Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tampa Bay media links of note

Over the last few weeks, the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Tampa Bay Times, and DRaysBay published several articles that had bearing on the Tampa Bay baseball market.

The Tampa Bay Business Journal conducted a poll of their readers to determine the most influential people in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik received the most votes: 44%. Rays owner Stu Sternberg received only 5% of the total votes.

I've stated this before. There is a huge difference in public perception between Jeff Vinik and any member of the Rays front office. Vinik is everywhere and is heavily invested in the community. Sternberg does not live in Tampa Bay and is rarely seen.

On a positive note, the Tampa Bay Business Journal listed the Top 25 Largest Job Announcements in Tampa Bay in 2015. Leading the way was, and their huge warehouse complex south of Tampa in the Ruskin-Bradenton area, which is hiring 2,000 workers in the area. The Amazon warehouse is 36.4 miles from Tropicana Field but is closest to the Bradenton Marauders home at McKechnie Field (24.7 miles).

While jobs are always a good thing, the Tampa Bay Business Journal also reports that the Tampa Bay area is 15th in the nation in income inequality. So people are getting paid, but there is a wide difference between the top earners and the bottom earners. That is not surprising in a region where our major industries are:
  • Avionics, Defense and Marine Electronics
  • Business and Information Services
  • Financial Services
  • Manufacturing (Microelectronics, Medical Devices)
  • Marine Sciences
  • Port/Maritime
  • Tourism

When tourism makes the list, you know there is going to be a gap in high and low earners. With a small market for professional sports, an area with high income inequality means only the high earners can afford luxury items such as season tickets, or even multiple trips to the ballpark.

Affording tickets is one problem, getting to the ballpark is another. The Tampa Bay Times had two interesting articles discussing transit in the Tampa Bay area. On Tuesday, January 19th, the Times wrote that the Tampa Bay Express expansion project was rated among the US's worst highway projects. It's not good when even "FDOT has acknowledged that adding the express lanes won't solve congestion problems", but still they are pushing for the project.

As we have talked about before, transit is a huge reason why people are not traveling to the far reaches of St Petersburg for Rays games.

Of course, there is slow movement in the Rays hunt for a new stadium. We can definitely expect several locations for a new ballpark to emerge over the next year. The fine folks over at DRaysBay looks at one possible location: the ConAgra plant in downtown Tampa. According to Daniel Russell, despite it's ideal downtown locale, we need to cross that location off the list.

One location that is still being considered is the Tampa Park apartments, but according to Field of Schemes, it might not look good for Mayor Buckhorn if he decides to relocated low income people from that area of the city.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Clearwater Threshers Attendance Analysis 2007-2015: By Month

Welcome to our 1st second-level analysis post on Clearwater Threshers attendance from 2007-2015. This post examines the Threshers attendance by month. This post will look at September games, but only as they pertain to the regular season. Postseason games will be examined at a later date.

First, a look at the Threshers average annual and per game attendance from 2007-2015. From 2007-2015, the Threshers average annual attendance was 174,798. The Threshers per game average in the 612 games at Bright House Field from 2007 to 2015 was 2,571.

Average attendance 2007-2015 chart. (DH = Double headers. Attendance is only counted for the second game.)

Average attendance 2007-2015 graph:

Next, we will look at the Threshers average attendance by month from 2007 to 2015 as well as their best and worst average attended months.

The following graph depicts the Threshers average attendance per month.

This chart shows the annual attendance ranking by month each year spanning from 2007 to 2015 as well as the month’s average finish.

(Yellow highlights = Best month/ Red highlights = Worst month)

The next few charts depict average attendance per month per year from 2007 to 2015.

April average per game attendance 2007 to 2015:

May average per game attendance 2007 to 2015:

June average per game attendance 2007 to 2015:

July average per game attendance 2007 to 2015:

August average per game attendance 2007 to 2015:


Threshers average per game attendance has steadily increased since 2007. Many of their best months since 2007 have come in the last two years. That could be because of better marketing, beginning post-game concerts, or perhaps lack of fan interest in going to Tropicana Field.

