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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Verducci: Baseball is back (thank goodness) and it’s better than ever (really)

Chicks dig the hit-and-run.

• Fans like close games and close pennant races more than home runs

One of the great myths about The Steroid Era is that steroids “saved baseball” and made for a great period of huge economic growth. It’s baloney. After the great home run race of 1998, per game attendance went down three of the next five years. Take the best per-game attendance in The Steroid Era (1995-2003) and it would be the worst attendance rate of The Testing Era (2004-2012).

We are in an extremely rare period in the game’s history because offense is down and attendance is up. There are many reasons why this is happening, including something as macro an issue as the frightening pace in which America is becoming an entertainment-based society. We spend roughly three times as much money on entertainment as we do education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our overall spending from 1991-2011 rose 33 percent, but our spending on “Fees and Admissions,” which includes what we pay to watch sports, jumped 65 percent.

To an audience craving entertainment, baseball has provided more competitive games. Home runs are great, but having an outcome in doubt is better. The stands empty out in a blowout and stay full for a close game even if the ball never left the yard.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 12:16 PM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: attendance, offense, peds, spring training, tom verducci

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   1. McCoy Posted: February 13, 2013 at 01:47 PM (#4368812)
I love when Verducci plays with numbers.
   2. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: February 13, 2013 at 01:51 PM (#4368816)
-Baseball is great! Verducci is right.

-There is no objective way to distinguish the run-scoring conditions of 2001-2003 from 2004-2006. The change happened in 2010. It wasn't testing.
   3. Rough Carrigan Posted: February 13, 2013 at 01:52 PM (#4368818)
Yeah, McCoy, but it can't compare to when you tune in to MLB network to watch one of the 25 or 50, or whatever the series was, greatest games of the last 50 years and only get to see half the game but get treated to an hour's worth of Verducci talking with Costas about what a great game it was.
   4. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: February 13, 2013 at 01:54 PM (#4368821)
Fun fact: If I get home from work and flip on a baseball game and it's 1-0 in the fourth, I will usually leave it on. If it's 6-4 in the third, I will turn it off every time. The second game inevitabley devolves into a four hour, ten pitching change, clusterf*uck. The pace of that type a game is essentially unwatchable. So I vote 'yes' on the direction that offense in the game has taken lately.
   5. villageidiom Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:01 PM (#4368825)
After the great home run race of 1998, per game attendance went down three of the next five years.


1998 Kingdome, capacity 59,100
1999 Safeco, capacity 47,116

1999 Candlestick, capacity 57,546
2000 AT&T, capacity 41,116

1999 Astrodome, capacity 54,816
2000 Minute Maid, capacity 42,000

1999 Tiger, capacity 52,400
2000 Comerica, capacity 41,255

2000 County, capacity 53,192
2001 Miller, capacity 43,000

2000 Three Rivers, capacity 47,952
2001 PNC, capacity 38,217
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:05 PM (#4368830)
I also like the "normalizing" of run-scoring. Any more reduction in offense than this though and I think it would start to get boring.

• Offense stinks
Hitters never have struck out more often than they do in today's game. The rate of hits per game has dropped six straight years. The average major league hitter has batted .255 each of the past two years. It's only the second time since the DH was adopted in 1973 that hitting has been that bad two consecutive years; the other occasion occurred back in 1988-89. The rate of runs per game hasn't cracked 8.64 three straight years for the first time in two decades.


What an odd way to illustrate "offense stinks."
   7. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:14 PM (#4368835)
Hallelujah to the return of baseball. I don't think I realized how much I missed it until I spent a couple of hours watching the Australian championship series.
   8. SoSH U at work Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:19 PM (#4368840)
1998 Kingdome, Total Att. 2,651,511
1999 Safeco, Total Att. 2,916,346

1999 Candlestick, Total Att. 2,078,399
2000 AT&T, Total Att. 3,318,800

1999 Astrodome, Total Att. 2,706,017
2000 Minute Maid, Total Att. 3,056,139

1999 Tiger, Total Att. 2,026,441
2000 Comerica, Total Att. 2,438,617

2000 County, Total Att. 1,573,621
2001 Miller, Total Att. 2,811,041

2000 Three Rivers, Total Att. 1,748,908
2001 PNC, Total Att. 2,464,870

I don't think smaller capacities at these new stadia were pushing avg. attendance down vi.

   9. GuyM Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:26 PM (#4368846)
-There is no objective way to distinguish the run-scoring conditions of 2001-2003 from 2004-2006. The change happened in 2010. It wasn't testing.

Right. Also a smaller dip in 2001, with a larger zone (BB/9 dropped from 3.75 to 3.25, and scoring dropped a bit too).

Home runs are great, but having an outcome in doubt is better. The stands empty out in a blowout and stay full for a close game even if the ball never left the yard.

