Category Archives: Baseball

Maybe Fans Aren’t That Mad About Yankee Ticket Prices

We’ve shown that exorbitant ticket prices appear to be impacting the attendance for the Yankees more than the Mets, but in general, besides bad PR, the Yankees are still benefitting financially. So beyond managing the general news outlets and media through traditional PR efforts, let’s look for negative sentiment within other social media platforms.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that the Yankees hold the upper hand in popularity in New York, according to a recent New York Times, Cornell and NY1 poll. New Yorkers favor the Yankees (34%) over the Mets (25%) – although a third of New Yorkers don’t favor either. In other words, among those that favor one team over the other, 57% favor the Yankees.

Thus it’s not too surprising that the number of posts in blogs, Twitter, forums and other social media for the two New York teams mirror their real world popularity (I used Radian6 dashboards to filter down the posts over the last 30 days):

All social mentions of the Yankees and Mets over the last 30 days

But just as a previous post pointed out the new stadium ticket pricing is impacting attendance for the Yankees more than the Mets, a similar pattern shows up in the volume of posts across social media: the Yankees lead the Mets by a 3-to-1 margin.

Yankees and Mets and social mentions that specifically address ticket prices

Before we go further, it’s pretty apparent that whereas ticket prices were a big issue around the start of the season, it is not a hot topic now: only 1.1% of social mentions about the Yankees concerning ticket prices (202 of 17.679). Even further, we don’t have a feel for which percentage of those mentions are negative.

Let’s focus in on blogs (they make up just about half of all mentions). The Radian6 tool doesn’t provide automated sentiment classificationat this point (a feature coming this summer), so I’ll turn to another tool, Of the 137 blog posts about the Yankees ticket prices, shows a favorable sentiment of 2:1 with 41 positive mentions and 17 negative mentions (the rest being neutral). With only 17 negative posts out of 137, it’s relatively easy to dive down manually and identify specific blogs, their relative post strength signifying the influence of the poster, as well as identifying the extent of the negative sentiment:

Example of results for blog posts about Yankees ticket prices where the sentiment is negative

This is great for honing in on a specific topic and understanding what users are saying, but it gets daunting if topics drive a prolific number of posts.

After listening to users, if the Yankees identify a specific issue that needs to be addressed, the next step is how to reach those users. Beyond reaching out to hardcore season ticketholders, email lists of fans and the traditional press, it might be worth engaging the blogosphere where a majority of comments are made. While Social Mention lets you sort on comments based on post rank, tools like Raidan6 let you aggregate at the blog/poster level to identify some of the more “influential” blogs (aggregating posts from a specific source and using Radian6’s algorithm based on the number of on-topic posts, replies, inboud links, etc.).

For the Yankees, specifically around ticket prices, these were the top five most influential blogs over the last 30 days: the LoHud Yankees blog by the Lower Hudson Journal’s beat writer, River Ave. Blues, the official YES network Yankees blog (which the Yanks ostensibly control); Sliding Into Home by a die-hard Yankees fan; Kevin Davidoff’s Baseball Insider, by a Newsday beat writer; and Bronx Banter . It appears the most influential blogs appear to be properties already tied to press or beat writers, which are already probably being served by traditional PR efforts.

In this specific example, with only 1.1% of comments being about ticket prices and only 12% of those potentially negative,the perception of bad PR around the high-cost of Yankees tickets doesn’t appear to be as negative as some in the blogosphere would like to suggest. Yankee fans are much more concerned about A-Rod slumping or losing to the Nationals and may be resigned to the fact that they are going to end up watching their Bombers on TV rather than at the Stadium.

Mets, Yankees Attendance Down by Double Digits – Are the New Ballparks to Blame?

Can’t believe it’s been over a month since I’ve done a post on baseball (heck, Manny Ramirez is almost back!?), so thought I’d tackle how the new stadiums for both the Mets and Yankees are impacting overall attendance this year.

First off, the home attendance numbers:

  • The Yankees average home game attendance is down 15% from 53,069 to 45,089
  • The Mets average home game attendance is down 24% from 51,165 to 38,925

So off-hand, that looks pretty bad. New ballparks and the numbers are down year-over-year in double digits? There are a lot of mitigating factors: a) both clubs actually shrunk their capacity in the process of replacing their old parks, b) the economy is hurting attendance across the board, and c) the increase in ticket prices making a trip to these new stadiums even more expensive.

The Case of the Shrinking Stadium

  • The Yankee Stadium capacity dropped 8.9% from 56,866 to 51,800
  • CitiField is 27.3% smaller than old Shea Stadium, meaning the Mets capacity dropped from 57,534 to a cozy 41,800

Right there, you can make the case that the Mets are doing a better job at selling out the new ballpark – the park got 27% smaller, but the attendance is only down 24%. Hitting 93% of capacity (up from 89%) is pretty strong. The Yankees are seeing the opposite, going from 93% of capacity to 87%. If you expected the Yankees, everything else equal, to maintain the 93% sell-out they had in the last stadium, then you would expect this year’s attendance to be 48,175, leaving the Yankees down 3,086 in attendance per game or about 6.4%.

Of course, this all is under assumption that you wouldn’t sell out a game. Part of the theory of making smaller stadiums, is that you’d make nearly every game a sellout. I mean, if there were 53,000 Yankees fans attending a game on average, then filling the Stadium every night with 51,800 shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Wrigley Field has a capacity of 41,118 and they’re filling up 39,978 each game (97.2%). Fenway Park capacity fluctuates around 37,000 (depending on day and night games) and is 100% sold out.

