Tampa Bay Rays Attendance Analysis: Games Started by David Price

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Yesterday was a sad day in the Tampa Bay baseball market. In a move that was all but expected, the Tampa Bay Rays traded starting pitcher David Price. In return, the Rays received starting pitcher Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin, and minor leaguer Willy Adames.

There is no doubt David Price is the best pitcher in the Rays’ short history. He is the team’s only Cy Young Award winner, a multiple time all-star, and has been the opening day starter several times. He gave the team the best chance to win and fans the best chance to see a victory.

Overall, David Price pitched 83 games at Tropicana Field. The following chart breaks down how the team did and how attendance was during David Price’s starts.

Price totals

Since he started pitching for the Rays in 2009, games David Price has started drew 6.96% more than the average game. But how much of that can be directly related to David Price? We have already determined games on certain days and games versus certain opponents draw better than others. It was not uncommon for Joe Maddon to align the pitching rotation to match up David Price versus some of the better teams in the American League. So if those teams played the Rays on the weekend, how many fans realistically came to see David Price?

First we need to determine some of the bigger trends in attendance such as year, month, day of the week, and promotion. The following chart depicts the Rays annual increases and decreases in attendance since 2007. We will use this for the year factor.

Price Team attendance

To date, the 2014 average home attendance is 13.89% less than the average attendance since 2007. 2008, 2009, and 2010 were the Rays’ best drawing years.

Now we look at months. Since Price was traded on the last day of July, we can divide April, May, June, and July by the updated average per game of 20,195.64. For August, September, and the regular season October games, we use the 2007-2013 per game average of 20,475.72.

Price avg months

For Day of the Week, we will use the 2007-2013 averages, since we still have days to play in 2014.

For promotions, we will also use the 2007-2013 averages, since we also still have promotions left in 2014.

For opponent effect on attendance, we will use the 2007-2013 averages, since the Rays still have games left versus various opponents in 2014. The calculations of opponent also factor out days of the week.

With those five factors determined, we can begin seeing how much the actual attendance varied from estimates using average opponent attendance and multiplying it by factors of year, month of the year, day of the week, and promotion.

(Note1: All estimated sell-outs are highlighted and the sell-out capacity of Tropicana Field is plugged in.)

(Note 2: Opening Day at Tropicana Field has sold out nine years in a row. This is an expected result, hence always stated as 0% difference between estimated and actual.)

(Note 3: For interleague games, I used the average of all interleague game attendance divided only by weekday and weekend. The small sample size does not allow us to accurately determine the effect of typically strong NL fanbases such as the Cubs versus smaller fanbases such as the Padres.)

(Note 4: For the Houston Astros in 2013 and 2014, the average AL West opponent attendance for that day was used. For example, if the Astros played on Wednesday, I took the average Wednesday attendance of Oakland, Texas, Seattle, and Anaheim.)

The following chart shows the attendance breakout of David Price’s 2009 season. (Click to make bigger.)

Price 2009

Plugging in the opponents’ average attendance and multiplying it by the various factors we come up with an estimate attendance. We subtract the actual attendance by the estimated attendance. Any increase has to be attributed to something. With a lack of other variables affecting game attendance, we may just attribute a rise or drop to the starting pitcher.

David Price started 12 games at Tropicana Field in 2009. Based on the estimates, his games drew 146.76 less fans per game than expected. That is a decrease of 0.59%.

The following chart shows the David Price effect for 2010. (Click to make bigger.)

Price 2010

The highlighted boxes are estimated sell-outs. The Rays don’t draw more than the sell-out attendance, so the estimate is capped at the sell-out amount.

In 2010, David Price was a better draw than in 2009. In 2010, Price’s games averaged 171.95 fans more than the estimated attendance, an average 0.73% increase.

The following chart shows the games started by David Price in 2011. (Click to make bigger.)

Price 2011

In 2011, David Price didn’t pitch any game in which attendance was aided by a bobblehead or post-game concert. He also only pitched one weekend game. Price averaged four weekend games and at least one promotion every year outside of 2011. So it is possible David Price had a more direct effect on attendance in 2011. 2011 was also the year David Price allowed the most hits and home runs in his career. Truth to the idea that people go to the ballpark for offense? Perhaps.

Overall, we can see the actual attendance for games started by David Price exceed estimates by 1,527.51 fans per game. That is an increase of 8.67%.

Here is the chart for games started by David Price in 2012. (Click to make bigger.)

Price 2012

David Price won 20 games in 2012 and was awarded the Cy Young Award following the season. Although pitcher wins has lost credibility in sports analyst circles, it is still a powerful stat in the eyes of casual fans.

Overall, games started by David Price drew 1,160.27 fans per game more than expected, a 5.6% increase.

Here is the chart of David Price’s starts in 2013. (Click to make bigger.)

Price 2013

The 2013 season is unique as David Price missed the entire month of June with an injury. This injury resulted in a career low amount of starts at Tropicana Field. Of the 10 non-Opening Day starts, only 3 had higher than estimated attendance.

Overall, David Price’s starts drew 1,843.34 per game less than estimated, a decrease of 8.11%

We now look at the 2014 season, David Price’s last as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. (Click to make bigger.)

Price 2014

Prior to being traded, David Price pitched 13 games at Tropicana Field. His amount of starts and increase over estimated attendance (+4.77%) are close to the 2012 results of 13 starts and a 5.6% increase.

Attendance to games started by David Price were also aided by “Camp Days” in both his June start versus Pittsburgh and his July start versus Milwaukee. These days featured earlier starts and ticket packages for local kids camps. The promotional effect can be seen in the high percentage difference above estimate (70.1% and 46.74%). There may have also been some fans attending to bid farewell to David Price as the rumors of his trade grew in intensity. But since we don’t have long-term records of Camp Day boosts, we can’t parse out that promotion like we can more established promotions.

Overall

When we compile all the games David Price pitched, all the estimated attendances, all the actual attendances, and all the percentage differences, we get the following:

Price overall

From 2009 to 7/31/2014, David Price was worth an average gain of 423.25 fans per game. That is 2% above the average attendance during his time with the Rays. If we multiple 423.25 by Price’s 83 starts, we get 35,129.75 fans came just to see David Price at Tropicana Field. Multiply that amount of fans by $60 (rough estimate of individual fan ticket cost per game), and we conclude the Rays made $2,107,785 over six years because of David Price, or $351,297.50 per year.

That number of course does not include jersey sales, post-season gains, concessions, parking, or goodwill.

Finally, here is a graph depicting David Price’s percentage impact on attendance and his home starts per year.

Price chart

David Price was a very valuable member of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Admittedly, this is first deep-dive I have done on an individual starting pitcher. My educated guess is that Price falls only behind Scott Kazmir in regards to his ability to attract fans to Tropicana Field. But in Price’s defense, Kazmir was was an attraction mostly because he was the only respectable pitcher on some very terrible Devil Rays teams.

In the future, I will be able to make a better conclusion as to whether David Price was the best drawing pitcher in Rays history. However, from his ability to stop opponent offenses to his attitude, charm, and demeanor in the clubhouse and in the Tampa Bay area, there is no doubt David Price will be missed.

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