Effect of new baseball stadiums on winning: zilch

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.

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5 comments on “Effect of new baseball stadiums on winning: zilch

  1. Frankly, I think you should control for payroll (only allow league average year over year increases) to show how new stadiums might make your team worse. I would not argue that the increase in payroll was a direct benefit of the stadium but of the increased financial attention being paid by the team to match the increased marketing effort (and justification for the investment).

    Even so it is amazing how all the new stadia hoopla has cannibalized itself. It used to be there was at least some honeymoon effect (Orioles, Indians, Rockies) way back.

    Considering that arenas, stadiums, and fields (or fans for that matter) do not actually play the sport itself, it is funny that new digs got associated with winning in the first place. All part of the confused epistemology in a heavily “marketed to” existence.

  2. Hell, we didn’t need a study to tell you a new park won’t make for a winner! Just ask Peter Angelos in Baltimore….or whatshisname in Pittsburgh….or Mr Jacobs in Cleveland….etc, etc, etc.

  3. May not make you a winner on field, but it will make you a winner off field if you’re the owner. However I think there are a few select cases where a new ballpark can help your chances of being a winner, assuming the owner is willing to tranfer some of his increased cash flow into the purchase of players. For instance the Angels have been significantly better since they rebuilt Angel Stadium in the late 90’s (it’s essentially a new stadium since the extensive rebuild and renovation). I’d also argue that the Phillies have been much better since they built their new stadium. But in cases where the teams do improve it’s because the owner wasn’t just pocketing their increased cash flow but investing in the team.

  4. Based on the data used from the Lubbers’ piece, I ran a t-test on the before and after payroll and winning percentage. Neither t-test was statistically significant. Any difference between payroll and winning percentage is not due to the presence of a new stadium.

    Here’s the data I want: tax collection for the MSA and the stadium’s county for 2 years before the new stadium and 2 years after the new stadium. I am guessing the t-test will come back not statistically significant.

  5. Ya, most of the world series winners in the last 10 years all played in old, outdated stadiums. O .. wait, no.

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