So let’s look at the park-adjusted attendance shortfalls using a 97% sell-out rate:

  • Yankees home attendance should be 50,246 and at 45,089 are 10.3% short
  • Mets home attendance should be 40,546 and at 38,925 are 4% short

It’s the Economy Stupid

  • The economy has definitely beat up baseball: MLB Attendance is down 10% across the board (thru June 19th) – which would put us at the lowest level since 2003
  • Take out the Mets and Yankees figures though (plus remove the woeful Washington Nationals who are down close to 9,000 per game) and overall attendance is down 8.3%

That seems to explain away the Mets shortfall (dare I say they are doing better than the economy would expect them to and may actually be seeing some of the new ballpark effect?), but it doesn’t completely explain the Yankees adjusted 10.3% shortfall. Take out the general impact of the economy and the Yankees are about 2% short of where you’d expect them to be.

Those Tickets Cost How Much?

Yes, time to digest the much squawked about, nasty situation around ticket prices for the new ballparks: The Team Marketing Report [PDF] shows that at the start of the season:

  • the average Yankee ticket is $72.97 (up 76.3% from $41.40) – tops in baseball
  • the average Mets ticket is $36.99 (up 8.6%) – good for 4th highest overall

Now granted, the Yankees begrudgingly reduced the 146 behind-home-plate $2,500 seats to $1,250, but when you do the math, the average Yankee ticket is still a whopping $69.45 or 68% higher! No wonder 83% of fans think the ticket prices are a rip-off according to a Marist College poll in early June.

But put in perspective, the exorbitant prices appear to only be holding the Yankees back 2% of where you’d expect them to be. That’s a far cry from luxury items seeing 15% or higher declines and truthfully, even at $70 these really aren’t luxury items.

Bad PR, Nice Bottom Line

Very roughly (because I’m using the average ticket price) the Yankees are going from last season’s $2.197 million per game (53,069 at an average $41.40) to this year’s $3.131 million per game (45,089 @ $69.45) for a very sweet 42% increase in the Yankees’ bottom line. Compare that to the Mets going from $1.742 million per game (51,165 @ $34.05) to $1.440 million (38,925 @ $36.99) and the Mets look like they are going backwards. Even at capacity, the Mets would be making $200,000 less per game in ticket sales than they did during the final season at Shea Stadium.

So with that newly fattened war chest, might be a good time for the Yankees to invest in social media monitoring. We’ll take a look at just how bad the buzz is around Yankee ticket prices in the next post.

Phillies Pitching Staff Futility: The Horrific Homer Rate

I was perusing team-by-team stats recently and saw something that really stood out to me: the Phillies pitching staff has given up a huge number of homeruns. Through Thursday they had given up 56 long balls in the span of 32 games – about 1.78 per 9 inning game. The next closest team in the NL was the Cubs, with 40 homers given up to date or an average of 1.23 homers per 9 inning game. That disparity is huge.

It’s so huge, that the Phillies are on a pace to give up 287 homers this year, which would shatter the MLB record of 241 given up by the woeful Detroit Tigers staff of 1996, and the Colorado Rockies’ pitiful 230 homers allowed during the 2001 season (per Baseball Almanac).

But guess what? It’s not the ballpark. Citizen’s Bank Park had the reputation of a band box with homers sailing out in 2007, but actually is a pretty neutral park. The starting staff, in fact, has given up slightly more homers per 9 innings on the road (2.1 away vs 2.0 at home).

But look at that stat – the starting pitchers are giving up 2.08 HR per nine innings, more than twice the league average of 1.01 HRs per nine innings. The surprising thing (to me at least) is that the best Phillies pitcher at avoiding the homer is journeyman Chan Ho Park:

  • Jamie Moyer – 2.80 HR/9
  • Joe Blanton – 2.10 HR/9
  • Brett Myers – 2.09 HR/9
  • Cole Hamels – 1.78 HR/9
  • Chan Ho Park – 1.32 HR/9

The bullpen, on the other hand, is only giving up 1.30 HR/9 innings (16 HRs in 111 innings pitched). But even that is misleading, because closer Brad Lidge has been awful with a team-worst 3.07 HR/9 innings – not something you want to see if you’re a Phillies fan with the game on the line. The relief corps, without Lidge is (surprise) close to the league average with a 1.03 HR/9.

I took a look at each home run given up by a Phillies pitcher this year using Hit Tracker Online and trended by week to see if the homer parade was waning any, but it seems pretty consistent except for the lull over the last four days where the pitching staff has only given up three homers. Also four of the last five homeruns given up were shots that would not have made it out of most parks (HitTracker actually looks at each homer and figures out in how many of the 30 major league ballparks a homer would have cleared the fences).

So maybe there is hope, but a lot of the ugliness has come at the hands of 47-year old Jamie Moyer (3-3, 8.14 ERA, 1.84 WHIP), struggling to notch his career 250th win. You sort of wonder that once Moyer gets that coveted milestone, how much more patience the Phillies will have before turning to the younger JA Happ (only 1 HR allowed in 19.2 innings) or make a run for someone like Pedro Martinez (a relative spring chicken at 36) to shore up the staff before they fade in the NL East.

Other Interesting Stats

  • Cole Hamels has only pitched 3.2 IP on the road, the remaining 26.2 IP at home
  • Are these guys too old and lost their stuff? This isn’t a young pitching staff – they lead the NL with an average age of 32.3 years old – and in fact it is the oldest pitching staff in Phillies team history.