You come here to read baseball analysis, not baseball blog analysis, but just this once real quick, I’m going to turn the metaphorical camera around. Let’s spend a few minutes talking about FanGraphs!
If you’re reading this post in your browser, you might see off to the right a list of authors. Just to the right of that, there’s an additional list, of tags. You’ve probably never paid attention to these tags, or categories, and they do appear poorly organized, but we try to tag all of our posts. Now, we certainly don’t do a perfect job. And we did a worse job in the past. But it’s always been something that’s supposed to be done, and among the various categories are all 30 individual baseball teams. Focusing on those, then: look closely. Under “Angels,” for example, you see “Post Count: 299.” That means there have been 299 FanGraphs blog posts with an Angels tag. Is that a lot, or is that a little, or is that just right?
We can easily look at the numbers for all 30 teams. We can see who we’ve written about the most, and who we’ve written about the least.
Before the results, there’s a decent amount to be said. First, this is just about the FanGraphs main blog, so the other blogs aren’t included. And, again, we haven’t always been perfect with our tagging habits, but it’s not like any teams should have been tagged or untagged disproportionately. Not all team tags are created alike — sometimes a post is about a team, and sometimes a post is just about a player on the team. Some tags, in other words, are more…deep? than others, and this won’t pick that up. This also won’t pick up trends; this combines posts from yesterday with posts from eight years ago. Lastly, I think, this says nothing about favorability. A team can be tagged in an optimistic post or a pessimistic post. All this shows is who’s been written about the most, since roughly 2008, when the blog was really born.
Maybe you won’t be totally shocked by the team in first place:
The Red Sox lead the way, with 437 tags, compared to the Yankees’ 393, and the league average of 281. At the other end, there’s a tie for last, with the Twins and Rockies deadlocked at 191. The next team up is the Padres, at 207, and the Padres used to hang out with the Twins and Rockies until they tried to make things so weird and interesting a couple offseasons ago. The Padres basically forced us to write about them. Anyway, I don’t know what you were expecting from this distribution — maybe this meets your expectations, or maybe this is more even than you thought. Maybe the opposite of that. I don’t think there should be any real shocks.
Something neat that I didn’t expect to be so clean: the numbers match up pretty well with total team regular-season wins since 2008. Wins don’t directly drive content, and the blog has gone through some changes in posting frequency, but this plot speaks for itself:
You see the r2 of 0.52, and it would be even stronger — of course — if you took out the biggest outlier. Based just on this line, the Red Sox have been tagged 121 more times than you’d expect. The Royals, 90 more times. The Twins, 60 fewer times. I definitely don’t mean to suggest post topics should just mirror the standings. I’m surprised by how closely they have, given how much that leaves out. Focusing on the regular season, for example, doesn’t credit the Royals for how intriguing they’ve been the last few years, with transactions and in the playoffs. That’s why they’ve been written about so frequently. And just as there’s material to be written about good teams, there’s also material to be written about the bad ones. In particular the unexpectedly bad ones.
I know pretty well how this looks. I’ve seen the “FenGraphs” remarks in the comments. To use a popular buzzword, it’s bad optics to have a list like this headed by the Red Sox and Yankees, who have driven so many accusations of media bias. I also know people have accused FanGraphs of writing too much about the A’s, or about the Rays, or about the Dodgers, and so on. We’ve written too little about the Rockies, and the Twins, and the Padres and the Diamondbacks. (The Diamondbacks are actively trying to change that.) This is something I always have in the back of my mind. It’s not easy to try to figure out a fair distribution.
You could argue, I guess, it could be as easy as being even across the board. For every post about Boston, there’s a post about Minnesota. A big thing that ignores is that, from a business perspective — and this is a business — posts about Boston just do better than posts about Minnesota. There’s a variety of reasons for that, but it’s undeniable. Yet, it also has to be acknowledged we play some role in that. Maybe there would be a bigger Twins audience if we wrote more often about the Twins. It’s complicated. You don’t just want to organize your post topics by market size, but it would be bad business to ignore the markets altogether.
Not that traffic dictates articles. It’s a factor, but you also have to consider what’s of interest to the authors. I think we’ve all done a good job of silencing our various rooting interests, but if you think about the fact that we all write for a stats-oriented baseball blog, it makes sense that our brains would go to the Red Sox or the Dodgers before they go to the Rockies or the Marlins. We’ll be inclined to think more often about the teams we consider most analytical, and posts eventually come out of thoughts. Of course, the landscape has changed over the years — now the Brewers are analytical, and so are the Pirates and the Astros, and the Red Sox are less analytical than they’ve been in a while. I don’t know how that will be reflected in post counts. This is a crude tool.
What’s evident: relatively speaking, we’ve written a lot about the Red Sox, and little about the Rockies and Twins. I still don’t know if that’s good, or bad, or neither. Finding the proper editorial balance isn’t trivial, but thankfully there’s a community here, and it’ll probably tell us if we’re doing something wrong. Communities love that.
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