One of the biggest factors in the success of the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates was the depth of their starting pitching. Despite losing Wandy Rodriguez for most of the season and A.J. Burnett for a month in the middle of the year, the Pirates continued to get solid starting pitching all season long. The Bucs sent twelve different starting pitchers to the hill in 2013. Few teams can boast that kind of depth. The Pirates look nearly as deep in 2014. Their second tier of starting pitchers might be the best in baseball. The five guys that start the season in the rotation at AAA Indianapolis are arguably better than a handful of major league rotations.
How much depth are we talking about? Let’s take a look at some of that depth. Unless Rodriguez is unable to start the season, Jeff Locke will probably be sent to Indy to begin the year. Locke had a sensational first half of 2013 and even earned an all-star berth. He struggled in the second half, but there is no question that he is a major league caliber pitcher. Brandon Cumpton made five spot starts with the Bucs last season. He posted a 2.05 ERA in 30.2 innings in the majors. Phil Irwin missed most of last season with an injury. Now he is healthy, and he too has made a spot start in Pittsburgh. The other likely starting pitchers for the Bucs’ AAA affiliate are highly rated prospects Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham. Taillon made the jump to AAA at the end of last season and acquitted himself well in half a dozen starts. He should be fully baked and ready for the majors by July. And this is just the depth the Pirates have stashed in the minors. In the bullpen long relievers Jeanmar Gomez and Stolmy Pimentel are options to be spot starters. Gomez started eight games for the Bucs last season. The 24 year old Pimentel has been a starter throughout his minor league career.
So the Bucs have many capable arms for when a pitcher from the five man rotation goes down. Notice I said “when” and not “if”. It is a near certainty that all this starting pitch depth will be tested again this season. The one real area of concern with this staff is durability. Only one starter on the team has ever thrown 200 innings in a season. Guess which one?
I don’t have a lot of confidence that 35 year old Wandy Rodriguez coming off an elbow injury is going to get anywhere close to 200 innings. And the other veterans on the staff don’t inspire much confidence to get near that mark either. Here are the three year averages of innings by the veteran starters in the rotation.
The only starter that appears to be durable and capable of going deep into games is Gerrit Cole. But at this early stage in his career it is doubtful the Pirates will ride him much beyond the 185 innings he pitched between Indy and Pittsburgh last season. Even if Cole does get to 200 innings the rest of the starters are going to fall well short of the work load needed to give the Pirates sufficient innings for the season. Last year the Pirates’ starting pitchers threw just 925 innings. That is less than 6 innings per game. They really need 30 or 40 more innings from their starting pitching this year to keep the bullpen fresh. So 960 innings is a good target. The five pitchers projected to make the rotation out of camp are probably going to fall in the vicinity of 200 innings short. That is if things go reasonably well. Given the track record Volquez, Morton, Rodriguez, and Liriano I believe reasonably well is a lofty expectation. However, the Pirates do have the arms in reserve to weather the storm. At least we think so.
In my opinion the worst time of year to be a baseball fan is the two week period in late February between the date that pitchers and catchers report to camp and the start of Grapefruit League action. Everybody is hungry for baseball. Fans are malnourished from the four months that the game has been absent from their lives. Instead of feeding us meat and potatoes, the journalists that cover the sport throw us gumdrops and candy bars. The coverage of the Pirates this Spring has been especially annoying. I think the beat writers that cover the team were actually sent to Shangri-La instead of Bradenton, FL.
The saccharine reports from the first days of Spring Training almost always start with the “Best Shape Of His Career” report. This year that designation belongs to Gaby Sanchez. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review seems to have a particularly strong crush on Sanchez this spring. Nearly everyday Rob has something in his notes about Gaby Sanchez while also reminding us that Gaby is in the best shape of his life. The Sanchez stories have really been in overdrive this Spring. He might be the full time 1B, could be a replacement at 3B if Pedro Alvarez were to get injured, and don’t laugh, but according to Biertempfel Gaby might even be a threat to steal some bases this year. I sent Biertempfel an email to confirm whether or not Gaby Sanchez also farts rainbows. So far no response to that, but Rob has confirmed that Jordy Mercer is excited to become team’s everyday shortstop. What would be a real story is if Mercer wasn’t excited.
