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Franchise Strength Re-Estimated

October 23, 2021
 Franchise Rankings


            After reviewing the Franchise Rankings that I posted earlier in the week, I decided that I had made several small errors in the process, and that I ought to take the trouble to amend these things now. 

            Specifically, I made six changes to the system.

1)      I double-counted the team’s Season Success, for one season only.  In other words, for the 2018 rankings, I put the team’s season success number in twice, but then took one of them out before figuring the 2018 carryover into 2019.  This enables a team having a good season to move up a little bit before they otherwise would.

2)      Before, I was giving one point for each 500,000 attendance (rounded down).  I changed that to one for 400,000, thus making attendance a little bit more important as an indicator of franchise strength.

3)     Of course, in doing this I eliminated the 1 point for the (first) 400,000 fans, as this would be redundant. 

4)     I changed the "relocation penalty" from 15% to 10%.

5)     I changed the decay rate from 3.5% to 3.75%. 

6)     I changed the starting numbers for all franchises starting 1901 or after. 



The starting numbers for teams after 1900 were changed to:


1901               170 points

1961-62         280 points

1969               280 points

1977               280 points

1990s             320 points


Average franchise strength did not grow from 1961 to 1977, so it made no sense to keep increasing the starting point number. 


Also, I arbitrarily added 5 points to each American League team in 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905 and 1906, to show the American League teams catching up to the NL more rapidly, since I am certain that they actually did.

Refiguring then the Franchise Strength Indexes for all teams, we get very minor changes for the most part.   These are the current Franchise Strength Indexes, revised:




New York Yankees



Los Angeles Dodgers



St. Louis Cardinals



Boston Red Sox



San Francisco Giants



Atlanta Braves



Houston Astros



Los Angeles Angels



Chicago Cubs



Philadelphia Phillies



Cincinnati Reds



Cleveland Indians



New York Mets



Oakland Athletics



Toronto Blue Jays



Milwaukee Brewers



Detroit Tigers



Texas Rangers



Chicago White Sox



Baltimore Orioles



Minnesota Twins



Colorado Rockies



Seattle Mariners



Arizona Diamondbacks



Tampa Bay Rays



San Diego Padres



Washington Nationals



Pittsburgh Pirates



Kansas City Royals



Miami Marlins




It’s pretty minor changes.  The top 9 are the same as they were, then Cleveland drops from 10th to 12th, with Philadelphia moving up, and then there are more changes down the list.  Tampa Bay moves from 29th to 25th, as we have more respect for their recent good seasons this way.  The gap between the American League and the National League in the years 1901 to 1920 is mostly removed, but not entirely. 

Probably the most significant change over time is that the year the Yankees became the number one franchise in baseball moves back from 1938 to 1932, so the Yankees have now ranked as the number one franchise in baseball since 1932.  I believe this is probably a better estimate, but actually, in the version the Yankees and Giants traded the number one position back and forth for ten years before then, the Giants being ranked #1 from 1919 to 1922, the Yankees for one year after winning their first World Series in 1923, the Giants for two years 1924-1925, then the Yankees for four years 1926-1929, then the Giants 1930-1931, then the Yankees took over the top spot in 1932. 

The system was re-designed to make it a little more volatile, and it does, and I’m not unhappy with that.  It is very reasonable to say that the Yankees and Giants were neck and neck from 1920 to 1931, and either could be seen as the number one franchise in that era. 


I wanted to address one issue that came up in the reader comments.  When a team moves, and also when a team has a new stadium, there is a "newness effect" of a large number of casual fans coming out to one or two games a year to see the new park or the new team, just to see what it is like.  This causes attendance to soar—for a short period of time.   

The San Francisco Giants, in their first 7 years in San Francisco, averaged 1.51 million fans.  In their next 7 years, although their teams were actually BETTER overall, they averaged 1.14 million.

