Thursday Round Up: Add Another Arm to the Race | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

If the 2012 Brewers are not treating fans to a repeat of their 2011 division title, or fighting for playoff baseball in Milwaukee for consecutive seasons, they are giving fans glimpses into the future pitching rotation. Last night, Wily Peralta made his first MLB start against the Miami Marlins. The righty worked into the 7th inning, allowing 3 runs thanks to some shaky bullpen work with inherited runners. Overall, the righty boasted a 6 IP, 3 R line, striking out 3 against 4 walks.

Peralta is highly regarded as one of the Brewers’ top young arms, and the righty topped several rankings of the Brewers’ farm system entering 2012. Perhaps a quality start with 3 strike outs is not the triumphant debut some Brewers fans expect of Peralta, but the start itself is a welcome step for the right-hander. Peralta ran into some rough stretches during his 2012 campaign in Nashville, after coming on strong during the 2011 season. Peralta’s 2011 push helped him leap onto the radar of serious prospect consideration, although some questions about endurance, stuff, and future role remained.

Last night, Peralta went to his fastball early and often, selecting the pitch approximately 68 times (or, nearly 74% of his 92 offerings). According to MLB GameDay, Peralta threw three distinct off-speed pitches, including approximately 14 sliders, 9 change ups, and 1 curveball. Velocity might not always be the best sign of maintaining strength deep into games — that is, pitchers might also maintain late velocity by over-throwing or changing mechanics — but Peralta maintained a strong fastball into the 7th inning. Six of ten 7th inning fastballs hit 95 or 96, according to MLB GameDay. Peralta’s velocity peaked in the middle innings, as the righty threw several fastballs in the range of 97 and 98 MPH in the middle of his start.

Rotation Sushi
September offers some promise for the Brewers’ 2013 rotation. Even as Mark Rogers rests and waits for 2013 (and some speculate Fastballer Mike Fiers might be shut down, too), a gang of new pitchers arrived in Milwaukee with a chance to state their case for the Brewers’ 2013 rotation. As it stands, the Brewers reserve the rights to Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, and Chris Narveson heading into 2013. Fiers, Peralta, Rogers, and Tyler Thornburg are also options for the 2013 pitching staff, and the Brewers can renew the contracts of those pitchers. Yet another (perhaps more controversial option) exists, too, as the Brewers could offer salary arbitration to veteran Shaun Marcum, which would provide the Brewers another rotational option for more than $12 million.

Perhaps the most interesting element to these rotation options is that they could also help to solve bullpen problems. For instance, if youngsters Peralta, Rogers, and Thornburg make the starting rotation, Estrada and Narveson (depending on his health) could work in the bullpen. On the other hand, some of those youngsters could serve as options to improve the Brewers’ bullpen. This could especially be the case with pitchers such as Rogers and Thornburg, who provide potentially strong profiles for bullpen work. One way or the other, the Brewers have a gang of options for their 2013 rotation, and the decisions the club makes about the rotation can also allow them to improve the bullpen, too. If the Brewers’ rotation looks unassuming or young for 2013, it is also flexible and affordable, providing the club a sizable amount of flexibility while assembling their roster for next year.

The Great Stadium Swindle
While reviewing photos of last night’s game, I found a fitting photo of the Marlins’ 2012 attendance woes. The Marlins have few strong attendance seasons in their franchise history, and I gather that many baseball fans watched with interest to see how the club’s offseason spending spree would translate on the field and in the stands.

One of the most prevalent campaigns of the 1990s was the Great Stadium Swindle. After the success of the “back-to-the-city” Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the general idea in baseball was clear: build a new stadium, collect the massive revenue, and build a competitive club to go with it. All owners of franchises in a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry had to do was to hide their wallets, turn their pockets inside-out, threaten to move to Charlotte or Portland, in order to land a new ballpark. Of course, one of the unfortunate aspects of a construction boom is that if each of the MLB clubs opens a new ballpark, well, 30 teams cannot be competitive at the same time. By the turn of the 21st century, it became clear that a new ballpark by itself would not guarantee success at the gate.

