A look at the ten most likely places for a new MLB club
It seems that nearly every week, articles surrounding the potential relocation of the A’s and Rays surface. A panel looking into a potential San Jose relocation for the A’s has been gridlocked since 2009 (and remember, the A’s have been looking to move to San Jose for a heck of a lot longer than that). The Rays haven’t been far behind in their efforts to get out of Tropicana Field. Whether it’s the commute for fans to get to the domed stadium, the aesthetics, or the need to be closer to an urban core, it seems that Tampa Bay has been seeking a new ballpark for just as long. Relocation for these two clubs is crucial.
Another thing that comes up less frequently but has extra meaning going into 2013 is expansion. With the Astros moving into the AL West, the American League and National League will now be balanced at 15 clubs a piece. The problem is that 15 is an odd number, and as a result, interleague will become a daily affair. It’s unlikely that’s something that the league wanted, so getting to 32 clubs would take care of that matter. That would mean revenues spread thinner with two extra mouths to feed. Additionally, it’s no given that one or both wouldn’t be revenue-sharing takers, and trying to get ballparks built is no easy feat in this economy. So, 30 is a number that seems to suit the “Big Four” sports leagues in North America. The NBA has it. Ditto for the NHL. Currently, only the NFL—which has the advantage of being highly centralized (revenues are shared more evenly across the franchises) and exceptionally popular—is the exception at 32 clubs.
Maury looks at 2012's attendance winners and losers as well as some early postseason ratings.
With the 2012 regular season in the books, it’s time to look at how clubs did at selling tickets. Yes, they call it “attendance,” but it’s really “paid attendance,” a showing of tickets sold and rarely reflective of actual butts in the seats. The league’s 30 clubs drew 74,859,268 over 2,423 games this year: an increase of 2 percent. While this wasn’t as good as I projected before the season started, it was the league’s largest year-to-year growth since the 2007 season total rose 4.6 percent over 2006. Nine clubs drew more than three million in paid attendance this season, while 13 clubs eclipsed the 2.5 million mark. In addition, this is the second consecutive season that total attendance increased over the previous year and marks the highest attendance since 2008. When things are all said and done, 2012 will rank as the fifth-best single-season in MLB history in terms of attendance.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that attendance between 2010 and 2011, while technically up, was basically the same. The league sold 397,715 more tickets last year than 2010, or an increase of less than one percent. Let’s call that what it is: flat. In fact, over the last four years, the league has seen attendance pretty much remain flat. When you factor in new ballparks for the Mets, Yankees, Twins, and Marlins over the period, this tells us that either the sour economy still holds its grip on America’s discretionary income or MLB’s true “golden era”, as Selig likes to call it, was really 2004-2008 when attendance soared. Still, the league has to be happy; last year, the Dodgers’ attendance cratered during Frank McCourt’s tenure, and there were a considerable number of rainouts. This season, rainouts weren’t as high, and with the two additional Wild Card teams added in, the races for a postseason berth were more compelling.
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Does the newest edition of The Show deliver on its promise of an interactive baseball broadcast?
MLB 12: The Show aspires to be an interactive baseball broadcast—it says so on the box. Ergo, the developers designed the game to be a made-for-television event made for Playstation.
The baseball-broadcasting staples are present. Close-ups focusing on the pitcher or hitter’s face depend on the result of the previous pitch. Should Roy Halladay struggle to throw strikes then the simulation is a poor one, but your unreal Halladay will fidget with the baseball or wipe his brow in between offerings. Walk the leadoff hitter in a tight spot and Charlie Manuel will appear troubled. Have Shane Victorino gun down a runner and you might see him flex afterward; similarly, expect Placido Polanco to glare at his glove after committing an error. Emotional response from the actors is a key piece of a baseball broadcast. The Show understands and employs this as well as any game has before.
Michael ends his look at Japanese imports with some conclusions and a look at the future of the transpacific player market.
In the Asian Equation series, I’ve traced the history of the current posting system that imports players from NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball, the Japanese major leagues) and how the success of Ichiro Suzuki has affected it, from the position players who arrived in his wake to the pricey disappointments among starting pitchers and the marginally successful relievers. In this final column, I’ll take a look back to draw conclusions from this history and see what we can expect from the NPB market in the future. As with my previous columns, Patrick Newman’s advice and ideas were very helpful, as is his website, NPB Tracker.
The simplest, broadest conclusion concerns the players themselves, where we must draw an important distinction between talent and skills. As Craig Brown wrote in the comments section of his article on Tsuyoshi Nishioka, “. . . comparing two middle infielders just because they come from Japan is like comparing two middle infielders just because they come from Delaware.” Just because they’re from Japan doesn’t mean we can draw specific conclusions about individual ballplayers, their talents, or their ability to succeed in Major League Baseball. This goes double for Ichiro, whose skills are idiosyncratic on either side of the Pacific. Throwing money at Japanese players expecting them to be slap hitters with weird batting stances and an uncanny ability to find defensive holes is as foolish as thinking every Venezuelan shortstop will field (and endure) like Omar Vizquel. We can’t expect specific players to have certain inherent talents just because they were born in Japan.
In his fifth Asian Equation column, Michael looks at the relievers who have enjoyed modest success--and failure--making the move from Japan to America.