Other sugary sweet feel good stories include reports from PiratesProspects.com that Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen, and Starling Marte have become the three amigos. Yes, it is true, the soon to be best outfield ever assembled actually takes batting practice together. PiratesProspects.com also provides some rationale for why it is a good thing that a 26 year old prospect that was the 4th overall draft pick in the 2009 draft will start another season in AAA. Despite Tony Sanchez‘s long slow journey to the majors we shouldn’t be worried about his desire though. The Bradenton Herald is reporting that Tony Twitter is hungrier than ever after getting his first taste of the big leagues last season.
I can’t fault the media for all this sappy horse crap. They have to write something, and people are ready for baseball. It is actually a good thing that these are the stories we are inundated with. The only real important news in the early days of Spring Training are injuries. So far the Bucs have been healthy this Spring. All that leaves is this feel good nonsense that makes me gag. The good news is that with Grapefruit League action commencing today there will be some real news to report. Thank god it is time to actually play ball!
Charlie Morton‘s career thus far has been a series of fits and starts. It took him almost 4 years to find any kind of sustained success. A revamped delivery led to what appeared to be a breakthrough season in 2011. But then the dreaded UCL tear to the elbow and Tommy John Surgery in early 2012 followed. Give the Pirates some credit here. They refused to give up on the guy. Despite the injury they resigned Morton last offseason with the hopes he could rehab the injury and help the team by midseason. It worked out exactly as planned. Morton returned in June of 2013 and gave the Pirates’ rotation a lift that it desperately needed while A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez were on the shelf due to injuries. Morton was stellar in August and September. For the season he posted a 7-4 record in 20 starts with a very solid 3.26 ERA. The Pirates rewarded Morton in December with a 3 year contract extension worth $20 million.
Charlie Morton has evolved into an extreme ground ball pitcher over the last three seasons. He leads all starting pitchers in that time with a 59.6% ground ball rate. He has earned the nickname “Ground Chuck”. Charlie is a perfect fit to pitch in front of a Pirates defense that implements a lot of infield over shifts. So adept at generating ground balls is Morton that it even influences the makeup of the Pirates’ lineup on the days he starts. When Ground Chuck is on the hill SS Jordy Mercer tends to sit in favor of Clint Barmes, a superior defender but much lesser hitter.
There are two issues I’m concerned about with Charlie Morton. First is durability. The Pirates really could use an innings eater, but Morton does not appear to be that guy. Only once has he thrown more than 160 innings in a season. He doesn’t go deep into games either. In his career he has averaged just 89 pitches per start and has exceeded 100 pitches in only 22% of his outings. The second problem with Morton is his struggles against left-handed hitters. Lefties have mashed him to the tune of an .907 OPS over his career, though he did makes some strides in that department last year. Morton lacks an out pitch against lefties. He must pitch inside against to lefties to have any chance of backing them off of his sinker. Last year Morton led the league with 16 hit batters. 13 of those HBPs were against left-handed hitters, so it appears Morton has developed the willingness to attack the inner half of the plate that is needed for him to be successful against southpaw hitters.
Perhaps 2013 was the year Morton turned the corner. Maybe now we will see a more consistent Ground Chuck, one that can be respectable against lefties and pitch into the 7th inning more frequently. The Pirates are going to need that from Morton to get a return on their investment. If Morton pitches as well as he did last year the extension the Pirates gave him will end up being a great bargain.
Without further ado, here are the projected stats I am using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First Simple WAR Calculator For Pitchers to estimate the 2014 WAR for Charlie Morton:
Innings – 178
ERA/FIP/xFIP – 3.71
K/9 – 6.30
BB/9 – 3.00
Note: Using League ERA adjusted for Park Factors of 3.80
And the verdict for Charlie Morton’s 2014 WAR is… 2.7
Pittsburgh has developed a reputation in recent seasons for being a great place for previously successful pitchers that have fallen on hard times to resurrect their careers. It began in 2012 with A.J. Burnett, and continued last season with Francisco Liriano. In both cases the Pirates identified talented, yet struggling pitchers, with the advanced metrics they felt made them strong candidates for a bounce back season. A combination of a favorable home park for pitchers, good coaching capable of resolving mechanical issues, and an adjustment in pitch selection to complement an organizational wide defensive philosophy, helped put Burnett and Liriano back on track. In 2014 the Pirates will try to repeat that formula with their newest reclamation project, Edinson Volquez.