The Milwaukee Braves, in their first 7 years in Milwaukee, averaged 1.99 million fans.  In their last 7 years there, they averaged 1.02 million.  (Since the Braves were only in Milwaukee for 13 years, one season is part of both groups.)

In their first seven years in Atlanta, they averaged 1.19 million.  In the next seven years, they averaged 812,000.

The Kansas City A’s, in their first seven years in Kansas City, averaged 951,000 fans per season.  In their last seven years there they averaged 679,000.  (Again, they were only in KC for 13 years, so one season overlaps.)

When they moved again, to Oakland, the Oakland franchise averaged 868,000 in their first seven years.  In their next seven years, they averaged 762,000. 

The Orioles, in their first seven years in Baltimore, averaged 965,000 fans per year.  In their second seven years, although their teams were dramatically better, 15 games a year better on average. . . but even though the teams were dramatically better, attendance fell to 939,000 fans per season.

The Minnesota Twins, in their first seven years in Minnesota, averaged 1.36 million fans.  In their next seven years, they averaged 1.01 million. 

Even the Dodgers, although they opened a beautiful new stadium in their fifth season in LA, still saw a significant drop in attendance in the second seven seasons, from 2.21 million per season to 1.99 million. 

The only exceptions to the rule that a re-located franchise’s attendance drops in their second seven years are the Washington ones, the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals.  Both of those had really terrible teams in their first few seasons after moving, and both were playing their first few seasons in sub-standard stadiums.


 A lot of people attend games in the early years, but they’re not actually FANS of the team.  It takes 40 years to build a fan base—at least, maybe 50 to 60.  Short term attendance is not a reliable measure of the size of the fan base. 


The story I am telling here is an important one, because major league owners did not understand this in the years when franchises were hopping around the country—and most fans still don’t get it today.  When the Braves moved to Milwaukee and saw a huge, immediate jump in attendance, franchises from 1952 to 1973 tried to re-create that, blind to the cost of it.  Exactly like a junkie, teams were seeking that jolt of novelty attendance that would line their pockets for a few years.  In some cases, teams WERE better off moving, but in many cases they were not.  In many cases they were trading the future for the rush of a few good years.   It was damaging the game of baseball, driving major league attendance per game steadily downward.   Eventually baseball got organized and put a stop to it.


When a franchise has good attendance, even for one year, that immediately feeds into the Franchise Strength Index, so they are immediately credited with that.  But the whole point of this exercise is to see THROUGH what is transitory, temporary, illusory, and to try to discern the underlying strength of the organization—the permanent, stable foundation.  When a franchise says goodbye to their fan base, there IS a cost to that.  It would be totally inappropriate to treat the illusion of a strong fan base as if it was a real thing.  To do so would be a direct contradiction of the purpose of the study.


These are the average Franchise Strength Indexes, over time, revised version:


1900   216

1910   264     Up 22%

1920   294     Up 11%

1930  325      Up 11%

1940   343     Up 6%

1950   368     Up 7%

1960  375      Up 2%

1970  369      Down 2%

1980   387     Up 5%

1990  410     Up 6%

2000  425      Up 4%

2010  453      Up 6%

2019  470

2020  441      Down 3% due to the pandemic

2021  453      Still in recovery mode



            Thank you all for reading, and I appreciate your generous comments on the previous article.  


COMMENTS (17 Comments, most recent shown first)

I think the "War Zone" reference was from the 1960s, not the periods mentioned by several in this thread. I have no dog in this hunt, although, my parents tell me I went to a World Series game when I was 4...
11:38 AM Oct 30th
Do the Angels get penalized for their moves from California to Anaheim, from Anaheim to Los Angeles of Anaheim, and finally to Los Angeles?

If not, they probably should. Call it an absurdity penalty.
11:56 AM Oct 29th
I lived in DC from 1977-84 and attended literally hundreds of Orioles games at Memorial. I agree with all the comments. The area was hard to get to but it wasn't a war zone by any means. Working class, with some decent restaurants and pubs within walking distance of the stadium.

