With the World Series approaching this week, and at the suggestion of my friend, Eric Edward, I thought I’d take a look at whether we can predict which teams make it to the World Series, and why others do not. A huge topic, I know, but I have found some statistics that might shed some light on the subject.
We now know that the New York Yankees
will play the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series
, which will begin Wednesday night in New York. The Phillies are looking to 2-peat, having won the Series last year. The Yankees, who have won more World Series than any other franchise (26), are really pumped, if last night’s game against the Angels is any indication. It should be a very good series.
So were these two teams the likely candidates to play in the World Series? Let’s look at some numbers in various categories: salaries, market size, attendance, team value, and prior World Series appearances, to see if we could have predicted this year’s Series contenders.
Salaries/Payroll: It is no surprise that the Yankees have the highest team payroll in the Majors at $201,449,289 for 2009, as of opening day. The teams ranked 2 through 10 have payrolls between $135,773,988 (Mets) down to $98,904,167 (Mariners). Of the top 10, only 5 made it into the post season at all, and 4 of the 5 made it to the Championship Series. If only half of the top ten teams in payroll get into the post season, the correlation between Payroll and getting into the world series is pretty significant, but not over whelming, especially since the 13th, 16th and 24th teams in this category also made it. So maybe it’s not only about paying players more money.
Market Size: 4 of the top 5 teams in market size–Yanks(1), Dodgers (3), Angels (4) and Phillies (5) made it to the 2009 postseason and the same 4 won their respective divisions. The Mets (#2) didn’t make it to the postseason, but their #2 position is due largely to the fact that they are in a very densely populated metropolitan area and they moved into a very nice new stadium this season. The other 4 teams in the playoffs were #6 (Red Sox-Wild Card), #21 (Twins), #23 (Cards) and #24 (Rockies-Wild Card). Thus it appears that market size helps your chances because there is a larger pool of fans to draw from, but it is not determinative in making it to the postseason.
Attendance: 6 of the 8 top teams in attendance made it to the playoffs in 2009, as well as nos. 11 and 14, all in the top 50% of teams. The top 5 teams in this category won their respective divisions. So it looks like Attendance seems to track closely with appearance in the postseason. But what does this mean? Are the teams doing well because they have more people coming to the games, or do more people come because the team is doing well? My guess is it is the latter, which means that attendance alone is a good indicator but not a deciding factor.
Team Value: By far the most valuable MLB franchise is the New York Yankees ($1.5 billion). The Mets ($912M, 2nd), the Red Sox ($833M, 3rd), the Dodgers ($722M, 4th), and the Cubs ($700M, 5th) make up the rest of the top 5. 23 of the other teams are worth between $509 million (Angels, ranked 6th) down to $314 million (Royals, ranked 28th). The Pirates ($288M, 29th) and the Marlins ($277M, 30th) and are “in the bottom two,” a la Dancing With The Stars.
But let’s look at the most valuable teams and how they have fared in the World Series. #1 and #7 will compete in the Fall Classic; both are division and, obviously, the pennant winners. The 2 other teams that played in the Championship Series are the Dodgers (# 4) and the Angels (#6). When we go back to the Division Series, the results are mixed. The Red Sox (3rd) and the Cardinals (8th) are in the top 10, but the Rockies (20th) and Twins (22nd) are way back in the value pack, and show that much less valuable teams can at least make it to the Division Series, though not very likely. Since 7 of the top 10 in this category made it to the postseason, the team value category seems to have the highest correlation with getting beyond the end of the season.
World Series Experience: The Yankees by far have played in most World Series (39). Of the rest of the top 10 — Dodgers (18), Cardinals and Giants (17 each), Athletics (14), Red Sox (11), Tigers and Cubs (10 each), and the Reds and Braves (9 each)–only the Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals and Red Sox made it to the post season in 2009. So World Series experience certainly helps, but it didn’t help the Yankees in 2001-2007 when they got eliminated in the ALDS 5 times, and in the ALCS once and lost the World series twice. The Bronx Bombers haven’t made an appearance in the Series since 2003 and haven’t won it since 2000. They also didn’t play in the post season at all in 2008, the first time in 14 years. Because a lot of ancient baseball history skews these results, I didn’t include World Series experience in my statistical analysis.