Volquez certainly fits the description of a talented underachiever. In 2008 he put up a 17-6 record with a 3.21 ERA. Since then he has been a sub-par pitcher. He hit rock bottom in 2013, posting a brutal 5.71 ERA . Poor control has hurt him his entire career. But Volquez’s peripherals indicate he is a better pitcher than the numbers show. For as bad as his ERA was last season his xFIP was a respectable 4.07. His profile in recent seasons matches closely with Burnett and Liriano in the years leading up to their joining the Pirates. The following table compares the three pitchers in the three seasons that preceded the Pirates acquiring them.
As you can see Volquez compares very favorably to both Burnett and Liriano. In fact, he sported a better xFIP and strikeout rate than Burnett. But for all the things these three pitchers have in common there is one thing that Volquez is missing. That thing is time. Specifically, time in spring training to work with noted pitching guru Jim Benedict. What is often forgotten in Burnett and Liriano’s return to dominance is that during their first season with the Bucs they both spent time in extended spring training nursing non-throwing arm injuries. This afforded them an opportunity to work several extra weeks with Jim Benedict to iron out existing mechanical issues in their deliveries. This was especially impactful for Liriano. The Pirates admitted as much.
“One of the big things that broke right for him is that, because of the injury. The changes that he made — we couldn’t have done that if he’d been in big league camp. But because he spent so much time in extended spring training, he had time to get his delivery right and build his arm up slowly.”
- Jim Benedict, a special assistant to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and a former minor league pitching coordinator who gets involved in special player-development and pitching-delivery projects such as Liriano.
Much like Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez’s most pressing issue is his erratic control. Statistically his control numbers are even worse than Liriano’s. Only one starting pitcher over the past five seasons has a worse BB/9 rate than Volquez. That unflattering designation belongs to Jonathan Sanchez. Yikes! So the question is will six weeks be long enough to correct the control issues with Volquez? The Pirates felt Liriano needed more time, and we know it wasn’t enough time to save Jonathan Sanchez. Of course if Sanchez didn’t waste so much time taking selfies just maybe the results would have been better.
In recent years the NL Central has become devoid of quality left-handed starting pitchers. The Pirates’ division foes employ so few southpaws that Pittsburgh faced a left-handed starter just 31 times last season. That number does not appear as if it will rise significantly in 2014. The only starting lefties of note that the Pirates will face in the NL Central are Tony Cingrani, Jaime Garcia, Travis Wood, and Chris Rusin.
The Pirates, however, do possess some left-handed pitching in their rotation. Last season Francisco Liriano, Wandy Rodriguez, and Jeff Locke combined to start 68 games. That represents 42% of the schedule. If Rodriguez can return to full health, or Locke can regain his first half form, chances are good the Pirates will send a southpaw to the hill even more often in 2014. The Bucs also have two key left-handed relievers in the bullpen. Tony Watson and Justin Wilson both pitched more than 70 innings in 2013. Neither Watson nor Wilson are LOOGYS either. They are both capable of multiple inning relief outings.
The amount of left-handed pitching available to manager Clint Hurdle gives the Pirates a huge advantage within the division. Only the Cubs had a higher winning percentage against LH starters than vs. RH starters. The Cardinals were especially susceptible against LH starters. Their win percentage against lefties was 200 points less than against righties.
Win % vs RH starters
Win % vs LH starters
An even further advantage the Pirates gain from employing so many southpaws is environmental. PNC Park has the most difficult park factors in all of baseball for right handed hitters. So loading up a lineup of right-handed hitters when facing a lefty at PNC Park is less impactful than at other venues. To get an idea exactly how much PNC helps a left-handed pitcher we can look no further than the winningest pitcher in PNC Park history. With a total of 36 wins, the record belongs to our old friend Paul Maholm. In his career Maholm has put up a solid 3.75 ERA in 647 innings at PNC Park. In all other stadiums Maholm’s ERA is 4.68. That is almost a full run higher. If not for PNC Park Paul Maholm would not have had much of a career.
It is actually kind of surprising given how tailor-made PNC Park is for left-handed pitchers that the Pirates haven’t made greater efforts to procure more of them in the draft or international markets. The focus of the past several years has been on big projectable right-handed pitchers such as Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow. Regardless, the Pirates have enough left-handers on the pitching staff this year to exploit an obvious weakness with their division rivals.