Odd that he assumes fewer HR = more competitive games. The reverse is probably true: nothing keeps a game competitive better than the possibility of a HR. Number of comeback games per year, 2011-2012: 1,042. Number of comeback games per year at height of the "steroid era" (1999-2000): 1,142 -- an extra 100 comebacks per season.

Or let's look at winning % for teams with the lead after 6 innings:
2011-2012: .871
1999-2000: .856

After 7 innings:
2011-2012: .910
1999-2000: .897

I also prefer the current run scoring level to what we had in 1999-2000. But let's not pretend it means every fan gets a free unicorn....
   10. John Northey Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:31 PM (#4368853)
Various ways to look at it...
Yankees 2001-2012: 40k+ per game every year
Yankees 1903-2000: 40k+ per game once, 1999
Yankees 1903-2000: 35k+ per game three times, 1998, 1999, 2000

In other words, the 15 highest attendance seasons in Yankee history were the last 15 years. Then comes 1988, 1980 and 1997.

The Dodgers are also a long lived franchise with periods far better than current times. What about them?
Top 4 seasons: 2006-2009, the only years with 45k+ per game
From 2004 to 2012 only once did they fail to get 40k+ per game, 2011 (3rd place after a 4th place the year before).
Of the 40k+ years only 1985, 1997, 1978, 1991, 1994, 1981, 1983, 1982 (the high mark pre-testing) are not 2004 to today. IE: 8 times since 2004 they've had 40k+, in their entire history before that they reached it 8 times as well. Odds are this year will be well above 40k as well.

That covers two franchises who had massive success in the past yet both are doing better in the testing era than pre-testing for crowds. TV money is sky high as well. Not much question that MLB is not taking a hit in attendance in any way right now.
   11. GuyM Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:36 PM (#4368857)
If you really want to keep game outcomes in doubt you should limit bullpens, not homeruns. Limit teams to 11 pitchers, or force relievers to pitch at least 1 inning, something like that. It's the parade of hard-throwers that losing teams face starting in the 7th inning that prevents comebacks. HRs are the cure, not the cause, if you are worried about lack of doubt regarding game outcomes.
   12. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:41 PM (#4368861)
Fun fact: If I get home from work and flip on a baseball game and it's 1-0 in the fourth, I will usually leave it on. If it's 6-4 in the third, I will turn it off every time. The second game inevitabley devolves into a four hour, ten pitching change, clusterf*uck. The pace of that type a game is essentially unwatchable. So I vote 'yes' on the direction that offense in the game has taken lately.


Even the 1-0 game goes slower than it needs to, though, since we have so many more strikeouts and walks now rather than quick at-bats.

[note: I have done no research to back this statement]
   13. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:44 PM (#4368864)

If you really want to keep game outcomes in doubt you should limit bullpens, not homeruns. Limit teams to 11 pitchers, or force relievers to pitch at least 1 inning, something like that. It's the parade of hard-throwers that losing teams face starting in the 7th inning that prevents comebacks. HRs are the cure, not the cause, if you are worried about lack of doubt regarding game outcomes.


Then offense will rise (with tired pitchers staying in games longer), leading to a greater gap in runs between winning and losing teams.

There is also an equilibrium you want with "game outcomes being in doubt." You want some chance of games to be in doubt, but you don't want it so that every late inning lead is unsafe and games are basically coin flips.
   14. jmurph Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:45 PM (#4368869)
Even the 1-0 game goes slower than it needs to


You probably didn't mean it this way, but why would a game need to go faster? I don't get this. Complaining about the Josh Becketts of the world taking too long between pitches is one thing- time between pitches is time spent without baseball being played.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:47 PM (#4368871)

Complaining about the Josh Becketts of the world taking too long between pitches is one thing- time between pitches is time spent without baseball being played.


That is what he's complaining about.

   16. jmurph Posted: February 13, 2013 at 02:52 PM (#4368875)
That is what he's complaining about.


No, it wasn't:

Even the 1-0 game goes slower than it needs to, though, since we have so many more strikeouts and walks now rather than quick at-bats.
   17. Dale Sams Posted: February 13, 2013 at 03:11 PM (#4368893)
Why is baseball so popular? People are living longer. The longer you live, the more nostalgia creeps up on you. Throw in the internet and this all = KACHING!

Complaining about the Josh Becketts


Without Josh Beckett, I wouldn't have time to clean the house and comment on in-game threads.
   18. Flynn Posted: February 13, 2013 at 03:22 PM (#4368919)
Groundballs are democratic, I guess.

But seriously, I don't really enjoying watching guys with 8 home runs on the season strike out 125 times. I'm perfectly aware that doesn't really matter statistically, but aesthetically it's grating.
   19. Canker Soriano Posted: February 13, 2013 at 04:11 PM (#4368975)
The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd.
That's right - baseball's back and WNYX has it!
The boys of summer and WNYX - a winning team!