Looking by month, the growth of attendance in April is an interesting phenomenon. This might be due to good weather in the Florida spring or due to promotions such as the 6,000+ fans who came out to a Star Wars Night on April 18, 2015.

Good nighttime weather might also be the reason the Threshers do well in attendance in May. The May high in 2009 is very interesting, as that was the season after the Rays miracle season and an increase in Rays awareness.

June is the Threshers worst average month. This might be because the Florida nights are getting warmer and more humid in June and occasional rain showers are beginning. Another factor could be that there typically aren't many great promotions in June. Surprisingly, we don't see a bump from May to June due to parents taking out-of-school kids to the ballpark.

July is the Threshers best month for average attendance. This is probably heavily due to their annual July 4th fireworks extravaganza. We've proven before that people love fireworks.

August/September attendance might be affected by two factors that will be worth exploring: correlation with the Rays in the pennant race and the weather. Oddly, the Threshers worst August was a year the Rays did not make the playoffs and their best August was a year the Rays did. So perhaps their is no correlation. Or perhaps Augusts with lower attendance correlate with rainier Augusts. I will have to research rainfall to determine accuracy of that theory.

The Threshers are the highest drawing Minor League team in the Tampa Bay area. Their attendance is far higher than many of the other teams. Looking at when people attend their games show us quite a bit about the patterns of baseball attendance in Clearwater, and Tampa Bay as a whole.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Adding context to Rays attendance analysis

One of the many reasons I cringe when people outside Tampa Bay try to talk about Rays attendance is because they don't understand the many factors that go into giving the situation a fair examination.

For example, the other night, independent baseball researcher Scott Lindholm tweeted the following statement and chart:

This is a great chart. It shows Rays attendance as a percentage of Tampa Bay metro population.- how many people of the population are attending games. I've mentioned this before, but if the metro population of Tampa Bay is 3 million as Lindholm uses, and 1.5 million total go to 81 games, then 50% of the metro population supported the Rays. It doesn't matter if people go once, twice, or 81 times. If they go twice, then one other person in the area doesn't have to go.

But here is the problem with coming to conclusions of Rays fans behavior based on this type of chart: it does not accurately account for Tampa Bay's very split baseball demographics. It assumes everyone in a metro area supports one team. Which is not the case in Tampa Bay.

For example, here is Lindholm's chart for Pittsburgh:

The Pirates in 2015 drew 2.5 million fans. Their metro population in 2015 was 2.3 million. So they drew 107% of their metro population.

But as we've looked up before, there is a higher percentage of Pirates fans in Pittsburgh than there are Rays fans in the Tampa Bay area.  Assuming 50% of Pittsburgh's population are baseball fans, and 75% of baseball fans in the Pittsburgh area are Pirates fans, then there are 862,500 Pirates fans in the Pittsburgh metro area.

Comparatively, if of the 3 million Tampa Bay metro residents, 50% are baseball fans, and only 50% of them are Rays fans, then there are only 750,000 Rays fans in the Tampa Bay area.

Now, let's make another calculation:

2.5 million (Pirates attendance) divided by 862,500 means each Pirates fan attended approximately 3 games in 2015.

1.25 million (Rays attendance) divided by 750,000 means each Rays fan attended 1.6 games.

If 75% of Tampa Bay were Rays fans and they attended 1.6 games each, attendance would have been 1.8 million. If they each attended 2.2 games each, attendance would be very similar to Pirates attendance.

The problem isn't just that Rays fans don't go to enough games, the problem is that there aren't enough Rays fans in the Tampa Bay area. A new stadium might be able assist in getting the Rays fans that exist to games more often, but the team needs to create more fans. Hence the need for the Rays to push to be the monopoly of baseball entertainment in the region. Anything less than a monopoly, and the Rays will always lag in percentage of metro population at the ballpark.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Chris Archer ticket package arrives

Remember last year, when Chris Archer tweeted about low attendance at Tropicana Field?