Bill -- I had a question about the franchise strength rankings: does the reach of the team's broadcasting rights contribute at all to franchise strength? I'm think here of the legendary Cardinals' radio network, which may be an anomaly, but also the Braves and Cubs owning cable TV for those two decades or so. Does that reach make the franchise stronger, or is an effect rather than a cause?
4:48 PM Oct 26th
Piggybacking on Charles Saegar’s comment, the Astros at #7 are closer to the Marlins at #30 than the Dodgers at #2. They are 81 points from #3 Cardinals, and 81 points from the #25/26 Rays/Padres.

That being said I’d bump the Astros into the “good” group. But it really is pretty wild how far ahead of the pack the big guns are.
11:29 PM Oct 25th
That reminds me a bit of Hoboken N.J. right outside NYC. Parking was next to impossible in that town. You’d have to drop somebody off and then drive around for 15-30 minutes and then pick them up because you couldn’t get a parking spot. I can remember my friend going to visit his girlfriend to pick up a package. She told us to park in a spot that was supposed to be o.k. We came out 15-30 minutes later and the car was gone. It was impounded and he had to pay the ticket plus the towing and the impound fee. I think it was around $200. This was back in 1993. The cops, tow truck divers and impound yards were all in cahoots together.

I remember he moved in with his girlfriend in 1994 and I didn’t go to his place for a whole year because it was too risky. He wouldn’t leave his apartment because it would be too risky to find another spot.
9:21 PM Oct 25th
From Mark Schneider
I moved to the Washington, DC area in the late 1980s, before the Nationals arrived, and went to games at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. I never felt unsafe. I think the problem was that the stadium was difficult to get to; it was in a working class residential area, requiring (at least for someone coming from the DC suburbs) driving through the city. And parking was poor.

The only time in my life I have ever had my car towed for illegal parking was in Baltimore in the 1980s. My car was legally parked, but in that era there were a lot of scam artists who had gotten licenses from the city to impound illegally parked vehicles, and they would just basically kidnap your car, claim that you were illegally parked and make you pay $100 or something to get your car back. I think all of those operations have been shut down, haven't they?
10:53 AM Oct 25th
Marc Schneider
I moved to the Washington, DC area in the late 1980s, before the Nationals arrived, and went to games at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. I never felt unsafe. I think the problem was that the stadium was difficult to get to; it was in a working class residential area, requiring (at least for someone coming from the DC suburbs) driving through the city. And parking was poor. I suspect that Camden Yards was built off 1-95 to make it easier for people from Washington to get to O's games. And then the Nationals came, which I'm sure hurt the O's attendance. I can't say for sure, but I imagine that the O's always relied a lot on attendance from the DC area, which they lost after the Nats came and was apparently the reason that Peter Angelos sued MLB over the move, claiming that the Nationals had moved into his market.
10:27 AM Oct 25th
Given that the standard deviation is still about 70 points, here's where the groupings look to be:

Weak franchises: Marlins to Mariners. The Marlins, 25 points below the next weakest team, get a special mention for really sucking. The gap between two teams is always less than 25 points from the Giants at #5 to the Royals at #29, but then the Marlins are 25 points under the Royals.

Average franchises: Rockies to Astros. You can split these between the low-average franchises, being Rockies to Reds, and the high-average franchises, Phillies to Astros. The point here is that most franchises are only a few points from the one nearest it. Between the Angels (#8) and the Royals (#29), the gap is never more than 9 points. I'm shoving the line between one 9-point gap, the Mariners to the Rockies.

Good franchises: Braves to Cardinals. These have clear gaps between each one, and as such will take more than a couple of years for these teams to move even one ranking.

