July 22, 2014

High Pressure, Home Cooking

progressive-field-sellout

This is not an article about attendance at Indians games. Not really, anyway.

Much has been made about attendance in Cleveland the past few years. A franchise that retired No.455 for THE FANS has cobwebs on its turnstiles. As an alleged “Tribe Town” began regularly pulling in less than 10,000 patrons per game, blame was allocated between the 25 men in uniform and the handful in polos and pleated pants. But what happens when the grandstands are bubbling over with the rabid throng?

Going back to the 2010 season, as the Progressive Jacobs Field crowd exceeded 30,000 people 42 times (counting Opening Days and playoffs), one distressing trend emerged: The Indians have underperformed mightily when the house was full.

Year Record CLE Runs Opp Runs (+/-) Avg. Att.
2010 0-3 10 24 -14 36,464
2011 15-6 89 91 -2 34,519
2012 3-4 19 33 -14 34,953
2013 3-5 29 42 -13 35,925
2014 1-2 15 13 2 38,510
Totals 22-20 162 203 -41 36,074

While their overall win percentage (.524) is over .500 it is hardly the home-field advantage one would expect. Even more alarming is that in these high profile games, the Tribe has been outscored by 41 runs meaning that the team isn’t just losing; they’re losing big in front of the home faithful. For a team that

“It’s such a shame. How many times do the Indians
draw
over 100,000 fans in a weekend? I’ll tell you
how many:
Zero in the past three seasons. Its the
first time this has
happened since August of 2011.
I don’t know what it is
about the Indians and big
crowds at Progressive Field,
but it seems as though
they are allergic to winning in
these situations.”
— TD Dery “The Weekend that Wasn’t

is conscious of their standing as an entertainment option, it must be frustrating. The core fans will always be there, but home games need to start appealing to more casual fans and families who can’t decide between the ballpark and a night at the movies.

While it’s impossible to simply tell the team to “play better” in front of the big crowds the players must notice this trend. During Omar Vizquel’s acceptance speech into the Indians Hall of Fame, he went out of his way to thank the fans who, “fill out the seats every day, day in, day out, every night, every day, against the weather, against anything else, for giving me the energy to perform here in front of you.” It was a sweet moment and meant a lot coming from a fan favorite, but I wonder if Michael Bourn or Asdrubal Cabrera raised eyebrows at this, wondering what Big O was talking about. Looking at the numbers, could it be that a home sellout has been such novelty that the players are putting too much pressure on themselves?

Let’s look at who the Tribe played in the well attended games:

Photo1

Not surprisingly, the New York Yankees (huge fan base) and Detroit Tigers (168 miles away) draw the biggest crowd. Pittsburgh (nearby) and Minnesota (division rivals) are up there as well. These teams bring in fans by the boatload, much to the chagrin of locals. So when the Tigers hit a home run in Cleveland and you can audibly hear 8,000 of the fans cheering, does that get to the Indians a bit? Maybe the “I’ll show them” motivation is working against the home club. There’s enough pressure playing on the road, especially this year’s team (among the worst road teams in the game), and maybe that’s carrying over into these marquee home tilts.

In the marathon of baseball you can’t go undefeated at home, and selling out every game is hard. There must be a middle ground in between, though, where 40,000 Clevelanders can go home happy more than once per year.

I’m not here to question fan loyalty or accuse the players of tanking in front of big crowds—these guys want to win in front of the big crowds as much as everyone else. All we can do is provide them with the opportunity. It’s up to them to capitalize.

***

Corey Barnes is a graduate of The Ohio State University. He’s a fan of Cleveland, Columbus and the Scarlet and Grey. His excellent work can be read at Buckeye Nerd. You can follow him on Twitter at @Corey_Barnes.

  • Natedawg86

    “Going back to the 2010 season, as the Progressive Jacobs Field crowd exceeded 30,000 people 42 times (counting Opening Days and playoffs)”
    Wow, that is depressing

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Amen.

    Side note: When deciding between a Tribe game or a night at the movies or some other outing with a family of five, price pays a big role, and the Indians aren’t winning. When I was a kid/teen it was an outing that would run 50-80 dollars. Now, it’s more like 125-200, and that’s a lot harder to justify.

  • Natedawg86

    Could you get tickets on the street for 10-15 and eat before?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I’m not dragging three kids out to ‘maybe’ get tickets, and I basically always eat before regardless (Kosher options are limited basically to hot dogs). I don’t think relying on scalped tickets is a good sign.

    I probably have written this before but I took in the doubleheader vs. the NYY last year, and I got a decent upper-deck seat but bought food/drink at the game(s) – I believe 3 hot dogs and a beer plus a large sub I bought on the way. All in including the RTA it cost me $75 (!!) for one person for two games on a single ticket.

  • Harv 21

    Thank you for this research. I had also wondered whether I was crazy in remembering an inordinate number of crushing losses in front of 30k plus.

    The blowouts are the worst, because it kills the whole electric big-crowd vibe. But the one I can’t forget is the opener a few years ago when Chris Perez torched a Masterson masterpiece in the 9th. That killed the excitement out of spring training and even seemed to deflate the players for a couple of weeks.

  • Steve

    A night at the movies, with actual food, costs how much for those five?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    That’s why I said “or some other outing”. :) We don’t take the kids to the movies, either, unless it’s free or we’re taking one to see a specific movie for them, so it’s only two tickets.

