The MLB Teams That Are the Best Bang for Your Buck

This week we released a study on the MLB teams that have delivered the best value to fans thus far in the 2013 season. The study is based on an algorithm that compares the home schedule and performance of the 30 major league teams with their average home ticket price. Here’s a few things we learned:

  • The Pittsburgh Pirates, who have had the best start through the first quarter of the season in 21 years, are currently the best value in professional baseball. 
  • Other teams with lower than average ticket prices who have maintained a relatively strong home showing early in the season include the Nationals, with double-digit hits in four straight games for the first time this year.
  • MLB teams with historically strong franchises or recent championship appearances have some of the highest ticket prices on the secondary market, including the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants

So how does your team fare? The chart below places all 30 MLB teams in four quadrants based on their cost/value ratio.  Teams positioned in the upper left quadrant are the best value to fans because they boast competitive at home schedules and strong performance for the lowest average ticket price.

MLB Value Scatterplot



Ranking the Most Engaged MLB Fan Bases

We’re excited to share our first annual ranking of the most engaged fan bases in the MLB. The ranking is based on an algorithm that evaluates fan activity in terms of:

  • Home game attendance (% of total capacity)
  • Median ticket price
  • Ticket demand
  • Team social media following

The San Francisco Giants hold the #1 spot on the list with an especially active fan base.  Boasting two World Series championships in the last three years, Giants fans have been filling their stadium to 100% capacity at the beginning of the 2013 season. In addition to driving one of the most in-demand tickets in the MLB, Giants fans are engaged online as well. The Giants have more than two million followers on Facebook and Twitter combined, trailing only the Yankees and Red Sox.

Other franchises represented on this list reveal the importance of marquee players and post-season success in driving fan engagement. Six of the teams included in the top 10 have made World Series appearances since 2007, many of which set home attendance records the following season.

The attractiveness of home stadiums may also benefit top 10 teams in engaging fans. Post-McCourt, the Dodgers have returned to the top of the attendance rankings in 2013, and there’s no arguing that Dodgers Stadium is an absolute gem. Other franchises like the Cubs, who haven’t been to a World Series since 1908, have built a fan culture around Wrigley Field.

With the 2013 MLB season underway, there will be plenty of opportunities for fans to show their support at the games. It’s going to be a dog fight in the West between the Dodgers and defending champion Giants, who will meet in early May.  The New York Yankees, who will be looking to re-stake their claim as AL champions this year, will meet the promising Red Sox in early June. There’s lots of time for any team to make a run in 2013, but there’s no doubt that fan support will play a role in who goes to the playoffs in September.

So what do you think? Did your team make the list? Click on the infographic below to enlarge & zoom.


MLB Season Preview: Must-see pitchers

Sports reporter Chip Brown discusses the must-see MLB pitchers in 2013.

2013 Houston Astros — The Sacrifice Bunt

Jose Altuve is only 23 but looks to be the Astros second baseman of the future.

Jose Altuve is only 23 but looks to be the Astros second baseman of the future.

The Houston Astros are a bad baseball team. Historically bad, even. From ESPN’s top baseball guys like Peter Gammons and Buster Olney to the average fan on the street, there’s been a large amount of disdain for the way Astros owner Jim Crane is doing business. Houston has a payroll of $27.3 million, the lowest since the Marlins in 2008. Bud Norris is the highest paid player at $3 million and there are a handful of other MLB players that make just about what the entire Houston club does.  This is, however, a necessary evil. You can’t be shortsighted if you want to turn around a bad team and don’t have a $2 billion club worth to do it with.

The lack of “trying” to compete this season is what most of the criticism centers around, and the argument doesn’t hold water if you look at it from the club’s perspective. The Astros are not going to the playoffs this season. They could have signed the biggest free agent on the market this off-season and they still wouldn’t sniff October baseball…. so what’s the point?