I said it was a mistake when the Pirates declined to offer A.J Burnett the $14.1 million qualifying offer. The Pirates were going to look foolish if Burnett changed his mind and signed with another team after saying he would retire or only pitch for the Bucs. Yesterday, that happened. Burnett signed a 1 year, $16 million deal with the Phillies. Jon Heyman later reported the Pirates best offer to A.J. was a “very fair” $12 million contract.
This brings the A.J. Burnett contract saga to an end. I’m disappointed in Burnett. I would like to think that a guy with the career earnings that he has would rather pitch in front of a fan base that already adores him, and for a team better positioned to win. To pass up a better situation at this stage of his career for a relatively paltry amount of money is just sad. However, the botched handling of this whole negotiation by the Pirates is even more sad. If the Pirates were willing to go as high as $12 million for Burnett they should have been willing to go to $14 million with the qualifying offer. I do not think Burnett would have signed the offer. A QO does not offer trade protection and for that reason I believe AJ would have declined it. I think had the Pirates offered Burnett a QO it is very likely they would have eventually settled on a contract at right around $12 million. The Pirates grossly miscalculated the free agent market and Burnett’s motivations. By not offering A.J. the QO they dared him to listen to other offers. He did and now he is gone.
Burnett’s short two year stay in Pittsburgh should not be tainted by his exit. I will personally remember him fondly. He brought a moxie to the mound at PNC Park that had been missing since the day the park opened. Burnett was brash and his personality sometimes explosive. His ego was huge. Towards the end of the 2013 season it got a little too big. But he also became a mentor to younger pitchers on the staff. James McDonald and Jeff Locke were especially affected by Burnett’s presence. Gerrit Cole cited A.J. for helping him to develop his breaking ball. And the guy could certainly pitch. Burnett also leaves his mark in the Pittsburgh record books. He was the first and only right handed pitcher in team history to register a 200 strikeout season. In 2013 he led all qualified National League pitchers in K/9 and GB%.
As a final tribute to A.J. Burnett, let us relive one of his greatest moments as a Pirate. This was on September 21, 2013. It was his last home start as a Pirate. He tossed a gem in this game, picking up the win while whiffing 12 Reds, including this 6th inning K of Joey Votto on a beautiful knucklecurve for his 200th strikeout of the season.
The story of Gerrit Cole‘s 2013 rookie season was a tale of two pitchers. From his call up in June through the end of August, Cole was a reliable starting pitcher but failed to dominate hitters. Although he had trouble putting hitters away, the Pirates could count on Cole to go 6 innings and keep them in games. Cole basically pitched like a good number 4 starter. Most people are thrilled when a 22 year old rookie steps in and solidifies the back end of a rotation like Cole did during the summer months of 2013. But most rookie pitchers do not come with the expectations and pedigree of Gerrit Cole. Some fans and media expressed disappointment with his early results. Things changed quickly in September. An increased usage and refinement of his curveball, perhaps with a little help from A.J. Burnett, turned Cole into an ace. Did Burnett really make a big impact on Gerrit Cole? Cole seems to things so.
“I think my second day up here (A.J. Burnett) got a hold of me and started talking to me about it,” Cole said. “I don’t have quite as big of hands as he does I can’t really get around it as much as he can, but I try to copy (the knuckle-curve grip) as much as I can.”
Regardless of how it happened, the new weapon in Cole’s arsenal gave him a much needed lower velocity pitch to complement his repertoire of hard stuff. The results were devastating. Cole’s strikeout rate increased by a whopping 50% in September. He posted a 4-0 record and 1.69 ERA for the month to help lead the Pirates into the playoffs. He continued his dominance in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Cardinals. The young phenom had arrived.
2014 will bring all new challenges. Cole will enter the season as the Pirates’ undisputed staff ace. Those are lofty expectations for a pitcher that has made just 19 major league starts. I see very little reason to believe Cole won’t meet those expectations. His stuff is spectacular. He led all starting pitchers last year with an average fastball velocity of 95.6 mph. His off speed pitches are plus offerings. Cole is built to be a workhorse. He is solidly put together and has clean and efficient mechanics. There is no question in my mind that he could work 230+ innings a season year after year. The only reason I’m projecting a lighter workload in 2014 is because I believe the Pirates won’t ramp him up quite that high this early in his career. The concern is understandable. This is the most important pitcher that has come through the Pirates’ farm system in my life time. The team will want to protect their asset.