  • BKJD

    Then buy them on Stubhub. Tickets for July 4 start at $22.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    That’s still $110 before we get in the door. (They also used to let you bring in much more.)

  • Steve

    “While their overall win percentage (.524) is over .500 it is hardly the home-field advantage one would expect”

    I guess I’m not sure what you’re expecting. Over that same time frame, they went 171-149 in the rest of their home games – .534. Our small sample size is well within the margin of error here.

    The average team wins 54% of the time at home. The Indians have won 47.8% of their games over this timeframe, so a bit below average. Them winning at a .534 clip at home sounds about right (it’s actually a tick above what we would expect for a team with true talent level below .500, but still close). Again, the .524 win pct of our sample sounds like exactly something we should expect.

  • Steve

    How much more? You can still bring in bottles of water, juice boxes, and all types of food.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    OY VEY

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Can you? When I was a kid I recall us bringing in basically a picnic: Plenty of sandwiches, drinks, etc.

    My feeling now is you’re limited to a small clear bag without a lot on it, though I could be wrong, and perhaps the team could make that more clear if I’m wrong (even if that hurts their vending sales).

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I think it’s more striking because outside of 2011 they’re 7-14, and that 15-6 in 2011 seems fluky considering the -2 in runs.

  • Steve

    http://cleveland.indians.mlb.com/cle/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=security

    According to this, you’re still good to bring in enough to feed the family. They’re not the most lenient out there, but I’d say reasonable.

  • Steve

    And outside of 2010, they’re 22-17, a 91 win pace. We can do a lot when we lop off the specific data that doesn’t fit a specific argument.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Sure, and I thought the overall % was fine. I just thought that was the reasoning behind the point, because it stands out when you look at it.

  • mgbode

    I’m with Ezzie on this one. The Pythagorean win% is below .500 for a -41 run differential in 42 games, which means that the above .500 mark is a bit lucky as it is.

  • Steve

    That is true. Their run differential belies the notion that they were truly an above .500 talent level at home.

    That still is a small sample, though I don’t know what a margin for error on that would be.

  • mgbode

    fair enough, but I think it helps Corey’s point that it felt like they were much worse at home than the 22-20 record indicates.

  • TNB

    The indians, as professionals, play to win every day. To suggest that because they dont win with 40,000+ fans in the stands which is why people dont go to me is just a little silly. If that were the case nobody would ever play the lotto. The players cant control when people want to show up, and the front office can only influence them to come in so much.

    Maybe 40,000 clevelanders would go home happy more than once a year if they turned out more than two or three times, but hey, thats just me.

  • nj0
  • http://www.wahoosonfirst.com Ed Carroll

    Wait, an entire post lamenting the team’s record in 42 games over the past five seasons? Someone is actually trying to infer something from that sort of a sample? Yikes.

  • Mobeast

    Yep, nothing to due with long term mediocrity-at-best rosters after a decade of extremely strong attendance in conjunction with good play…I’d sooner go to a Rubber Ducks (goddamn the name) game and at least see the kids we won’t pay for in a few years.

  • mgbode

    No, but, Corey noticed something that many of us had wondered about. Why does it seem like the Indians lose big when they actually do get good attendance at home?

    Well, it seems that way because for the last 3 years we have lost much more than won in that situation and over the past 5, even though we have a record above .500, the run differential overall makes it seem worse (Pythagorean win total at work).

    It is not something you can use moving forward (something that one can bank on), but it is an analytic look at a presumption to see if it holds up as something that was true. I think that should be praised, not mocked.

  • http://www.wahoosonfirst.com Ed Carroll

    You’re still trying to draw a conclusion (and infer something) from a 42 game sample over five years, which tells you absolutely nothing.

    You’re assuming I’m only talking about predictive conclusions but trying to make ANY sort of a conclusion from 5% of the team’s games over that span (which also doesn’t even attempt to take into account any sort of roster turnover on Cleveland’s part) is pretty foolish.

    There’s literally nothing to be learned here. Five percent is not enough to infer much of anything.

  • mgbode

    Apologies but this is where analytic guys lose people.

    There has been a growing anecdote the past few years that the Indians have struggled to do well at home in front of big crowds. It’s a barstool debate. Corey went and demonstrated that, yes, they in fact have struggled in front of big home crowds lately.

    Noone is trying to create a mathematical model or draw predictive conclusions or any conclusion other than answering a simple barstool debate trivia question.

    The fact of the matter is that they have struggled in these types of games and it is proven above. Nothing is gained from this knowledge other than answering that barstool debate.

    These types of discussions are meant to be a silly, fun thing to discuss. Nothing more.

    http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/10/105634/3816758-why.gif

  • http://www.wahoosonfirst.com Ed Carroll

    Ok, but don’t try to present these “stats” like they mean anything tangible. Don’t force this into a traditionalist vs analytics argument either, because it’s really not at all. This is a dumb post if he’s not trying to make any sort of inference here, and it’s presented as if it is

  • mgbode

    I didn’t mention traditionalist stats. It like analytics, but it is that mindset (everything must be large sample size and irrefutable proof) that led you to your first post here. I enjoy analytics and there is great reason for them, but not in this post.

  • http://www.wahoosonfirst.com Ed Carroll

    You’re making up a mindset here, there’s very few instances of irrefutable proof. The authors is using analytics in this very post, it’s not like I dragged stats into this post kicking and screaming.

    There’s nothing to be learned here.

  • Natedawg86

    That is why we have not been showing up! We want them to win ha