With the new Major League Baseball season beginning on March 30, YouGov decided to rank MLB teams in an unusual way — not by their World Series-winning likelihood or their playoff potential, but instead by the popularity of their mascot (if they have one).
A new YouGov poll showed 1,000 U.S. adult citizens a series of 10 mascot matchups. Each matchup included two mascots that were selected randomly from the list of the official mascots of the 27 Major League Baseball that have one. (The Angels, Dodgers, and Yankees don't have one.) For each matchup, people were shown a picture of each of the two randomly selected mascots and asked to choose which mascot is better. The mascots are ranked by their “win percentage,” that is: how often each mascot won when included in a matchup for which a respondent chose a winner — after weighting the results in the usual way YouGov polls are, to ensure representativeness by factors such as gender, age, race, and education.
The Detroit Tigers mascot, PAWS, landed in the top spot by winning 70.3% of its weighted matchups. PAWS was followed by two bear mascots: the Chicago Cubs' (63.2%) and the Minnesota Twins' (62.3%). The Oakland Athletics' elephant mascot, Stomper, lands in fourth place (winning 59.4% of weighted matchups). The New York Mets' mascot, a personified baseball, rounds out the top five (58.1%). The top MLB mascots generally are mammals or birds — with the exception of a baseball head and a self-proclaimed green monster.
The mascot that won the fewest matchups was the Swinging Friar (with a 24.5% win rate), the San Diego Padres mascot that the Associated Press once called a "cute, pudgy man of God." Rounding out the bottom three: Slider from the Cleveland Guardians (33.3%), which its creator described as "a big fat furball”; and Billy the Marlin (34.0%), a fish.
Even among MLB fans — people who are very or somewhat interested in MLB — the top-ranking mascots come from the Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, and New York Mets: the same top five in a different order. The bottom-ranking three mascots remain the same among MLB fans as well — even though, presumably, they have more opinions than non-MLB fans of the teams the mascots represent.
It's worth noting that some MLB teams do have multiple mascots — for instance, The New York Mets have Mr. Met and Mrs. Met and the Cincinnati Reds have Mr. Red, Rosie Red, Mr. Redlegs, and Gapper. In the instances where a team had multiple mascots, the primary mascot or more well-known mascot was selected to represent the team in the matchups.
For fans of MLB teams, the real favorite mascot is their own. In the instances where someone was a fan of one of the 27 teams with an official mascot and given a matchup featuring that mascot, their favorite team's mascot won 85.5% of the time. The mascot of people's rival team doesn't fare well — it wins 34.6% of the time — but it still outperformed the Swinging Friar, Slider, and Billy the Marlin.
As for the three MLB teams with no official mascot, Americans and MLB fans alike are more likely to say they should get a mascot than say they should not. There are similar levels of support for each team adopting a mascot of its own.
See the results with images of every mascot:
— Carl Bialik and Taylor Orth contributed to this article
Methodology: The poll was conducted among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens, which included 347 people who say they are very or somewhat interested in Major League Baseball. The respondents were asked to choose which mascot they liked better in a series of 10 head-to-head matchups. The two mascots in each matchup were selected randomly from 27 different mascots. Results were weighted to be nationally representative. Matchups in which the respondent chose neither mascot were not included in each mascot's winning percentage.
Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican).
The poll's introductory text stated, "On each of the next 10 pages, you will see two mascots for Major League Baseball teams. Please choose the mascot that you think is better. You do not need to make your decision based solely on the picture or the team — those pictures are merely there to jog your memory. If you do not think either is good, leave them both unselected and click the right arrow. You will see 10 match-ups. All images have been sourced from publicly available materials. YouGov makes no claim to their ownership. Our survey aims to discern the popularity of these images for research, opinion, and reporting purposes.”
Images: MLB All-Star Mascots and Wikimedia Commons