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Giants, A’s Tops Among Baseball’s Sentimental Favorites
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Giants, A’s Tops Among Baseball’s Sentimental Favorites

For most Northern California baseball fans, there’s a particular sense of optimism in the air – or, at least, on the web.

The San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics have the most positive buzz of any Major League Baseball team through the first three weeks of the season, according to an online sentiment analysis by The Nielsen Company.  The Giants earned a sentiment score of 4.5 (5.0 being the top score) with 20% of all online messages considered “positive,” while one percent of messages were “negative.” Similarly, the A’s earned a score of 4.2 with 18% of online messages deemed “positive” while two percent of messages were “negative.” Additional messages logged for both clubs were found to be “neutral” or “mixed.”

HIGHEST ONLINE SENTIMENT AMONG MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAMS

(4/4/10 through 4/25/10)

TEAM % POSITIVE MESSAGES % NEGATIVE MESSAGES OVERALL SENTIMENT SCORE
San Francisco Giants 20% 1% 4.5
Oakland Athletics 18% 2% 4.2
Colorado Rockies 10% 1% 4.2
St. Louis Cardinals 6% 1% 4.1
San Diego Padres 17% 2% 3.8
Source: The Nielsen Company

There’s good reason for fans to rave about these teams early on. Through April 27th, the Giants and A’s were in first place in their respective divisions. The Athletics have especially seen success not just online and on the field, but also in its early season TV ratings.

Nielsen’s sentiment analysis also demonstrates just how quickly fan attitudes toward their favorite teams can change.  Through spring training, the Minnesota Twins ranked 22nd among 30 teams in online sentiment. But with the Twins off to a 14 and 6 start and an early hold on the AL Central lead, the team shot up 15 spots in the last three weeks to the #7 ranking.

BIGGEST GAINS IN MLB SENTIMENT RANKINGS

(since spring training)

TEAM SPRING TRAINING RANK REGULAR SEASON RANK OVERALL CHANGE
Minnesota Twins 22 7 +15
Oakland Athletics 8 2 +6
Florida Marlins 17 12 +5
Seattle Mariners 20 15 +5
Chicago Cubs 21 16 +5
Source: The Nielsen Company

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros gave their fans signs of hope in spring training, earning a sentiment rank of 11 out of 30. But a mediocre 8 and 11 start killed off some of the buzz, dropping the Astros to 27th in overall sentiment. The Dodgers, whose early-season woes have them sitting in last place in the NL West, have seen their sentiment rank plummet 11 spots since spring training.

BIGGEST DROPS IN MLB SENTIMENT RANKINGS

(since spring training)

TEAM SPRING TRAINING RANK REGULAR SEASON RANK OVERALL CHANGE
Houston Astros 11 27 -16
Los Angeles Dodgers 10 21 -11
New York Mets 14 22 -8
Pittsburgh Pirates 15 20 -5
Cincinnati Reds 23 28 -5
Source: The Nielsen Company

Nielsen’s automated sentiment analysis uses keywords and proprietary software to capture sentiment toward a product (or, in this case, MLB teams) in online messages and forums. Sentences are parsed for their parts of speech, and then searched for polarity (positive or negative sentiment) related to a team. A sentiment ratio from -5 to +5 is then assigned to the ballclub, with positive scores indicating positive-leaning discussion and negative scores indicating negative-leaning discussion.