So what do we make of all this? I determined the rank of each team in each category and then averaged the 4 ranks for each team. The top teams, from 1 to 10, are, : Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox, Angels, Phillies, Giants, Astros, Tigers, and Cards. 6 of them made it to the post season, and #1 and #5 are playing in the World Series. The 1st 6 teams are bunched together in averaged ranks; teams 7-10 (including the Cards) are ranked considerably lower. So I guess this ranking system is pretty good in predicting who will make it to the post season, but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess and involves a lot of luck.
The aberrations in the top 10 are interesting: the Mets, Giants, Astro’s and Tigers. None of them made it to the post season but all have circumstances leading to unusually high ranks: a new stadium, attendance and large market size (Mets), a reasonably new stadium, attendance and long history (Giants), high payroll and market size (Tigers), and then there’s the Houston Astros (T#5 in Payroll, #7 in Market Size, and #12 in attendance account for their high rank), go figure.
That’s a lot to digest, but if you are a numbers geek like me and want to see my Excel spreadsheet, email me at email@example.com and I’ll email it to you. It has some very interesting and surprising statistics.
So sit back and enjoy the World Series. If my ranking system is correct, the Yankees should win it easily. But this is the Fall Classic and anything can happen. As is often said, the team that wants it most will find a way to win it. We should have a great series to watch.
Payroll Data: www.cbssports.com/mlb/salaries
Market Size Data: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/articles/baseball_markets.shtml N.B. For New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore/Washington and the SF Bay Area, all metropolitan areas with 2 teams, the Census data was allocated according to attendance info.
Attendance Data: www.baseball-reference.com
World Series Experience: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Series
Date: October 23, 2009
Lewis N Wolff, CEO
Wolff-Di Napoli Development Co.
11828 La Grange Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90025-5212
RE: Some Solutions to the Woes of the Oakland Athletics
Dear Mr. Wolff,
I have been a fan of the Athletics since they moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City in 1955 when I was a child. I have a deep love for the game of baseball and the Athletics in particular. I am writing to you to urge you to use your influence to make some changes in the team and the Coliseum for the 2010 season and beyond.
As a season ticket holder, I am concerned that the attendance at the Oakland Coliseum has been declining over the last three years (along with the teams record), but it dropped precipitously during the last half of the 2009 season, when the team was playing over .500 ball. I attended several mid-week night games when there were not more than 4-5000 people in the stands. The paid attendance was always 3-4000 more than that, which says to me that the other season ticket holders stayed away in droves. This is not good for A’s or your considerable investment in the team.
I realize that low gate revenue hampers management’s efforts to make any significant moves that result in increasing the cost of running the team, but there are some things that can be done to improve the fan’s experiences which will result in increased attendance, better press coverage, increased TV advertizing revenues, and improved player morale. These things can be accomplished without large outlays of capital. Some may take some time, but others can be implemented in the 2010 season.
By far the most important change that needs to be made is to fire (or transfer) Bob Geren from the job of Field Manager. It is obvious to any of us who study the game and the A’s that he does not have a clue how to manage a team or inspire the players to play at their top potential. Contrast Bob Geren, with his reserved demeanor and flat affect, to Tony La Russa, who kept his cool but could inspire mediocre players to achieve greatness. We need a manager who can do that. Bob Geren is definitely a liability to you and the team.
You have the power to see that Bob Geren is no longer the manager of the A’s. I know that Bob and Billy Beane are best of friends, but you need to do what is best for the organization and the team, not what’s best for Beane and/or Geren. In any other franchise, three sub-.500 seasons in a row would have resulted in a management change. Please consider exerting your power as Managing Partner to make this happen. Hopefully you can get this done in 2010. If not, then please don’t exercise the club’s option for 2011.
