To experience the crack of a bat in person and the return of Major League Baseball, you’ll need to purchase a ticket. The typical nine-inning game takes about three hours and features 4.5 runs scored. Since baseball is (typically) not a high-scoring sport, you may be wondering about the true value of your ticket before settling into your seat under the hot summer sun, despite the fact that there are other opportunities for action and excitement during the course of those nine innings.
Home runs are always exhilarating to watch, but in 2018, the MLB’s 30 clubs only hit an average of a little more than one home run per game. This leaves plenty of opportunity for teams to “stuff the stat sheet” and get fans on their feet. As shown in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 2015 American League Division Series, small ball, in which teams prioritize getting runners on base and moving them over and in, can produce thrilling moments as well.
We analyzed the ticket pricing of every MLB team, the amount of action each team’s fans can expect to witness, and the return on investment (ROI) of attending a baseball game.
From 2014 to 2018, we analyzed which team had the most thrilling matchups. In this category, the Kansas City Royals rank first thanks to their recent success with stolen bases (117 in 2018; 45 by Whit Merrifield, who led the league in stolen bases and hits) and their history of success in the postseason (two trips to the World Series in 2014 and 2015).
After the Royals come the Toronto Blue Jays, who made the playoffs twice in 2015 and 2016 before losing in the AL Championship Series both times, and the Seattle Mariners, who haven’t made the postseason since 2001 despite driving in a league-high 768 runs in 2016.
The Boston Red Sox represent the opposite extreme of the spectrum. While they did win the World Series in 2018, their entire performance was only satisfactory. The Los Angeles Dodgers are also not particularly high, and their numbers aren’t particularly great or particularly bad.
Maximizing Your Ticket’s Worth
Here, we evaluated 2018 ticket costs to determine which teams offer the most value per ticket (i.e., which teams deliver the most activity for the money). Arizona Diamondbacks supporters had the most bang for their buck, with a high ratio of activity minutes to ticket costs, while Chicago Cubs fans got the least bang for their buck.
After trading Zack Greinke to the Astros, the Diamondbacks have the budget flexibility to add young talent and power bats to their already potent roster for the 2019 season. But the Cubs’ recent success, which includes their first World Series title in almost a century in 2016, suggests that interest from fans may increase this year.
Keep in mind that it’s not just home runs and RBIs that get fans excited; great pitching, especially from strikeout specialists, may do the trick. The Astros were the worst team in terms of value, but they featured Gerrit Cole, who struck out the most batters per nine innings, in their starting rotation. Fans of the Washington Nationals saw a similarly low return on investment, but the team included Max Scherzer, who led the majors with 300 strikeouts.
How Much Longer?
Statistics on the Average Length of MLB Games
Each season, MLB games have gotten longer on average. In the 1920s, a nine-inning game typically lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes on average. In 1937, it was two hours; by the mid-1950s, it had risen to 2.5 hours; and by the mid-1980s, it had dropped to two hours and 40 minutes. Games today typically take over three hours, and as the duration of these games grows, the less exciting they can become.
When we looked at each team individually, we found that in 2018, the longest games on average were played by the Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Tigers of Detroit, however, played the shortest games on average in the majors at 2 hours, 56 minutes, beating out the Pirates, the Blue Jays, the Rangers, and the Padres, all of whom played games that lasted under three hours.
The MLB has made consistent attempts to reduce the length of games in order to increase excitement and competition. Recent rule modifications, like as reducing the number of mound visits teams are allowed during a game, have helped to shorten game times, but other rules may be on the way. Will Major League Baseball games ever go back to being 2.5 hours or less in length? Although it’s unlikely, it’s feasible that a few minutes could be cut here and there in order to accommodate those who want more action and less idle.
Rising Ticket Prices
From 1994 through 2019, average American League ticket pricesFrom 1994 through 2019, average National League ticket prices
The price of tickets rose gradually but steadily toward the end of the twentieth century. Ticket costs began to diverge widely from team to team around the year 2000. In 1999, for instance, Cardinals games at Busch Stadium cost about $16.50, while Bronx Bombers games cost more over $23.
After the turn of the century, ticket prices for Chicago Cubs games skyrocketed, and they still rank among the most expensive in the country (which is not surprising, given that the Cubs have the highest FCI in the majors). Arizona, which debuted as an expansion team in 1998, has maintained a low price point from its inception, with ticket prices ranging from $16.58 in 1999 to $20.86 in 2019. Ticket prices for the Astros have increased from $13 in 1999 to over $50 in 2019.
How Much Does a Baseball Game Really Mean?
Baseball games are expensive to attend, especially at the major league level and in large markets or for teams that have recently seen success. Attending a baseball game isn’t simply about the pitcher’s record (shutouts, complete games, no-hitters, strikeouts, stolen bases, home runs, grand slams, etc.) or the hitter’s record (home runs, stolen bases, etc.). It’s true that going to a Major League Baseball game is more enjoyable when your team is doing well, but there’s something truly special about sitting in a stadium, sun or stars shining, and seeing one of your favorite hobbies up close and personal.
Approach and Restrictions
R’s ggplot2 and dplyr packages were used for preliminary data exploration and visualization. Leaflet was used to generate the ticket price map, which is now available as a sleek app. We accessed studies on action durations published in the Wall Street Journal in 2010 and 2013 through the National Arms Race weblog. Doug Pappas’s Business of Baseball blog was scraped for pricing information from 1950 to 2004, and UC Berkeley’s data science was mined for 2017 pricing information; the original source, Team Marketing Report, is behind a paywall. We also incorporated information from Baseball Reference, obtained through the baseballr R package, and the Lahman Baseball Database, obtained through the lahman R package.
The majority of the data was processed in a program using dplyr, and the code and results can be found in a Github repository. Since some clubs have been added to the MLB or have changed location and name since 1950, we revised the map of ticket prices to reflect these changes in latitude, longitude, and team names, using the Wikipedia Timeline of MLB History as a guide.
Declaration of Fair Use
By allowing you to reproduce any of the photos or editorial from this post on your own site for personal use, we intend to increase the article’s return on investment for viewers. In order to give our authors proper recognition and to optimize their own return on investment, we ask that you provide a link back to this page.