After Archer's tweet, I wrote a post that predicted the Rays would put together a ticket deal. Granted, I thought it would be to compete against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and not the next season, but here is what I wrote:
Perhaps Archer’s comments were orchestrated by the Rays front office. Perhaps Rays management will use this “incident” to save face and give away or slash ticket prices

How about up to $140 off a 22 game package?

Capitalizing on the Rays most vocal player and putting him on billboards across the city to sell tickets is a good move by the marketing department. I haven't seen any commercials for the deal yet, but perhaps soon.

A few additional notes and questions:
  • I wonder how many of these games will fall on Archer starts.
  • Will this promotions raise his visibility and will fans buy tickets to his starts even if they are not in the ticket package? Last year, Archer's starts drew over 1,400 more fans than the average attendance.
  • The Rays have a July 4th game! Their last one was 2012. With no fireworks capability at Tropicana Field, the Rays normally don't play at home at Tropicana Field.
  • Does this mean Chris Archer is the face of the Rays?
  • Will this be the beginning of fan groups for different players?
  • Why no afro wig giveaway?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rays may move within Tampa Bay, Dunedin Blue Jays may fly farther

Big news in Tampa Bay baseball: The St. Pete City Council approved the Memorandum of Understanding allowing the Rays to look for a Tampa Bay area location in which to build a new stadium. That's great news as it could lead to a new stadium, higher attendance, increased revenue for the team, and the ability to compete at the same financial level as the rest of Major League Baseball.

We know the Trop is the worst location in Major League Baseball. But a new Rays stadium - wherever it may be - is years away.

Meanwhile, John Lott of Toronto's National Post wrote a very interesting piece on the ongoing negotiations between the City of Dunedin and the Toronto Blue Jays. According to Lott, Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro stated that a decision on whether the Blue Jays will be staying in Dunedin could come as early as this summer.
At the moment, the Jays prefer to keep their spring-training complex in Dunedin, Fla., Mark Shapiro says. But if Dunedin cannot deliver “a state-of-the-art, top notch facility,” he says, the club could decide by this summer to move elsewhere.
Lott also mentions the Dunedin claim that the Blue Jays have provided a boost to the local economy every spring.
city officials are eager to keep the Jays, who have provided an annual boost to the local economy for four decades
Unfortunately, the only example of Spring Training's impact on Dunedin is flimsy at best, according to Noah Pransky.
A 2013 Blue Jays spring training economic impact report - commissioned by the City of Dunedin, which is trying to get county funds to upgrade the Jays' facilities - claimed $80 million in annual economic impact.

However, the report uses questionable methods to get to that number, including trying to take responsibility for the spending of 25,000 out-of-state visitors who acknowledged they were in Florida primarily for something other than baseball.
Then there is the negative effect locals from Toronto have when they spend money on Blue Jays Spring Training and not on Blue Jays vs Rays games at Tropicana Field, which is only 21.7 miles and 35 minutes away.

How the City of Dunedin would pay for "state-of-the-art" upgrades is also not mentioned, although Lott assumes "Dunedin taxpayers would be expected to cover part of the costs". What he does not mention, however, is that cost will probably come from county funds. The same county funds and taxpayers who might have to pay for a new Rays stadium. Although Florida Auto Exchange Stadium upgrades would be cheaper, what do you think the Pinellas populace would rather spend their money on?

On twitter, Lott did little to promote Dunedin as the right place for the Blue Jays.

If the Blue Jays left Dunedin, there will be open facilities in Kissimmee and Brevard County, where the Astros and Nationals are departing from, respectively. Both of those teams are expected to begin training in their new facility in West Palm Beach in 2017 - the Jays possible final year in Dunedin.

I don't believe the Florida governor would let another team leave for Arizona, so the Blue Jays will probably stay in the state, but where is the big question. I also don't think the Rays will leave the region, but they too face the question of where.

What we do know is that for both teams, the status quo is not good enough.

Things are about to get very interesting in the Tampa Bay baseball market.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Fangraphs Community: Rays ownership gets mixed reviews

Yesterday, Jeff Sullivan published a very interesting post on Sullivan conducted a poll of thousands of Fangraphs readers and asked them what they thought of their team's ownership. Among the questions Sullivan was attempted to answer were:
Do you like the people who own your baseball teams? Do you hate them? Do you trust them? Do they make themselves available? Are they in any way responsive? Do you feel like their interests align with yours? Do they spend what you think is too little? Do they not seem to worry too much about the budget?