Or the slightly less relevant: "I'm Bill MacNeil... on crack... I like... boys!"
   20. Anonymous Observer Posted: February 13, 2013 at 04:35 PM (#4369000)
since we have so many more strikeouts and walks now rather than quick at-bats.


Just require all pitchers to throw the ball right over the plate, and require the hitters to swing at every pitch.

Problem solved.
   21. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:45 PM (#4369055)
The cure is to have Vin Scully telecast every single game played. Josh Beckett pitching just gives him more time to talk about which high schools various Rockies attended, or about how the Dominican batter is from the same home town as Pedro Guerrero and Raul Mondesi.
   22. Clemenza Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:57 PM (#4369070)
Holy crap! The whole sport is in the best shape of its life????
   23. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2013 at 06:06 PM (#4369081)
Hitters never have struck out more often than they do in today's game

Since the strikeout jump is a major cause of the reduced offense, you can't really have it both ways if you like the reduced offense. You could reduce offense through other ways of course (crappy baseballs, mammoth parks, some sort of bat restrictions).
   24. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: February 13, 2013 at 06:13 PM (#4369086)
strikeout jump is a major cause of the reduced offense


but what about TEH STEROIDS
   25. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 13, 2013 at 06:21 PM (#4369095)
One of the great myths about The Steroid Era is that steroids “saved baseball”


The only thing I can remember being said is that McGwire and Sosa "saved baseball" with their home run race, but that was one year only, and that was before the general public was much aware of the tainted nature of the chase. I never heard a single person ever make such a claim about "steroids" per se saving anything.
   26. JE (Jason) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 06:44 PM (#4369118)
Wait, mabye Cal Ripken saved baseball? Or maybe Camden Yards and other new, retro ballparks saved baseball? Or maybe the juiced ball saved baseball? Or maybe the end of the strike baseball?

Or can it be that maybe the game didn't need saving to begin with?
   27. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: February 13, 2013 at 06:55 PM (#4369126)
The only thing I can remember being said is that McGwire and Sosa "saved baseball" with their home run race... that was before the general public was much aware of the tainted nature of the chase.

McGwire/Sosa saved baseball with their muscles... after Cal Ripken saved it first... but the drug aspect of it was deliberately downplayed... but steroids are now properly recognized as baseball's worst scourge. I wonder what the common element behind all of these incompatible sales pitches could be?
   28. bunyon Posted: February 13, 2013 at 06:59 PM (#4369129)
I think you want offense set at a pace where it doesn't take two future HOF pitchers to get a 1-0 game on occasion AND where you get the occasional 12-7 slugfest. I certainly prefer close, low scoring games over the long, silly ball games but would hate to get to a point where every game was 2-1 or 3-2. I want both. I want to see 15K complete games. I want to see guys hit 3HR and a double in a game. I want to see "clutch" productive outs from guys getting their cup of coffee and walkoff homers by future HOFers.

Why would I possibly want every game to look the same? IMO, the steroid era failed not because slugging is boring but because high scoring slugfests became the norm. It sounds like a lot of folks reacted to 1968 the same way. 1-0 can be fun. But not if it is every day and thrown by AAAA pitchers.
   29. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 13, 2013 at 07:22 PM (#4369141)
Just require all pitchers to throw the ball right over the plate, and require the hitters to swing at every pitch.

Problem solved.

I've never played in one of those unlimited-arc one-pitch softball tournaments, but it looks like great fun.
I'd love it if they experimented with that in spring training: each batter gets one pitch - ball = walk; strike = strikeout; ball in play = ball in play.
(if you can foul off a million pitches, good for you)
   30. AndrewJ Posted: February 13, 2013 at 07:39 PM (#4369156)
I'm also excited for 2013 MLB. Trout and Harper in their sophomore seasons will be fun to watch.

What makes this spring training even more welcome than usual is the realization that we already have entered an era of the greatest competitive balance the game ever has known.

1982-93 baseball says hello.

Wait, mabye Cal Ripken saved baseball? Or maybe Camden Yards and other new, retro ballparks saved baseball? Or maybe the juiced ball saved baseball? Or maybe the end of the strike baseball?

Or can it be that maybe the game didn't need saving to begin with?


This, in 72-point type.
   31. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 13, 2013 at 07:50 PM (#4369163)
How about changing the strike zine rules so that a swing at a ball outside of the strike zone isn't a ball or strike (unless ts found off). Batters have more inventive to swing, pitchers more incentive to throw strikes.

Oh, I forgot about the sacred record books. Never mind, by all means keep slowly killing the game.
   32. Justin T is going to crush some tacos Thursday Posted: February 13, 2013 at 08:11 PM (#4369170)
That is the worst idea I've ever heard.
   33. Ebessan Posted: February 13, 2013 at 08:11 PM (#4369172)
Take the best per-game attendance in The Steroid Era (1995-2003)...