Why spend $33 million on someone like Kyle Lohse to go from 60 wins to 64 wins (he was worth 4.3 wins to the Cards in 2013 according to WAR)  in 2013? Lohse was #11 on’s top 50 free agents in 2013 and signing him would have been an absolute waste of money equal to the bad Astros deals of the past that put them in the position they are now (Kazuo Matsui, Woody Williams) . The Astros signed Carlos Lee to a $100 million contract in 2007 and haven’t sniffed the playoffs since he put pen to paper. You don’t spend your entire budget on a team that has no chance at the playoffs — you save, rebuild from the ground up and when you’re within striking distance you pull the trigger to get that guy that might give you that little bit extra. The jump from 87 to 92 wins is why you sign a big free agent, not to try cracking 70 wins. Being relevant in the playoff chase boosts attendance, not signing a FA like Dan Haren to a bad team.

The Astros wanted to get younger and cheaper and they’ve gotten there. They traded Hunter Pence and got back Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart who are both top 5 prospects in the organization and Singleton was recently ranked a top 30 prospect in all of baseball.  That bad season last year netted the #1 overall pick in the draft in Carlos Correa who might be the next best major league shortstop, pushing ESPN’s Keith Law to name the Astros the #4 farm system in MLB — the highest I’ve ever seen it.

The Rays have seen tremendous success recently and it’s not because they went out and signed huge free agents. The Rays built a #1 farm system and then let some affordable free agents compliment a team that had the talent to get them to that next level. The Astros have gone from a 70-win team with one of the worst organizational prospects in baseball to a team that is loaded with young talent and no payroll committed to any over-the-hill, under-performing players. That’s an incoming General Manager’s dream.

The path may be rocky for the Astros and their fans, but sticking with the team as they turn over a new leaf from mismanagement to playoff contention will make it so much better when they’re giving the rest of the AL West a run for their money with a cheaper, younger and more exciting team. And in the mean time, why not snap up some cheaper Astros tickets before the bandwagon fills up again and love your team in person?

Rangers Reporting for Duty


(Surprize, AZ) — The Texas Rangers will be one of the most fascinating stories of the 2013 MLB season. I was so happy to be able to spend four days out in Surprise, AZ., during the Texas Rangers Spring Training.

The Rangers won the American League Pennant two years in a row and looked to be in good shape last season before the bottom fell out at the tail end of the season.

They have the best farm system in all of baseball, but to steal the quote from former football coach Jon Gruden, “It’s one thing to be young and talented. It’s a whole other thing to be good.” They are one of the most talented organizations in baseball but are not the same team at the Major League level in 2013.

They lost a ton of leadership in Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton — though one could argue that Hamilton’s leadership and effectiveness might have been headed the other way in the last year. The increased role of GM Jon Daniels and the elevation of others in the Rangers organization appear to signal a youth movement that may not have room for Nolan Ryan. If Ryan were to leave the organization, what effect would it have on the clubhouse?

The first thing to understand is that expectations have not changed for the Texas Rangers as an organization. Ron Washington in no uncertain terms made it clear that the expectations have not changed.

A few things make the start of the season so important for the Rangers. They have to play every team in the American League West 19 times. The defending division winner Oakland A’s are a better team, as are the Angels. Nobody can expect the Angels to start as slow as they did in 2012. While I believe everyone thinks the Rangers are better than the Seattle Mariners, they still have King Felix and most chalk his starts as almost unwinnable.

Elvis Andrus signing autographs

That is what makes the Rangers a must-see for the first few weeks of the season… if you can get in the stadium. The Rangers, because of the lack of established leadership, must start the year strong because they may not have the leadership to bring them back from a tough start.

April 5 – 7 – at home against the Los Angeles Angels

April 8 – 10 – at home against the Tampa Bay Rays

April 19 – 21 – at home against the Seattle Mariners

April 22 – 24 – In Anaheim against the Angels

Yes, the MLB season is 162 games long but the Rangers will go a long way towards determining the trajectory of their club during the first month of the season. Questions like whether they have a 5th starter in the rotation will be answered within the first month. Do they have the leadership in the clubhouse? Do they have the clutch hitting to challenge in the West? Can Ian Kinsler start the year well and stay that way? Does Ron Washington have the right strings in the right places to win in 2013?

The questions won’t all be answered but I won’t be able to take my eyes off the first month of the 2013 season for the Texas Rangers because it will say so much.