WalletHub.com uses fuzzy math to determine best baseball cities

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I’m not a mathematical genuis. Far from it. So when I see a study online measuring the US’s Best Baseball Cities, I want to make sure I can follow the methodology. After all, claiming a city is the best baseball town in America is a bold statement. Not cold fusion bold, but bold enough to spark sports radio debates throughout the country.

(And of course, bold enough to get published on WalletHub.com and ensure clicks that generate ad revenue for the website and pay the author. But of course I am not accusing anyone of creating sports controversy through mythical numbers to generate page views. Nope, not all.)

A few days ago, WalletHub.com published an article that made the claim to determine America’s Best Baseball City. Written by Richie Bernardo, the study used an interesting methodology:

In order to determine the best cities for professional and college baseball fans, WalletHub’s analysts compared 361 of the most populated U.S. cities based on 25 key metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 representing the most favorable conditions for baseball fans. For our sample, we chose cities with at least one college baseball, Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball team.

We then grouped the cities by division and assigned weights to each divisional category according to its popularity. Finally, we calculated overall scores for each city based on the weighted average across all metrics and used the results to construct our ranking.

WalletHub then lists the weights given per score and how the points were calculated.

Of the 361 cities measured, there were 22 Florida cities and towns that made the list. From the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the Florida cities are:

16. St. Petersburg
26. Miami
45. Fort Myers
64. Jacksonville
69. Coral Gables
82. Daytona Beach
86. Tampa
103. Boca Raton
126. Gainesville
149. Orlando
206. Tallahassee
221. Pensacola
242. Port Charlotte
250. Clearwater
251. Lakeland
253. Dunedin
262. West Palm Beach
267. Melbourne
269. Bradenton
318. Port St. Lucie
325. DeLand
356. Jupiter

Through their expansive methodology, St. Petersburg finished in the top of a few categories.

  • Cheapest Avg Ticket – MLB Game – 3rd
  • Most Accessible Major League Stadium – 3rd

No other Tampa Bay area team made the top 5 for any category.

While that is great on the surface and great for the Mayor of St. Pete who tweeted out the results of the study, there are a lot of problems.

  1. There are no clickable links per city to analyze the math. While cities are given final scores, we can see how the numbers added up.
  2. Spring Training is not included. This is a major problem for the Tampa Bay (16) and Phoenix (25) areas. Although there are more professional baseball games in Tampa Bay and Phoenix than any other area in the US, Spring Training doesn’t fit into the methodology very well. 42 points out of 100 would not make sense. The following categories would nearly impossible to weigh:
    1. Performance Level of Team(s): Full Weight (~9.33 Points)
    2. Number of Championships Wins: Full Weight (~9.33 Points)
    3. Number of Division Championship Wins: Half Weight (~4.67 Points)
    4. Franchise Value: Half Weight (~4.67 Points)
    5. Fan Engagement: Full Weight (~9.33 Points)
    6. Popularity Index: Half Weight (~4.67 Points)
  3. College teams weigh double of Minor League teams. Cities with a college team are awarded 3.33 points, but cities with a Minor League team are only awarded 1.54. But a city such as Jupiter, Florida (ranked 356 of 361) has two Minor League teams and Spring Training yet is still ranked lower than Orlando and DeLand, neither of which have minor league teams, yet have local college baseball.

My biggest question regarding the study is what colleges were included.Do all colleges count? Were Division 2 schools included? Were community colleges included? Did the study include the University of Tampa and its Division 2 dominance? How is Tallahassee, with 3 college teams, lower than Orlando?

My second biggest question is how did they get “stadium accessibility” from the U.S. Census Bureau, Team Marketing Report, ESPN, MLB, Minor League Baseball, The Harris Poll, The National Collegiate Athletic Association and each team’s website. Which one of those provides transportation and traffic information?

Without access to their equations, website studies such as this are difficult to take seriously. They are great for people who see what they want and run with positive findings and they are great for sports talk radio fodder, but overall, they aren’t useful at all.

(They are also great to generate page views, make website ad revenue, and pay freelance writers. Oops, did I say again that this was written only for the money and not for actual reprovable facts? Sorry.)

Before I cite any of their results, I would like to see WalletHub’s math.

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