comment.

This, of course, leads one to wonder why you still have the Orioles comment.

So from this (and your pevious post on the subject), it looks like the A's & Marlins really should relocate and quit talkin' about relocating.

What's the deal with Pittsburgh being a stronger franchise now than when they had Clemente & Pops? In fact, if I'm following the right line on the graph, they were even BIGGER in the late 40's when they were always at the bottom of the NL. Their attendance seems to always drop once they start getting better LOL ..huh?

Can you calculate how winning % affects attendance? I'd be really interested in seeing exactly how that corresponds according to all this.

It's interesting to note the peak the Dodgers had in the early '80s. I wonder how much of that peak is attributable to Fernando-mania. The Angels had a strong peak about that time as well, which is probably due to stadium renovations that increased capacity as the Rams moved in.

For the Dodgers, I wonder how the recent divorce proceedings/drama and lack of big moves will affect the fan support of the team.

i just wanted to thank you for giving us the graphs for all the current cities/teams.
definitely some cool stuff!

Most of these comments are purely suggestions about the presentation. This is a lot of information, which I have yet to digest.

Most of the ratings seem to fall between 0.8 and 1.4 (so most teams are above average?). Maybe the times when a team scores above 0.8 or below 1.4 could be shaded to better point out strong and weak points in the history of the franchise brand.

It would also be interesting to have a head to head comparision of teams in the same metropolitan area. You don't quite get that from the graphs since they are separated by division. I'd like to see seven graphs with just the pairs of Yankees-Giants-Dodgers (OK, not really a pair) and Yankees-Mets, Red Sox-Braves, Athletics- Phillies, White Sox-Cubs, Browns-Cardinals, Athletics-Giants, and Dodgers-Angels.

About the methodology, has the team's regular season record somehow been separated from the draw of the franchise? If so, why? I'm just curious, I can see arguments for and against this approach.

Great work. You touched on it earlier about the Browns and Cards...St.Louis really was a Browns town up until the Cards broke through in '26. The Card poor attendance #'s through the 1930's and 40's I think is the result of St.Louis supporting two franchises. The Cards, even though more successful, always leased Sportsman Park from the Browns.

Also, in the world of what if's, it's pretty clear the Browns greatest sin was getting rid of Branch Rickey. Rickey, for those who don't know, was a Brown's Exec and pretty much got into a power struggle with ownership. Ownership sent him packing, Rickey went to the Cards, and the fortunes of 2 franchises was forever changed. The Browns, who had a decent ball club led by George Sisler, faded into obscurity and eventually to Baltimore, the Cards, finally shed the laughingstock label and became the premier NL franchise. To think, if Rickey stayed with the Browns, some of those early Yankee teams may have been forced to go through St.Louis for the AL pennant and the Browns would probably still be around. The Cards? Who knows, but it they wouldn't be in St. Louis.

The Cardinals franchise benefited tremendously from the St. Louis Browns leaving town.

Yup. Incidentally, I found that passage from Veeck as in Wreck where he talks about trying to be the last team standing in St. Louis. It's around pg. 220 in my paperback edition...

At the time St. Louis had about 850,000 people. Veeck considered Chicago and New York to be the only two cities that could support two teams, so he set about trying to make the Cards ship out of the Gateway City. Fred Saigh owned them at the time. He badgered him in the press, and he worked behind the scenes to try to smooth their path to either Baltimore or Milwaukee. (Ahead of his time, as you can see - the Braves eventually went to the midwest, and after he sold the Browns they went to Baltimore.)

In the end, Saigh's money troubles forced him to sell, but it was to Augie Busch - and as Veeck puts it, there was no way he was going to compete with the Anheiser-Busch, Inc. money; they could operate the Cards at a loss if they had too and write the whole thing off as a business expense. "I knew I was knocked out of the box," he writes.

The whole section of the book is fascinating for a behind-the-curtain look at the relocations of the fifties and eventual early expansions. Of course it's told from the perspective of an outsider who was not well-tolerated by his fellow owners, nor by then-commissioner Ford Frick; add salt to taste. But FWIW - I think Veeck would have LOVED this post, Sky.

There are alot of fascinating what ifs? with sports team relocations.

Supposing the original Baltimore Orioles don't move to New York. Do the Dodgers and Giants stay in New York then? Or does New York become with baseball what LA is with football, there are no teams there and no one seems to miss them? Do the Baltimore Orioles become the American League powerhouse that the Yankees became, or is the pre-expansion AL as balanced as the pre-expansion NL?

It's probably just me, but I have a hard time differentiating the teams on these graphs. The colors are too similar. How about varying some of the line widths, or adding symbols?

Thanks for the comments! In response to a few, yes the index accounts for things like WPCT, winning the World Series, parks, etc. Theoretically, if a team was the same franchise strength the entire time, their index would be flat through the ups and downs of winning and losing.

Pettitte, The index isn't actually correlated with those key events (winning, new park, etc), but there is a high variance surrounding those events. Hence sometimes the index shoots high (1920's Cubs), and sometimes it shoots low (1970's A's, Orioles) when those things happen.

James T, Yeah, a franchise's index can be limited if the park is too small. Luckily there have only been a few instances (mostly in recent years) in which teams regularly sell out their stadiums. So that explains the recent Red Sox (I don't think it applies to the Sox of the 80's or 90's though).

Studes, yeah some of the graphs are a little busy (sorry NL Central fans).

Devon, yeah Pirates are interesting. In the 20's when they were good, their index was high. In the 70's it was low. I think their (relatively) strong index today is a reflection on how awesome PNC Park is.

Thanks for the great work. I'm wondering where Montreal might fit on the graph too.