Out of a scale of 1 to 5, the Rays ownership did well. They received a 3.02 overall rating, 13th out of 30, and slightly above the Milwaukee Brewers.

But while their overall ranking was good, the Rays distribution of opinions showed a different story. Poll respondents were asked to rank the ownership among five grades:
  • Very Good
  • Pretty Good
  • Average
  • Pretty Bad
  • Very Bad

Here is how the votes broke down for the Rays ownership:

The Rays were the only team with such a wide spread of results. No other team had double digits in both Very Bad and Very Good. The best team, the Giants, had 60% Very Good and 3% Very Bad and the worst team, the Marlins had 1% Very Good and 89% Very Bad. The results for most teams were in the middle.

For the graphically inclined:

Perhaps it depends what issue respondents focused on. If they looked at the playoff contenders, the array of all-stars, and the on-the-field talent, the Rays ownership has done very well, especially since 2008. If they looked at the stadium situation, attendance, and the inability of the Rays to capture their own market, ownership hasn't done well at all.

As Ben Kenobi once said, "many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view".

(Many thanks to twitter user @theaccountiuse for the heads up on the Fangraphs post.)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New poll on Tampa Bay Transit and effects on baseball

Last week, another interesting poll was published by the Tampa Bay Times and 10News/WTSP. While their last poll was very Rays-related in regards to where a new stadium should be and whether residents care if the Rays stay or go, the more recent poll asks about regional transit. While transit affects everywhere and every business, it is particularly important for baseball in the region, especially since distance and traffic is cited as one of the many reasons fans don't attend games at Tropicana Field during the work week.

According to the poll, 67% of respondents believe traffic has gotten worse recently. Only 4% believe traffic has gotten better. The article also mentions 110,000 people have moved to the area in the past 5 years and with gas prices lower, traffic is getting worse.

That's a recipe for disaster if your business is difficult to get to, as the Rays' business is. Meanwhile, Minor League and other alternative entertainment venues are much closer to the population center.

I like to make the comparison to pizza. The Rays might be the best pizza place in the region, with the best food and quality ingredients. But if it is difficult to get to, people would rather get a lower quality product when time is of the essence. Remove the time variable, then they will seek out the better product. Keep the time variable, and they might request the product to be delivered, which is equivalent to watching a game on TV, which Rays fans do well.

So what is the solution to the increasing transit trouble?

That's the multi-billion dollar question.

According to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn:
"It's a recognition that as we continue to grow, in the absence of doing something, it's only going to get worse and worse," Buckhorn said. "Our quality of life will diminish each and every day if we don't do something.

"People are frustrated because they have no options other than their cars. And I think they want solutions."

Not only do people need solutions, but so do businesses such as the Tampa Bay Rays. Otherwise, they will keep losing the battle for butts in the seats.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Attendance Review: 2015 Dunedin Blue Jays

Welcome to our 9th attendance review post on the Dunedin Blue Jays, minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. This post continues our series of looking back at trends in Tampa Bay area fan behavior since 2007.


The Dunedin Blue Jays began play in the Florida State League in 1987. After three seasons playing at Grant Field, the Dunedin Blue Jays moved to Florida Exchange Stadium in 1990. Florida Exchange Stadium is also the spring training home of the Toronto Blue Jays. The current population of Dunedin is 35,444.

Dunedin Blue Jays 2015:

Home Games: 70

Total attendance: 52,669 (down 12.28% from 2014: 60,044)

Average attendance: 798 (down 11% from 2014: 896)

Highest attended game: 5,188 on Friday, July 3rd vs Brevard County

Lowest attended game: 336 on Tuesday, June 30th vs Fort Myers

Average Time of Game: 2 hours, 37 minutes

Double headers: 4 (June 13, July 31, Aug 2, Sep 1)

Cancellations: 0

Notable rehab assignments: None

Other notable appearances: None

(red highlight = below 2015 annual average of 798)


By Month:

The following graph depicts the average attendance by month.

