The NL West has featured some of the more interesting pennant races in recent memory, mainly centered around the Rockies amazing comebacks in 2007 and 2009 to snag Wild Card spots.
The year 2010 is no different, as the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies are all within two games of each other entering today.
This race has only really become a race in the past month, as for much of the year, the San Diego Padres seemed to be a foregone conclusion to win the NL West. Yet a huge losing streak by the Padres matched by another September surge by the Rockies has made it a race. Here are the relative standings the NL West over the past 30 days.
(Note that the Padres have a straight line because they are the division leader. Thus they are 'zero games behind the leader' for that period.)
The surges by both the Giants and Rockies have been amazing, especially since the Rockies were 11 games out 30 days ago.
Day by day and game by game, the Rockies and Giants crept closer (of course, aided by the Padres ten-game losing streak). So I wondered what impact this race and the surges by the Rockies and Giants, who I should note are the leader right now, had on the ticket prices of the NL West teams.
Here are the Average Ticket Prices over that same 30-day span.
This chart is a little more volatile than the leaderboard. The Giants ticket prices are the easiest to explain. Except for a recent slide, which will probably be evened out, the Giants have very much mirrored their team's performance.
Since September 1st, the Giants have had a five-game turnaround to become the new divison leader.
They have been consistently good since that date and it's no surprise that same date marked the start of a prolonged increase in ticket prices, which have gone up $15 and remained fairly stable, as the Giants have finished chasing and now passing the Padres.
The Rockies and Padres aren't as easily explained. San Diego's prices, after their 10-game losing streak, have been extremely volatile since, while Colorado's ticket prices barely started increased.
Why did these teams' performances not affect their ticket prices, like the Giants did? The answer is within the games.
Let's start with the Padres, the team in free fall, whose prices would fall along with their standing.
What is interesting to note is that the prices of all remaning home games until the end of the season do not reflect how the Padres current standings. Yet they relate more to whom the Padres face.
Excluding their last series against the Cubs, the Phillies and Reds commanded the highest average ticket prices paid by Padres fans. What do both the Phillies and Reds have in common?
They are the leaders in the NL East and Central and are possible playoff opponents for the Padres.
San Diego were up by six games when they faced the Philies, although their losing streak started before then; their series against the Rockies followed when the Padres were up by five games. Yet there is a noticeable difference between in ticket prices for each series.
Padres fans clearly wanted to see a possible playoff preview and were willing to pay for it.
In a tight pennant race, against a division rival, the Padres fans didn't pay as much as they did to see the Phillies.
San Diego fans seem more interested in watching prospective playoff opponents than games that decide if their team will even make the playoffs.
The Rockies' fans are not enamored by the prospect of seeing potential playoff teams, and there is a simple explanation: Colorado probably won't make the playoffs, especially after facing the Reds.
The Rockies weren't even that excited to play the Padres, as they had to first beat the Giants to get to the Padres.
What is strange is that the games that command the highest ticket prices are against the Giants and Dodgers—two divisional rivals. Another interesting aspect of the fans' mindset is how each franchise made the playoffs in recent seasons.
The Rockies have been there twice in the past three years, so their fans might not mind an off year, which shows in their reluctance to pay top dollar for games against playoff-caliber teams, and their willingness to pay for games against divisional opponents who won't make it (Arizona, LA).
The Padres made the playoffs in 2005, 2006, and lost a one-game playoff in 2007. Their fans are itching for them to return to the postseason, which shows in their willingness to pay for games against playoff-caliber teams, inlcuding matchups with playoff implications.
Finally, there are the Giants fans, who have pretty much followed the rise of their team: paying higher prices as their team gets closer and closer to making the playoffs.
The Giants haven't made the playoffs since 2004, and haven't been higher than third since 2005, so it makes sense that their interest in the team (and therefore willingness to pay higher prices) rise and fall with their team's performance.
Fans aren't always built the same way. Much of their interest in each game, especially in a 162-game season, is very volatile and depends on their team's standings.
By looking at the 2010 NL West race, it's clear that Padres fans are happy to be in good standing, and are experienced enough to start scouting possible opponents for the postseason.
Rockies fans, now used to this late surge, won't be swayed by the opponent and want to see the divisional rivals; Giants fans are desperate for serious September baseball with playoff implications.
Do you agree with these findings of each teams' fanbase? Is this trend in other teams? Feel free to share your thoughts. Comment below or chime in on Twitter at @SeatGeek. 'Till next time.
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