Jeff Lubbers at Baseball Daily Digest takes a look today at the on-field effects of moving into new stadiums for baseball teams. In their first year at a new home, he finds, starting with Camden Yards in 1992, teams have spent an extra 15.3% on payroll over the previous year, as they availed themselves of heightened revenues to bulk up their talent on the field. (The Minnesota Twins, notes Lubbers, are already at work on that this offseason, acquiring Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, and J.J. Hardy, though those were mostly at bargain prices.)
And the impact of all this new talent? Writes Lubbers:
Excluding the 2009 Twins of all the teams in the above table their collective record in the last season of their old homes was 1,421-1,430 for a winning percentage of .498. Their collective record in the first season of their new homes was 1,394-1,405 for a winning percentage of … .498.
While that’s a pretty effective debunking of the “stadiums will bring a winner!” myth, there are a couple of ways I’d love to see this study improved. First off, it generally takes more than one year to turn a franchise around; when I did a similar study a few years back for the Baseball Prospectus book Baseball Between the Numbers, I used win percentages for the five years before and after moving to a new stadium, and found that a new home was worth on average about 5.5 wins a year — still a relatively small payoff, but measurably positive. It’d also be good to see how much that 15.3% payroll hike compares to the baseline increase in player salaries, which until recently were rising substantially year to year even for teams without new homes. [CORRECTION: Lubbers does note that the average annual payroll hike for all teams is 7.49% — I missed it somehow on first read.]
Finally, one number I’d love to see added: Change in average ticket prices at new stadiums. Again from BBtN, 11 of the top 14 single-season ticket price hikes between 1991 and 2004 came with teams moving into new digs, topped by the astounding 103% single-season rise in average prices when the Detroit Tigers moved from Tiger Stadium to Comerica Park. New stadiums make players richer, even if they don’t make their teams (much) better; but fans are paying through the nose for the privilege of watching their pricier teams play .498 ball.
If anyone has some Excel time handy and is interested in running such a study, you can find all the raw data needed at Rod Fort’s site. Or I might give it a shot myself over the weekend, if no one beats me to it.