The last group in my analysis of the player’s who have migrated to MLB from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) are the relievers, the least appreciated members of a successful baseball team. Yet, of all NPB imports, they have been the most numerous (explaining the length of this article, for which I apologize in advance) and the cheapest. Diminished quality is the most obvious reason for these extremes, since starters who don’t meet MLB standards get shifted to the bullpen, and lesser talents also keep salaries down. Additionally, the typical NPB pitcher’s arsenal matches well with an MLB reliever’s skillset.
As I discussed in my last Asian Equation article, NPB is a breaking ball league, which translates better to relief than starting. A good breaking ball might fool major league hitters the first or second time they see it in a game, but it probably won’t the third or fourth time. As an illustration, here’s how batter OPS rises against two of the biggest NPB starting-pitcher busts as compared with three current MLB pitchers: the best, the most mediocre, and an old junkballer. While MLB batters’ performance improves against each pitcher the more times they see him in a game, the change is far more dramatic with Matsuzaka and Kawakami.
I have seen the future, and its name is FIELDf/x. OK, so we kind of knew that. But today, FIELDf/x started to seem a lot more real, and even more exciting than I’d imagined. You may have noticed that BP had a man on the scene at Sportvision’s PITCHf/x summit whose liveblog was actually live. So why am I doing this, when Colin already did? Well, for one thing, Colin arrived fashionably late, and I was all over those first 14 minutes that he missed. For another, his computer died before a lot of the fun started. And for still another (this is a third reason, now), I thought it might be fun to do a Simmons-style quasi-liveblog (written live, published later) that would free me from worries about frequent updates, and allow me to write at length. Most likely that length turned out to be a good deal longer than anyone has any interest in reading, but if you’re determined to catch up on the day’s intriguing events without sitting through eight hours of archived video, you’re welcome to peruse what lies below. If you’d like to follow along, here’s an agenda, and here’s where you should be able to find downloadable presentations in the near future.
Here we are in sunny California, home of the cutest girls in the world, if the Beach Boys are to be believed (I gather there’s also a more recent chart-topper that expresses a similar view). Okay, so by “we,” I mean the attendees at the 3rd (annual?) Sportvision PITCHf/x summit, held at the Westin San Francisco in—you guessed it—San Francisco. I, on the other hand, am watching from the other end of the continent, via a webcast that dubiously claims to be “hi-res,” despite being blurry enough to make deciphering text an adventure (I guess “hi-res” is relative, in the sense that there are even lower resolutions at which it could’ve been streamed). And sure, maybe the Beach Boys weren’t thinking of this particular gathering when they extolled the virtues of California’s beach bunnies. But never mind that—it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon here in New York, and how better to spend it than to watch a video of some fellow nerds talk about baseball in a dark room some 3,000 miles away? Well, to describe the experience at the same time, of course. Let’s get this quasi-liveblog started.
Expanding the scope of last week's study to include 2007 and 2008.
Last week, we looked at the 2009 season by breaking down WARP3 totals of players with different levels of service time. This week, I'll use more data from Jeff Euston's Cot's Contracts-the latest free agency acquisition by the Prospectus team-and gathered the same information for 2007 and 2008. At this stage, Jeff does not have reliable data for service time prior to this, but this was enough to get a much clearer picture of how to build and afford a winning team, and how the market has changed even over the last few years.
How many of this year's top prospects look like they'll make next year's Top Prospects list?
1. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds Eligible Next Year? Barring a disaster, no. Production: .364/.393/.630 at Triple-A (49 G); .325/.417/.530 at MLB (22 G) Stock Report: It's impossible to move him up, but if I could, I would. He's been that good.
How's the stock of the bottom 50 of the top 100, who's graduating, and who's a good bet to be on next year's list?
51. Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets Eligible Next Year? Yes Production: .280/.314/.408 at Double-A (37 G) Stock Report: Unchanged, I guess, but certainly not up. It's hard to figure out what to do here. Scouts still love him, the numbers remain only so-so, and he's never healthy for any extended period of time.
Nate turns his attention to the individual big bonus players from the last decade, and determines whether their teams would do it all over again.
What follows is a comprehensive roster of all players between 1998 and 2006 who were drafted with one of the first 100 selections and who also went for at least $500,000 over slot, considering both their signing bonus and any guaranteed MLB money. I've used the 2006 slot values for all seasons from 2000-2006, as MLB has generally been very successful at containing draft inflation during this period (in fact, the draft slots went down in 2007). The slots do appear to have been a little lower in 1999 and 1998, and so I've scaled those back by five percent and 10 percent respectively, rounding off to the nearest "big" number. I've also indicated those cases where the player's alternative careers in football or basketball could have influenced his signing bonus. Finally, I've posed a simple question: If the team had perfect knowledge of what that player was going to do, would they commit the same money again?
In a canny move, MLB puts the onus on cable companies to match the DirecTV offer.
"In response to those concerns of our fans, baseball has negotiated with DirecTV to offer the package to the incumbents," Major League Baseball President Bob DuPuy said at the announcement last Thursday. "I hope that those fans who have been directing their concerns to us over the last several weeks will now encourage their cable carriers to in fact enlist for this package."