Elite franchises: Dodgers and Yankees. The gap between the Dodgers and the Cardinals is massive, any way you cut it. It's bigger than the next two gaps (Red Sox to Giants, Royals to Marlins) combined, and almost as big as the total gap if we throw in the next biggest one (Braves to Astros)
10:07 AM Oct 25th
The franchise moves from the first round - Browns to Baltimore, Braves to Milwaukee, A's to Kansas City - all made perfect sense, as teams moved from two-team cities to cities that could clearly support major league baseball.

The last round - Senators to Minnesota, Braves to Atlanta, A's to Oakland, Pilots to Milwaukee, Senators to Texas - were all clearly bad moves, since in every case the franchise left a city that ended up getting a new major league team a few years down the road. None of those moves made much sense. It would have made a lot more sense to put expansion franchises in those new cities.

In between those two rounds were the New York teams going to California, which has elements of both.
12:43 AM Oct 25th
I believe Evan meant to write that he never felt UNsafe at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. I would agree with that -- I lived in DC 1980-1983, got up to Memorial Stadium ~20 times a season. Parking was a pain in the ass, the more so in returning through snarled traffic to DC after games, but the park itself was a good place to see a game, fans were orderly and generally enthusiastic, and the surrounding neighborhood was fine.
12:53 PM Oct 24th
Thanks for that, Bruce. Just going by what I had heard (Re Memorial Stadium). I like the idea of the 7 year itch franchise. Other than the colossal waste building a new stadium for each city, what is wrong with second tier cities getting a taste of a Major League team?
11:54 AM Oct 24th
Baltimore and Oakland in the 1970s drew very low attendance compared with other good teams. It was noticed at the time, and I'm not sure either team ever figured out why. The commenter who said "Memorial Stadium was a war zone in those days" - this was not my experience as a teen, then twenty-something who attended 5 or 6 games each year. Parking was difficult, the crowds were male dominated and not really family friendly, but I never felt safe. Baltimore had (and has) a lot of problems with crime, but the area around Memorial Stadium never felt unsafe to me. Both Baltimore and Oakland had great football teams in those days, and football was much bigger than baseball in those cities. I've always thought that had something to do with the relatively low attendance of the O's and A's vs. the sellouts of the Colts and Raiders at the same stadiums. It's ironic that both baseball teams are still in their original cities while both football teams relocated in the early 1980s.
11:25 AM Oct 24th
Conclusion: The Marlins should move every seven years, to Charlotte, then Montreal, Nashville. That covers the next 21. Maybe by then it's time to move back to Miami. When I thought of this, I thought it might be funny. After putting it into text, it's no longer funny, but worrisome...
11:17 AM Oct 24th
I think Memorial Stadium was a war zone in those days.
10:48 AM Oct 24th
Excellent point on the “newness” factor. I never really thought about it but it makes perfect sense. It’s like the Mets in 1964. They were The worst team in baseball yet they were second in the league in attendance. That’s amazing. And they outdrew the Yankees who were the A.L. Champs by 300K. They were in their third year and it was the first year of Shea Stadium. People used to say it was all about the old Dodger and Giant fans but I don’t think that was it. The Mets were new and Shea Stadium was a new 1960’s era stadium.

The Baltimore Orioles stat shocked me. I thought they were one of the biggest draws of the late 60’s-early 70’s. I went back and checked and they were 12-15th in attendance during those Glory years.
12:38 AM Oct 24th
Is there some correlation between how much attendance varies with wins in a given year and franchise strength? The idea being that the Pirates, worst of the original 16 teams and still in the same city, will have their fans more likely to stay away on a bad year than the Yankees.
11:57 PM Oct 23rd
The Giants' attendance their seventh year in SF was 1,504,364, eighth year 1,546,075. ninth 1,657,192 . . . The seven-year rule does not apply in this case; the real change came with the arrival of the Athletics across the Bay in 1968. That cut SF attendance almost in half, and it wasn't until 1986 that Giants attendance returned to the 1.5 million attendances that had been routine before they lost the East Bay.
10:38 PM Oct 23rd
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