Pittsburgh Fans Win NL Central Division

The 2015 MLB regular season is just a couple of weeks old, and there is already a lot of buzz surrounding Rhiza’s hometown Pittsburgh Pirates. Following two consecutive winning seasons and two playoff runs, many have set high expectations for the team and ESPN’s Buster Olney even selected the Pirates as his pick to win the 2015 World Series.

However, as many longtime fans are aware, the twenty consecutive losing seasons that preceded weren’t as pleasant, and consequently, the team’s fanbase deteriorated while attendance dropped to all time lows.

So given the Pirates recent rebound and the current hype for the 2015 season, we were curious to learn more about the current state of the Pirates fanbase. We identified a few relevant questions that we wanted to answer: how does Pittsburgh stackup against the rest of the nation in terms of MLB fans? What NL Central team has the most MLB fans? What Pittsburgh neighborhoods have the most MLB fans? By using Simmons Local survey data and the Rhiza Platform, we were able to quickly uncover insights that allow us to answer these questions.

According to a Simmons Local survey that was conducted just a few months following the spectacular 2013 Wildcard game, 16.43% of the nationwide respondents claimed to be “Very Interested in Major League Baseball”. We took the total number of weighted individuals in each NL Central designated market area (DMA) that made the same claim and indexed it against the US average. On the scale, 100 is equivalent to 16.43%.

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Pittsburgh, traditionally known as a “football town”, and more recently a “hockey town”, had significantly more respondents who are “very interested in Major League Baseball” than any other NL Central team and ranked significantly higher than the US average. Equally as surprising, Chicago came in dead last and indexed well beneath the US average. This could be contributed to the Cub’s poor 2013 season, and if so, is there a correlation between the number of fans and the 2013 regular season standings?

NL Central Teams by MLB Fans Indexed by DMA, Spring 2014
1. Pittsburgh Pirates
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Chicago Cubs

2013 MLB Standings
1. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68)
3. Cincinnati Reds (90-72)
4. Milwaukee Brewers (74-88)
5. Chicago Cubs (66-96)

While the results aren’t too far off, Milwaukee jumps out the most. The Brewers had a pretty dreadful 2013, but Milwaukee ranked second in its weighted percent of baseball fans which suggests they could possibly have a pretty dedicated fanbase.

Drilling down to Pittsburgh as a whole, the Rhiza platform allows us to see what neighborhoods are home to all of these Bucco fans and which areas still haven’t joined the bandwagon. This graphic shows the weighted percent of MLB fans in each Pittsburgh zip code indexed against the US average of 16.73%

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Pittsburgh fans are clearly scattered throughout the city with a significant portion of them residing in western suburbs while some southwest communities are still feeling burned by the longtime losing streak and skeptical of recent success.

Just for fun, here are some maps for each of the other NL Central cities:

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Let’s go Bucs!