The one area where Cole will need to improve is getting settled earlier in games. First innings were rough for him in 2013. His first inning ERA was 5.68. That needs to get better. However, this isn’t an issue unique to Gerrit Cole. Many ace pitchers struggle in the first frame. Adam Wainwright, Justin Verlander, and Yu Darvish are all noted for their first inning struggles.
I believe Cole will continue to make solid strides and grow into his role as an ace in 2014. I think we are still a few years away from seeing Cole as a CY Young contender at the top of his game, but he is getting there. 2014 should be the first of several years that Cole will anchor the Pirates’ rotation.
Without further ado, here are the projected stats I am using as inputs for Wahoo’s on First Simple WAR Calculator For Pitchers to estimate the 2014 WAR for Gerrit Cole:
Innings – 196
ERA/FIP/xFIP – 3.21
K/9 – 8.25
BB/9 – 2.5
Note: Using League ERA adjusted for Park Factors of 3.80
And the verdict for Gerrit Cole 2014 WAR is… 4.4
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote an article this past week on the age related risks in signing A.J. Burnett. For my money Travis is the best local writer covering the Pirates. He made a lot of great points about concerns over velocity loss and age regression on older pitchers. I do think, however, that Travis may have missed the mark a little when he mentioned the limited number of pitchers that have defied their age by posting seasons with a 3.0+ WAR at age 37 or older.
Travis pointed out that between 2008-2013 only Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon, and Randy Johnson have posted an fWAR of 3.0 or greater after turning age 37. Those 6 pitchers combined to do it only 8 times. But does that make them any less likely to have good seasons than any pitcher over the age of 30? The data doesn’t support it. I went to Fangraphs.com and looked at starting pitchers from 2008-2013 that threw at least 20 innings in a season as a starter. I figured 20 innings is a good number to weed out relievers that made just a spot start or two. I looked at two age ranges: 30-36 and 37+. Here is what I found:
||3+ WAR Seasons
||% of 3+ WAR Seasons
That is a very small difference. It appears the biggest obstacle to putting together a solid season for starting pitchers over the age of 37 is actually getting to their age 37 season. Burnett has already won that battle. There doesn’t appear to be much reason to believe he is any less likely to do well at age 37 than he was when the Pirates traded for him at age 35.
Was the $13 million the Pirates committed to paying Burnett when they traded for him any less riskier than the money they’d have to pay him to pitch one more season? All pitchers over 30 are on borrowed time. The arm only has so many bullets in the chamber. Eventually they run out. Older pitchers do not respond to the treatment and rehab as well as younger pitchers. They are also less willing to go through the rigors of a long rehab. So when older pitchers break down it is usually the end. But predicting when that end will come is impossible. The vast majority of pitchers that reach free agency are over the age of 30. Does A.J. pose significantly greater risks than younger 30-something free agents such as Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, Edinson Volquez, Matt Garza, Jason Vargas, Josh Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Jason Hammel, etc? Personally, I don’t think so.
The Pirates have come under fire this winter from some critics for a perceived lack of spending on the major league payroll. I have not been shy in sharing my opinion on this topic. I don’t think the Pirates have done enough to push a borderline playoff team forward. Any discussion on payroll should always lead back to the revenues a team is generating. To judge the payrolls of MLB teams fairly it should be done relative to revenues. It is simply not fair to expect a low revenue team like the Pirates to support the type of payrolls that high revenue teams like the Yankees maintain. I’m sure any reasonable person would agree with me. The problem is we aren’t 100% sure what the revenues of a given team are. However, there do exist some fairly accurate estimates of most revenues sources such as media rights and ticket sales. Forbes and Bloomberg issue revenue estimates every year, and often individual teams confirm the accuracy of those estimates. One area where some mystery exists is postseason revenues. I’m going to take a crack at estimating the Pirates 2013 postseason revenues by using some of the methodology Wendy Thurm used to estimate 2012 postseason revenues for all teams in a blog post on Fangraphs last year.
Let me first explain how my methodology differs slightly from Wendy’s. Wendy looked at the average attendance for each series, the pricing tiers, estimated percentage of the ballpark for those tiers, and then calculated total sales. From there she worked out the splits that go to the players pool, the league office, and finally the cut that each team made. I took a simpler approach given three known pieces of information: Average regular season ticket prices for non-premium seats, the markup on face value of postseason for one specific section of seating, and the published prices to season ticket holders for premium seating. Unfortunately, I only had this information for the Pirates. So for the Cardinals I simply multiplied their average regular season ticket price by the same rate of increase as the Pirates once an average postseason ticket price was calculated. Then just like Wendy I subtracted out the revenue splits for the league office and players. So lets dig into the numbers.