Will anyone in the media ever notice how bad the offensive climate was in the early '90s despite it now being common knowledge that steroids were already being used by the Bash Brothers and that the real upswing had nothing to do with the strike layoff allowing everyone to get on programs as seems to be accepted wisdom with the biggest increase coming in '93 when suddenly every team apparently had access to fantastic PEDs all of a sudden and then in '94 when everyone had unimaginable stuff that turned everyone into the Predator but with baseball bats and that 2006 was actually only behind '99 in league-wide ISO for the era or that the greatest single-season upswing of the century came in 1977 and that these arbitrary definitions can be easily refuted and that it kind of proves that just going with "THE STEROID ERA" is dumb when talking about the actual on-field results, and, and, and... of course not.

Incidentally, here's one thing that makes the games both longer and better played: the death of the sac bunt. 20 years since there were more than .4 per game, 31 since .45.
   34. shoewizard Posted: February 13, 2013 at 08:33 PM (#4369179)
I am far more i interested in the comment about the country becoming an entertainment based society. Want to increase taxes ? Slap a 10 percent surcharge on all entertainment expenditures and direct all of that money into education.
   35. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 13, 2013 at 09:21 PM (#4369201)
McGwire/Sosa saved baseball with their muscles... after Cal Ripken saved it first... but the drug aspect of it was deliberately downplayed... but steroids are now properly recognized as baseball's worst scourge. I wonder what the common element behind all of these incompatible sales pitches could be?

I dunno, but here's the only solution.
   36. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: February 13, 2013 at 09:42 PM (#4369209)
Does anyone think Cal Ripken played 400,000 straight games without some chemical help?
   37. dave h Posted: February 13, 2013 at 09:55 PM (#4369215)
#22 is the winner
   38. Canker Soriano Posted: February 13, 2013 at 11:20 PM (#4369271)
I am far more i interested in the comment about the country becoming an entertainment based society. Want to increase taxes ? Slap a 10 percent surcharge on all entertainment expenditures and direct all of that money into education.

You'd just end up with legislative fights over what constitutes "entertainment", with people from the red states saying that strip clubs should be taxed with a 90% surcharge "sin-tax", unless they're strip clubs run by tobacco companies or SEC college football boosters, and people from the blue states saying that church can be entertaining enough that everyone who attends regularly should tithe 10% to the government.

Plus, if you tax work, and you tax leisure, I'm pretty sure I might never get out of bed again.
   39. ptodd Posted: February 14, 2013 at 12:21 AM (#4369288)
The steroid era continues.

Instead of comparing 1995-2003 to 2004-2012 he should also looks at 1988-1992.

As for attendance going down 1999-2003 in 3 of the 5 years. It did slightly in 1999 (500K) and more significantly in 2002 and 2003. However, 9/11 likely had something to do with that as fear of another attack kept some folks from the park.

Takeoff began when HR's and runs did, and that arguably began in 93. Part of what we call the steroid era was really the strike zone, smaller parks, juiced ball, and maple bats. Only thing that has changed is some bigger parks and perhaps a less livelier ball. Oh, and some testing, but how effective that is is anyones guess. Players don't look any smaller to me.
   40. Walt Davis Posted: February 14, 2013 at 01:10 AM (#4369302)
However, 9/11 likely had something to do with that as fear of another attack kept some folks from the park.

More likely the 2001 recession which wasn't helped by 9/11. National unemployment started 2001 at about 4% and was 5.7% by the end of the year. It stabilized but crept up not reaching its peak of about 6.5% until mid-2003.

That baseball has held it together during the high unemployment of recent times is rather unusual.
   41. depletion Posted: February 14, 2013 at 04:43 PM (#4369826)
1998 Kingdome, Total Att. 2,651,511
1999 Safeco, Total Att. 2,916,346

1999 Candlestick, Total Att. 2,078,399
2000 AT&T, Total Att. 3,318,800

1999 Astrodome, Total Att. 2,706,017
2000 Minute Maid, Total Att. 3,056,139

1999 Tiger, Total Att. 2,026,441
2000 Comerica, Total Att. 2,438,617

2000 County, Total Att. 1,573,621
2001 Miller, Total Att. 2,811,041

2000 Three Rivers, Total Att. 1,748,908
2001 PNC, Total Att. 2,464,870

I don't think smaller capacities at these new stadia were pushing avg. attendance down vi.

I'm sure it was the case that fans of teams in older, more tawdry stadia were a bit ashamed of their surroudings and, instead of buying tickets, merely shuffled about outside the old derelict parks, looking down and scuffing their shoes in the dust.

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