Looking over the 2012 Marlins’ attendance, this stadium trend seems especially troubling. Despite a grand free agency push, new uniforms, and a new stadium, the Miami Marlins are struggling to fill 3/4 of the bright seats at futuristic Marlins Park. Of course, the Marlins are on pace to draw approximately one million more fans in 2012 than in 2011; that’s not insignificant. However, one must ask, given the public funds spent on the Marlins’ stadium, is 75% attendance acceptable? According to Ballparks of Baseball, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County spent approximately $370 million on Marlins Park.

When it comes time to fund new ballparks for MLB clubs, the “grand civic duty” arguments tend to pour from the mouths of owners, club officials, and perhaps some politicians. That is, hosting a baseball club becomes a privilege for a city; in order to continue to enjoy that privilege, the municipality should work to fund the workplace for the ballclub. I fail to see the benefit of these types of arguments any longer; certainly attendance in new ballparks does not suggest that the privilege of a ballclub is a civic duty. Rather, attending a ballgame is simply one way to spend one’s entertainment dollar; one can easily weigh a ballgame against other forms of entertainment before marching to the box office and purchasing a bleacher seat. It seems troubling that, in the case of most new MLB ballparks, municipalities were duped into spending hundreds of millions of dollars on facilities for privately owned businesses. Fortunately for MLB owners, the bulk of MLB franchises have new ballparks, and only a few clubs are actively fighting for new parks (Oakland’s case is perhaps the most interesting; the stadium argument rages on for other sports, most-interestngly in the case of the Atlanta Falcons).

Civic pride obviously cannot work both ways when it is fabricated. This is especially clear in the case of the Miami Marlins, where public interest in the club will not fill a new stadium despite the club’s makeover and acquisitions. I don’t think this should surprise anyone, and yet the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County remain on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Marlins’ new stadium. Ironically, the City and County contributed more than 70% of the funds for a stadium that no more than 28,000 of their residents can fill on a regular basis.

Here’s a glimpse at first-year attendance figures for the brand new MLB ballparks over the last 20+ years:

Marlins Park (2012; 37,000): 1,880,436 (thus far; 74.7%)
Target Field (2010; 39,504): 3,223,640 (100.7%)
CitiField (2009; 42,000): 3,168,571 (93.1%)
Yankee Stadium (2009; 52,325): 3,719,358 (87.8%)
Nationals Park (2008; 41,506): 2,320,400 (69.0%)
Busch Stadium (2006; 46,700): 3,407,104 (91.2%)
CitizensBank Park (2004; 43,647): 3,250,092 (91.9%)
PetCo Park (2004; 42,500): 3,016,752 (87.6%)
Great American Ballpark (2003; 42,271): 2,355,259 (68.8%)
PNC Park (2001; 38,362): 2,464,870 (79.3%)
Miller Park (2001; 41,900): 2,811,041 (82.8%)
Minute Maid Park (2000; 40,963): 3,056,139 (92.1%)
Comerica Park (2000; 40,120): 2,438,617 (75.0%)
AT&T Park (2000; 41,600): 3,318,800 (98.5%)
SafeCo Field (1999; 47,447): 2,916,346 (Kingdome/SafeCo)
Chase Field (1998; 49,033): 3,610,290 (90.9%)
Turner Field (1997; 50,096): 3,464,488 (85.4%)
Coors Field (1995; 50,000): 3,390,037 (94.2%; 72 games)
Ballpark in Arlington (1994; 49,170): 2,503,198 (80.8%; 63 games)
Progressive Field (1994; 43,405): 1,995,174 (90.1%; 51 games)
Oriole Park (1992; 45,971): 3,567,819 (95.8%)
U.S. Cellular Field (1991; 44,000 original): 2,934,154 (82.3%)

Peralta (AP / Wilfredo Lee):

Marlins Park:

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Ross B says: September 6, 2012

    Even though it won’t show up in any box score, I feel the way Peralta was able to handle the fact that Angel Hernandez was not calling the low strike needs to be mentioned. If that wasn’t the case, I really feel that Peralta would have easily had a 6 or 7 K outing with how effective he was without that call.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: September 6, 2012

      This is an interesting observation, Ross. I am anxiously awaiting the pitch f/x details form yesterday’s start to see how the strike zone turned out.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Chris says: September 6, 2012