I started with the Pirates regular season average non-premium ticket price of $17.21. From there I tacked on a 59.3% increase as referenced by the Kansas City Star. That works out to $27.41 for the average price of a non-premium ticket at PNC during the Wild Card and Division Round games. But non-premium seating only accounts for approximately 35,000 of the tickets available. Another 6500 in premium seating needs to be accounted for. The Pirates actually list the number of seats included in most of their premium seating locations, and playoff ticket pricing for season ticket holders is still available on the team’s website, so tabulating the sales for those sections seems straight forward. I then added up all those numbers in addition to the 35,000 non-premium tickets to come up with total sales for a single playoff game. I then divided by the average attendance of 40,490 to get an average playoff ticket price of $37.28. That represents a playoff ticket price that is 2.17 times greater than the regular season ticket prices. Calculating for the games in St. Louis was more challenging because the ticket information was no longer public. So I improvised by multiplying the Cardinals average regular season ticket price of $33.11 by the same rate of increase as in Pittsburgh. The result was an average ticket price of $71.84 for the games in St. Louis. Using these numbers we come up with following estimated sales per game:
||avg ticket price
15 percent of the paid attendance receipts of every postseason game is contributed to the Commissioner’s Office.
50 percent of the paid attendance receipts from the Wild Card games is contributed to the Players Pool.
60 percent of the paid attendance receipts from the first three games of each Division Series is contributed to the Players Pool.
All paid attendance receipts not paid to the Commissioner’s Office or contributed to the Players Pool is shared equally between the two teams in each Series or Wild Card game.
Now that estimated sales for each game have been established we just need to pull out shares for the league office and players pool. Here is how the sharing works:
When I calculate and subtract all the shares that go to the league office, the players, the Reds’ split of the Wild Card Game, and the Cards’ split of the Divisional Series, the Pirates are left with $3,763,871. I’ll be honest, I thought it would be higher. Part of the reason I thought it would be higher is Wendy Thurm estimated the Orioles with a share of just over $7 million for the 2012 playoffs. And just like the Pirates, the Orioles played a Wild Card game and a Divisional Series that went the distance. But Wendy did state she felt her estimates for the players’ pool were high. The league eventually does release those numbers. It appears Wendy overshot the mark by 25%. Adjusting the estimates accordingly, the 2012 Orioles estimated postseason revenues would fall to around $5.6 million. The benefit of being matched up against the Yankees obviously would be a financial boon for the O’s. Therefore, I think it is safe to say my estimates for the Pirates seem reasonable. Had the Pirates advanced to the NLCS they likely would have tripled their postseason revenue. Ticket prices increase for the NLCS, and being paired up with the Dodgers who have among the highest ticket prices in the league would have generated significantly more money.
One other important point of note on playoff revenues. Teams keep 100% of their ancillary revenues such as concessions and parking. So that could add a sizable sum of cash to the team’s coffers as well. When Deadspin leaked the Pirates’ financials from the 2007 and 2008 seasons it showed the team made about $5 in concessions per each fan in attendance. I’m going to assume that number would be significantly higher during these playoffs. Prices have gone up quite a bit since 2008. I can’t prove this, but I also believe large happy crowds are more likely to be spending money at the ballpark. Making a modest assumption that concessions were worth 50% more than five years ago, $900K in concession revenue for the playoff games at PNC Park seems reasonable. So all told my estimations show the 2013 playoffs created a $4.7 million windfall for the Pirates. That isn’t a whole lot more than the money spent on the late season acquisitions of Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau, and John Buck, or about the cost of free agent Edinson Volquez. It is interesting to note how two other teams that bowed out in Division Rounds might have used their playoff windfalls. The Rays signed free agent James Loney to a contract that included a $5 million signing bonus. The A’s signed free agent Scott Kazmir to contract that included a $4 million bonus. Front loading contracts with signing bonus is smart way to provide payroll flexibility in future seasons.
This is the last post I’m going to do on the business side of baseball for a while. Writing about payrolls, revenues, and win curves just isn’t fun. I’d much rather be discussing strike outs and home runs. Opening Day can’t get here soon enough. Let’s play ball!