DFP: The Lost Generation

In Facepalm by GW


I’m in the minority around here when it comes to fretting about the Cubs leaving WGN next year. My argument is basically that being on basic cable around the country when no one else is has a huge impact on a team’s future bottom line, even if that impact is less today than it was twenty or thirty years ago. Brand loyalty in sports has to absolutely dwarf that of every other industry, and getting children around the country (who don’t make decisions about things like mlb.tv subscriptions) to watch the occasional day game seems like one of the best things a franchise could possibly do to cement future revenue streams.

That type of long-term thinking is mostly absent from sabermetric analysis, which is why I was thrilled to find this article. It has nothing to do with television exposure, but it does focus on the value of getting fans when they are young. Some excerpts:

The most important year in a boy’s baseball life is indeed age 8. If a team wins a World Series when a boy is 8, it increases the probability that he will support the team as an adult by about 8 percent. Remember, this is independent of how good the team was every other year of this guy’s life.

…[M]y model suggests that among 5- to 15-year-olds in 2012, 5 percent more fans will root for the Giants for the rest of their lives. Assume spending on baseball increases at roughly the rate of interest. And assume that these fans spend about as much as the average fan. The Giants can expect about $33 million, in net present value, from here on out, from their 2012 season, just from the boys they won over. … A championship season, in other words, is at least twice as valuable as we previously thought.

If true, that would significantly effect the calculus of midseason-trades.

I also wonder about the implications for complete tear-downs as a rebuilding strategy. Is there a break-even point beyond which putting yourself in a position to win a championship is counterproductive?* Are the Astros currently sewing the seeds for a lost generation of fans? Can Clark save the Cubs?

*For the record, I’m completely on board with the rebuild, if less convinced than others at the inevitability of success.

Cardinals Get a Comp Pick

The above article came to my attention in looking for fanbase data after the announcement that the Cardinals will get a “competitive balance pick” in next year’s draft.

From Facebook’s publicly available advertising platform, I downloaded data on how many fans every baseball team has, broken out by gender and age. (Facebook estimates whether someone is a fan of a team based on both “likes” and posts.)

This data is not perfect, but it does correlate pretty well with previous polling. According to Facebook, the most popular teams are the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Cardinals and Braves

So, yes. Theo is right.

Also of interest is a zip code-based breakdown of fan distribution. In Illinois, the Cub-Cardinal line roughly coincides with the Lincoln-Douglas vote in 1860.

Quick Links

1. Pitchers are getting better when they leave the Diamondbacks. My thoughts:

  • The organization clearly couldn’t work with Trevor Bauer, which strikes me as a huge problem. Whether his theories are optimal or not, they basically gave away a top pitching prospect because of what amounts to a communication issues. That is Brady Aiken-level bad. Player development has to be a two-way street, with the organization listening and trying to integrate prospects into their system.
  • De-emphasizing the cutter also seems like a big deal; I have heard that the Orioles do this, as well. It’s worth noting that Daniel Hudson started throwing the pitch right before his ligaments disintegrated. Perhaps that scared them off?
  • On the whole, though, I don’t know that there is enough data to say that something is really wrong, especially since pitchers are typically leaving for friendlier parks.

2. Tangotiger and Co. are trying to figure out what’s wrong with Verducci’s data.

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