Other things that could be done to make the fan experience more enjoyable, and which would get more people in the seats, are:
1) In these bad economic times, have some more midweek nights with reduced prices on tickets and/or food items to encourage more people to come to a game. People look for bargains when times are tough.
2) Do away with the All-You-Can-Eat seats which are rarely occupied (especially for mid-week games), take the tarp off 2 more sections (5 sections total) in the third deck behind home plate, and charge the same price or a few dollars more than bleacher seats. That would get more people in the stands. Again it’s the economy.
3) If you don’t like No. 2) (or in addition), put outfield plaza-level and field-level seats on sale for half price starting 30 minutes before game time or at game time. You’d need a little more crowd control around the box office, but it could be done without costing much. People who want to see the whole game will still buy tickets at full price, and the additional people in the stands would buy lots more food, drink and souvenirs.
4) Put some color in the bathrooms to jazz them up. They are so bland and dingy now. For example, the River Cats’ restrooms have inspiring quotes from famous players or managers stenciled above the sinks. That doesn’t sound very important but it does improve the ambience in the stadium. Some quotes from baseball and football would make sense.
The primary goal of anything you do must be to get more people to come to A’s games. Having a team on the field that is exciting to watch is the key. We have great young players and they will be much better in 2010 than they were in 2009 when they were getting their feet wet in the Majors. But to get the most out of them, we desperately need a new manager. How about Carney Lansford? He’s available, I hear. Or make Ty Waller Manager and Carney the bench coach.
Thanks for considering the points I raised. As a long-time A’s fan, I only want what is best for the team, as I am sure you do too.
Belinda Laird Hylinski
Feel free to pirate any language from the above and write your own letter to Lew. Maybe we can get this done. Go A’s!!!
I have written about this subject before: Bob Geren hasn’t a clue how to manager a team. Were you as deflated as I was when the A’s announced last week that the coaching staff for 2010 will be the same as in 2009? As I wrote in my last blog, the attendance for games other than the “Premium Games” (Giants, Red Sox, Yankees, etc.) has been dropping dramatically since July. Midweek night games drew somewhere around 7-8000 fans on average. That’s terrible.
Billy Beane won’t get rid of Geren because they are BFF’s. So we have Bob at least until the end of the 2010 season. The team has an option for 2011, which I hope they don’t exercize. Here they are, 2 smiles and what almost looks like a sneer, at the presser when they announced Jason Giambi’s signing in January.
Billy, how’d that work out for you, as Dr. Phil would ask?
I don’t fault Giambi. Geren asked him to do something he wasn’t capable of doing: playing in the field almost everyday. Jason, being a good sport, did it, but he played in pain a lot and his hitting suffered. Look what he did at Colorado after BB+G let him go (and did it badly!) where he was used largely as a pinch hitter!
So what can we do about Geren? As I have suggested before, we fans need to start a letter-writing campaign asking Lew Wolff to force Billy Beane to fire Bob Geren as manager, or at least not rehire him in 2011 . Maybe BB can give him a job in the front office, but let’s get him out of the dugout.
I tried to find an email address for Lew Wolff, and was unsuccessful. But here’s Lew Wolff’s snail mail address:
Lewis N. Wolff, CEO
Wolff-Di Napoli Development Co.
11828 La Grange Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90025-5212
Let’s flood his inbox with letters. Be respectful and don’t use profanity, threats or ad hominem attacks. Just tell him why you think Bob Geren has to go. Who knows? He might just listen to us if enough of us write. My letter will be in the mail tomorrow.
Idea! Carney Lansford is available. Maybe we could get him! Make Ty Waller the manager and Carney the bench coach for 2010! Wouldn’t that be neat? Certainly a lot better than what we had this year. Oh well, it’s wishful thinking, I’m afraid. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Upcoming Topics: “Some Last Thoughts on the 2009 Season”, “Is it Dangerous to be a Fan?” and more. Check back periodically. I won’t be blogging as often as I do during the season. I have to concentrate on the final rewrite of my novel. I plan to start looking for an agent and/or publisher after the first of the year. Wish me luck.