baseball fans are filled with hope and anticipation. The start of the 162-game season signals the arrival of warmer weather, and fan mood appears to be at an all-time high. Before the first pitch is thrown, it appears like any team is capable of winning the World Series.
Along with published odds and club history, we scoured Twitter to see which fan groups are the most optimistic about their team during spring training. We then used this information to construct a picture of how this baseball season may unfold.
Now Is Our Time
You can learn a great deal about a team through Twitter, particularly through fan tweets. We monitored tweets during spring training (from February 14 to March 21, 2018) to gauge the general mood before the start of the season. Unsurprisingly, folks were quite confident in the reigning champions, the Houston Astros. The Cleveland Indians were not too far behind in terms of fan feeling. While ultimately losing to the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series, the “Tribe” returned to the postseason the following season. The expectation is that they will repeat the same strategy in fall.
The Cleveland Indians will win the World Series in 2018.
— Retweeted by 0nefinity on March 17, 2018
On the opposite end of the spectrum were fan bases that were not overly excited about their team’s World Series chances. For example, the San Diego Padres rated worst in fan sentiment. The franchise has never won the World Series, and despite offseason signings like as Eric Hosmer, they have not qualified for the playoffs since 2006. Despite reaching the postseason three times since 2011, sentiment among Baltimore Orioles fans was almost same. Perhaps it’s owing to their location in the American League East, where they’re surrounded by clubs like the New York Yankees, or perhaps it’s because of worries about the starting pitching rotation.
Now, let’s examine the probabilities of a deep postseason run and World Series championship. We integrated odds from CBS Sports, Bleacher Report, and Vegas Insider to generate a “combined odds” meta rank, and then determined the difference between the two (sentiment rank and combined odds rank). This provided us with a better understanding of how fan emotion compared to real odds and what this indicates about a team’s support base.
For instance, the aggregate odds placed the Miami Marlins in last place (30). As the baseball season began, Marlins supporters had a somewhat realistic view compared to fan sentiment (27). This was comparable to the reigning champions. The Astros’ combined odds (2) and fan emotion (1) were in sync, indicating ‘Stros supporters were optimistic about the team’s chances of repeating as champions.
However, the expectations and hopes of fans of the opposing club were not quite in line with the odds. The Cincinnati Reds, for example, were placed 28 with aggregate odds, but their supporters were ranked 7 for hope and optimism. This may indicate that the club has fans who are willing to encourage their players during difficult times.
On the other hand, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the defending National League champions. The combined odds had them in the top position (1), but fan feeling was a far cry from No. 1. Perhaps the World Series defeat affected fan morale and optimism.
Hey Batter, Batter
Reading tweets about spring training is fun. While many Twitter users discussed their team’s superstars, there was a great deal of conversation regarding major deals and other teams’ top players. For instance, the majority of tweets regarding the defending National League champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, focused on three of the team’s most popular players: Clayton Kershaw, Chase Utley, and Corey Seager. Fans of the Seattle Mariners routinely tweet about notable players such as Ichiro Suzuki, Félix Hernández, and Dee Gordon.
Similarly, Cincinnati Reds fans tweeted about their favorite players, including Joey Votto and Billy Hamilton, but prospect Nick Senzel was the third most popular player throughout spring training. New York Mets supporters were also enthused about former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, who plays for the Mets’ club in the minor leagues, during spring training.
Tim Tebow, the famously loyal Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback, blasted a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw in his first Double-A game. First at-bat in a regular AA baseball game.
— Dale Alan (@USMC6591) April 6, 2018
Other clubs deviated from the present roster even farther. For instance, Miami Marlins supporters regularly tweeted about Derek Jeter. Jeter was a veteran player with the New York Yankees, but he now owns the Miami Marlins. Fans of the Atlanta Braves were ecstatic over the recent induction of former player Chipper Jones into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The rise in tweets on Eric Hosmer, who went for San Diego, and Mike Moustakas, who eventually remained with the Kansas City Royals, demonstrates that fans of the Kansas City Royals were interested in where a pair of their World Series champions landed after entering free agency.
This Is Just the Beginning
Despite the fact that early season forecasts are as accurate as predicting the weather six months in advance, it is nonetheless fascinating to examine club history, offseason moves, and spring training fan emotion in an attempt to predict the 2018 postseason. While social media followers may not always have insider knowledge and their passion may prevent them from accurately forecasting which baseball clubs will be successful over the course of a long season, there is often something to be said for individuals who follow their teams day in and day out.
We collected 238,957 tweets containing hashtags relating to MLB teams. We then calculated the emotion of the text using TextBlob, a Python module that does standard natural language processing. Sentiment is an evaluation of whether something is favorable, neutral, or negative. It ranges from -1 to 1, with -1 being the most negative, 0 being neutral, and 1 being the most positive. We were unable to adjust the lexicon used to analyze this text since it is based on a pre-existing text analysis library; hence, terms that may be positive in the context of this issue may not be identified as positive in this analysis. To guarantee that only fan-generated content was reviewed, all 30 official MLB Twitter handles were omitted. The hypotheses were then evaluated statistically.
We compiled odds from usatoday.com, cbssports.com, and vegasinsider.com to construct a meta ranking of teams with the best chance of winning the World Series.
Fair Use Statement
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