Petco Park and appreciating Adrian Gonzalez

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Adrian Gonzalez’s raw numbers are plenty good on their own: .274/.405/.559 with 37 homers and 85 RBIs in 139 games.
He ranks among the NL’s top five in homers, OPS, and times on base and is in the top 10 for on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases, and extra-base hits. And he’s done all that damage despite being intentionally walked 20 times while surrounded by the worst lineup in baseball.
On raw numbers alone he’s been one of the best handful of hitters in the league this season and the same was true in 2006, 2007, and 2008 as well. However, even those strong raw totals dramatically underrate Gonzalez’s bat because he calls the majors’ most pitcher-friendly ballpark home. Petco Park turns home runs into fly outs more than any venue in recent memory and the impact can easily be seen in Gonzalez’s splits.
At home this season he’s hit .230 with a .434 slugging percentage and .832 OPS while averaging one homer every 20.5 at-bats. On the road he’s hit .314 with a .671 slugging percentage and 1.082 OPS while averaging one homer every 9.8 at-bats. Add it all up and Gonzalez has been about 30 percent more productive with over twice as many homers away from Petco Park. And this season’s extreme splits are nothing out of the ordinary for Gonzalez, who has the following numbers in four years with the Padres:

                      G      AVG      SLG      AB/HR
Petco Park          307     .261     .440       24.3
Everywhere Else     311     .306     .583       14.9



Those numbers are pretty remarkable. When at Petco Park he’s hit .261 with a .440 slugging percentage and one homer every 24.3 at-bats. When not at Petco Park he’s hit .306 with a .583 slugging percentage and one homer every 14.9 at-bats. Stick him in just about any other ballpark, for any other team, and Gonzalez is a household name who gets tons of MVP votes every year, but Petco Park has cost him about 50 points of batting average and 10 homers per season.

The Yankees attendance and revenue is down, but it makes sense

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There’s a long article in the New York Times today noting that the Yankees attendance is down and that, based on financial figures released as part of their stadium bond disclosures, ticket and suite revenues through last season have fallen by $166 million since the end of 2009.

There is a lot of talk in the article about the exciting young team the Yankees have put together and how much they’ve won so far in the early going. And there is a lot of talk about marketing and demographics — Hal Steinbrenner talks about baseball’s “millennial problem” — but the story of the Yankees’ box office issues, such as they are, is pretty straightforward.

All teams suffer attendance and revenue decline when they play poorly. While the Yankees have not been bad for a long, long time, that’s a somewhat relative thing. They Yankees have sold themselves and sold their fans on the idea that nothing short of a championship is acceptable, so missing the playoffs for three of the past four years is bad for them. Fans don’t want to go see a bad team, be it Yankees fans, Rays fans, Royals fans or whoever.

Despite the recent lack of success, the Yankees have still, perversely, continued to price their tickets, concessions, parking and everything else as though they’re the only game in town. When demand falls and prices remain super high, fewer people are buying your product. Even if you’re the New York Yankees.

The Yankees are good this year. What’s more, they’re good in that exciting way that only young promising players bursting out onto the scene can deliver. It’s a wonderful thing for marketing and stuff, but even under the best of circumstances, ticket sales tend to lag on field success, often by as much as a year. Go back and look at World Series winning teams — especially the surprise winners — and you’ll see that it’s the year after on-field success when the real attendance bumps happen. I expect, if the Yankees continue to play well, their gate will get really nice by the end of the summer, but I suspect we’ll also see a more dramatic bump next year.

Taken all together, this is a dog-bites-man story. The Yankees are not some transcendent institution, immune from market forces. They’re just one of 30 Major League Baseball teams competing against other entertainments for a finite amount of the public’s money and attention. Nothin’ to see here.

David Price had a rocky rehab start last night

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Red Sox starter David Price has been rehabbing a left elbow injury since early March. Last night he made his latest rehab outing for Triple-A Pawtucket. It didn’t go well.

Price allowed six runs — three earned — on seven hits in three and two-thirds innings, requiring 89 pitches to do it. His velocity was good, but otherwise it was a night to forget. This was supposed to be Price’s last rehab start before returning to the Sox’ big league rotation, but one wonders if he’s ready for it.

Price didn’t talk to the media after the game, but Pawtucket’s manager said he was “upbeat” and “felt good.” For his part, John Farrell, upon hearing about the outing, said this:

“There’s no announcement at this point. We’ve got to sit with him and talk about what’s best for him, best for us as we move forward.”

The Sox could really use Price back in the rotation given their injury problems, but rushing him back if he’s not ready is certainly not ideal.

Stay tuned.