By Day:

Blue Jays attendance increased 19% on the weekend compared to their average Monday through Thursday attendance.
  • Mon-Thurs average attendance: 719
  • Fri-Sun average attendance: 893
  • Difference: 19%

The following graph depicts the average attendance by day.

The following chart looks at how often daily attendance increases when compared to the day prior.

By Opponent:

By Starting Pitcher:

This chart depicts how attendance reacted from one starter to the next. If a pitcher is a great draw, the percentage between he and the prior starter should be higher.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Tampa Bay Baseball 2016 Wish List

Welcome to 2016. There are no flying cars and the Cubs didn't win the World Series last year. And contrary to what Dickie V said, the Trop is not the ballpark of the 21st century, baby. The baseball future ain't what we thought it would be.

Instead we've been given a very complex situation. A nearly perfect storm of stadium quagmires, political impasses, transit trouble, and divided demographics.

So being that Tampa Bay will not get a new baseball stadium this year, nor will the region have its transportation problems fixed anytime soon, I've made a wish list of realistic things that might better the business of baseball in Tampa Bay in 2016.

  1. Tropicana Field on social media - The Trop is one of the only facilities in sports without a social media account. Most stadiums have an active twitter or instagram account, not only to discuss the games, but to raise awareness of other events happening in the facility.

  2. Stu Sternberg moving to Tampa Bay - Notice all the visibility Jeff Vinik gives to the Tampa Bay Lightning? Whether to be in front of the county commissioners, to be seen leading a charitable effort, seeing the Rays owner more often would help the fanbase feel more included in the Rays efforts. And it might reduce the feelings that Sternberg is an absentee owner whose fan loyalty is with another team.

  3. One Hispanic star - I've talked about this often. With a large Hispanic population in Florida, the Rays would be a perfect location for a Hispanic star. The Marlins have Jose Fernandez and had Livan Hernandez. Yes, the Devil Rays had Jose Canseco, but he was past his prime. There hasn't been a Spanish-speaking star on the Rays since Carlos Pena's first tour at the Trop.

  4. The return of $1 hot dog day at the Trop - The Rays used to have $1 hot dog Friday. It was a cheap promotion, but it was popular. Friday attendance could use a bump, and what better than to cut the cost on ballpark fare?

  5. Cheaper parking at the Trop - Parking should not cost more than a ticket to the game. No more $20 parking, unless it includes a chauffeur.

  6. Open negotiations between the Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin - While every step in the Rays stadium saga makes front page news, the Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin have requested that their stadium negotiations be done in secret. If taxpayer dollars will be involved, both should be open.

  7. The opening of the Tampa Baseball Museum - Hopefully this year the Tampa Baseball Museum will open. Located in Ybor City, the museum will tell baseball's long history in Tampa Bay, from the days of Plant Field to the present day. Once open, there is potential to work with the teams in the area to spread the history of the game. Ideally, it would replace the Ted Williams Museum, which has absolutely no connection to Tampa Bay.

  8. Reduction of Rays vs Red Sox game ticket costs - Attendance at Rays vs Red Sox games ain't what it used to be. It has dropped nearly 10,000 fans per game since its peak in 2008. These games should no longer be priced as upper tier games. Demand isn't what it used to be. Time for these tickets to cost what non-upper tier games cost.

  9. Get rid of variable pricing at the Trop - This is the worst. Walk-up fans have to pay more for tickets within 3 hours of the game, even if only 10,000 tickets are sold. That is not adjusting to demand, that is exploitation.

  10. to get rid of "visiting" attendance - Visiting attendance only matters when a team has a national fanbase. Most teams are not the Yankees. Visiting attendance is irrelevant, yet uninformed fans use it to belittle fanbases with attendance problems. A much better stat would be Weekend/Weekday attendance. That would provide much more insight into what is happening at stadiums.

  11. Someone in the mainstream sports media to realize that professional baseball in Tampa Bay has drawn over 2 million fans 10 years in a row