Baseball On My Brain


Do teams cater to their home town fans?
January 3, 2008, 1:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A fellow member of SABR posted this question to a discussion list a while back – and it’s been on my mind for a while:

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Suppose major league teams’ objective was to maximize profit (it may not actually be that, they might accept slightly lower profit if it means winning the World Series). Is there any evidence that individual teams try to increase their runs scored or home runs because this is what fans prefer? Do teams prefer to improve offense and/or HR hitting instead of defense/pitching if either change brings about the same increase in winning percentage?

Is there any evidence, that all else being equal, that high scoring/high HR teams make more money?

In the first Historical Abstract, Bill James said something about periods of offense usually being times of increased attendance. Do any studies bear this out?

My guess is that teams mainly try to win more games in any way that they can to increase revenue or profit. But maybe something else is going on.

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I’ve been noodling on this question since it was asked about three weeks ago – and when I followed up with the person who asked it, he said no one had gotten back to him with a reasonable answer. So I’ve decided to take it on – first from a purely opinion standpoint, and then hopefully from a numbers standpoint.

Question 1: Is there any evidence that individual teams try to increase their runs scored or home runs because this is what fans prefer?

I don’t know if you could ever find evidence to support this theory – however I think teams understand that fans like to see offense more so than pitching, and therefore dedicate more financial resources to offense. Given that most teams carry 13 offensive players and 12 pitchers, the revenue for offense should be about 52% of the total. I don’t have the figures in front of me, but my initial reaction is that it isn’t.

On Baseball-Reference.com, they list the salaries of 22 of the 2007 Mariners — which totals just over $101 million. Of that, non-pitchers account for $71.175 million, or 70% of the total payroll. I have a feeling this is more in line with industry standard.

Looking at the top 25 highest paid players on USAToday.com, pitchers only hold 5 of the 25 slots – and the first one isn’t until #6. The others slot in at #’s 7, 8, 16, and 17.

So I’m going to say that teams want to both win and draw fans, which might persuade them to go after offense more than defense.

Question 2 – Do teams prefer to improve offense and/or HR hitting instead of defense/pitching if either change brings about the same increase in winning percentage?

Again – I don’t know, but I think that the market may dictate what teams do. Pitchers have seemingly always been at a premium – whereas hitters seem to be more plentiful. There certainly seems to be more fascination with pitchers. Also – there are eight starting positions (nine if you count the DH) where you can add a bat — yet there are only five starting pitcher positions to improve at. The benches kind of cancel each other out — although the closer is much more prominent than someone coming off the bench on most teams.

My guess is that teams see more options of upgrading on the offensive side – and that tends to affect their decision making process.

Question 3 – Is there any evidence, that all else being equal, that high scoring/high HR teams make more money?

I’m not sure – but I’m intrigued enough to try and find out. Revenue would be hard to isolate completely – let alone to even find. But I think it might be possible.

Question 4 – In the first Historical Abstract, Bill James said something about periods of offense usually being times of increased attendance. Do any studies bear this out?

Again, I’d have to dig around, define the times of increased offense and get corresponding attendance. I think there are some other factors at work here — such as increased marketing efforts and differing levels of competition for the disposable dollar — that will affect the outcome.

Jogging my recent memory though – it was an offensive surge (the McGwire-Sosa HR chase) that is most-often cited as bringing baseball back. It wasn’t an era of great pitching – it was a two-man assault on one of the sports most coveted offensive records.

More to come – in the meantime, join the discussion!

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[…] under: Uncategorized David Gassko of the Hardball Times takes a look at the questions that were brought up recently. In short, do home runs put butts in the seats? No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed […]

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