    Contemporary professional sports certainly entertainment–and big dollar entertainment at that. But local governments support many forms of entertainment for citizens because having concert venues and museums is considered a public good and enrichment for the populace. If seen in that way, funding the local stadium isn’t all that different than funding a performing arts center. Instead of team ownership turning a profit through a pro sport, concert promoters and raking in dollars by using a municipality constructed a facility to attract major musical acts. In each case the business needs to rent the facility, and in each case there is money for the private entity to make.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: September 6, 2012

      I agree to some extent, although I’d be interested to see how the profit margins differ between professional sports franchises and concert venues (or other performance arts spaces). In a lot of cases, there are performance arts spaces that actual serve communities with non-for-profit operations. While there are certainly good deeds that sports teams provide for their communities, I suspect that sports franchises are also much more profitable than other performance endeavors.

      I also wonder whether symphonies or concert promoters receive the kind arrangements that sports owners frequently receive. It’s one thing to note that sports venues provide some goods to the community, but it’s quite another to provide those franchises with the extreme property breaks, tax breaks, and rent breaks they receive in many cases.

      Thanks as always for thought-provoking comments!

    • Bob says: September 7, 2012

      I’ve never before seen the comparison of a non-for-profit organization (such as the local museum or community PAC) recieving government assistance and a for-profit organization (such as a sports team). There is a very large difference in the revenue generated by these two different types of business, and a very large difference in the potential to earn a profit. Museums and the like are supported by government because it is unlikely that they will be profitable enough to remain open otherwise. Sports, on the other hand, generate enough profit to remain in business without governmental aid.

      The argument for government support of stadiums always falls back to the stance that it increases tax revenue generated by local businesses because sports fans spend money in places other than strictly at the game. While this is probably true in the immediate vacinity of the stadium, I doubt the size of the effect on the regional economy.

      • Ross B says: September 7, 2012

        I think the impact depends on the ability to draw in tourists from outside of driving distance. Lambeau Field props of the entire NE WI economy due to the number of people who fly in for games that a good number of people end up staying in Appleton or other areas besides GB. I don’t see a baseball or basketball stadium having quite the same effect since there are so many games that it isn’t that difficult to find a hotel near the stadium. For example, I went down to STL with some friends last summer for a Brewers Cards game and we found a half dozen hotels within walking distance of Busch Stadium with openings.

      • Nicholas Zettel says: September 7, 2012

        There are some studies by economists that suggest that stadiums are not any better at generating tax revenue or providing jobs or serving entertainment needs than other venues — I think it was the Baseball-Prospectus book that mentioned one particular study of spending trends during the MLB strike, for instance. Studies during that time period showed that baseball fans would readily spend their entertainment money elsewhere.

        Ross, I agree with your Lambeau example, although I’d argue that Lambeau is probably an exception to the rule. How many stadiums boast connection to more than 30 years of sports experience (hell, 50-60 years, for that matter) and a league-founding franchise? Granted, the Pack did a really smart thing in using the renovation to turn parts of the stadium (the atrium, for instance) into a year-round destination. I remember the days when Lambeau didn’t look like anything more than metal and concrete.

      • Nicholas Zettel says: September 7, 2012

        BTW, I would love to have the opportunity to do a detailed study of stadium tax revenue generated vs. civic perks provided to stadiums. So many municipalities give owners tax breaks, property appraisal breaks, etc., that a significant portion of the potential tax benefits are cut off from the start. Hell, some new stadiums are practically built on free land; the worst part is, those types of benefits are almost never calculated into the public burden (that allowed NYC’s mayor, for instance, to champion his city’s ability to have two new ballparks that did not depend on public money, even though land appraisals and other significant tax breaks helped those clubs build their parks. It’s ridiculous!)

        • Ross B says: September 7, 2012

          It is actually quite common for a government to give tax breaks, usually property tax, to any business that is willing to build a new facility or relocate. They base it on the lost revenue should be made up in higher property taxes down the road on a brand new facility compared to what was on the land before as well as the additional jobs brought to the are for the construction and running of the facility should increase sales tax collections over what would be expected.

        • Nicholas Zettel says: September 10, 2012

          Ross, I think you provide good reason for some tax breaks, but overall, new stadiums often feature large collections of benefits beyond those tax breaks. It’s for that reason that I question the ability of sports stadiums to actually benefit the municipalities that bend over backwards to fund them.


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