PNC PARK – If nothing else, I’ve learned this this week the people of western Pennsylvania are really interested in Gerrit Cole.
You’ve probably read that the Pirates sold 12,000 tickets in a three-day period when it was announced Cole was starting Tuesday’s game, the major league debut of the Pirates’ top prospect.
The ticket spike associated with Cole’s start (spike meaning the attendance of his Tuesday start compared to the following Wednesday attendance), was a 34.9 percent difference in ticket sales, even greater than that of Stephen Strasburg‘s debut in 2010 (32.5 percent).
There are a lot of variables that go into ticket sales, like the Groupon.com sale Tuesday, promotions, weather, etc. But I wanted to go beyond ticket sales and see what the Pirates’ television ratings were for Tuesday’s game.
Gerrit Cole is a Yankees fan and brought this sign to a game as youngster. Really. That’s him, apparently. What we can learn from Cole and the Yankees this season, is fans don’t just want production they want entertainment.
Get this: no local-market Pirates’ game played before July had ever received a higher rating than Tuesday’s, a 10.06 Nielsen rating according to ROOT Sports GM Shawn McClintock.
Cole’s start was the eighth-most watched, local-market Pirates telecast since records began being kept in the mid 1990s.
McClintock said it was a 25 percent ratings spike.
Pirates fans wanted to see Cole pitch and for good reason: he’s got a ton of promise and he lit up the radar gun, his fastball averaging 96. 1 mph.
It shows us something else that should be more apparent to owners: people don’t just want to watch a winning team, they want to be entertained.
The Yankees are winning this year more than they did last year, but their ratings and attendance are down, because stars like Derek Jeter and lightning rod Alex Rodriguez are down.
We want to see the radar gun lit up. We want to see home runs travel 450+ feet. We want to see sub 4.0 second home to first speed. We want to see unusual talent, which is what Cole possesses.
Let’s say Cole sold an extra 10,000 tickets at $20 a pop plus an extra $20 in concessions Tuesday. That’s a conservative $400,000 dollar bump. Plus, what is a ratings spike worth over the course of a season? Quite a bit in advertising rates I would imagine.
If Cole is worth an extra $400,000 every time he pitches, he’s adding $6.4 million in tickets/concession revenue over the course of a season, assuming he made 16 home starts and drew an extra 10,000 to the park.
Cole and the Yankees are proof: fans don’t just want winning, fans want to be entertained.
DID APPEL MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE?
Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan and CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported today that the Astros reached a deal with No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel. You might remember the Pirates drafted Appel 8th overall in 2012 but failed to sign him.
The Astros reportedly signed Appel for between $6.5 and $6 million. (Scott Boras agreeing to a below split deal? Wow. Slot was $7.8 million for the pick).
The Pirates offered Appel $3.3 million according to Heyman. Other reports had the Pirates offering Appel $3.8
Either way, Appel’s gamble to go back in the draft rewarded with about $3 million. I wouldn’t have advised it, but it worked out. … sort of.
Here’s the thing, though. Appel earned $3 million more in bonus money, but he also delayed his pro career by a year. He delayed arbitration by a year, and free agency by a year. What if that extra year of mileage results in injury a year before arbitration or free agency? Also, the Astros are his hometown club but they are much further from contention than the Pirates.
I think we are still a few years from learning of whether Appel’s risk will really yield a reward.
AROLDIS CHAMPMAN 2.0?
Pirates lefty reliever Justin Wilson showed even greater velocity in the 8th inning vs. the Dodgers today.
According to PitchFx he hit 99 mph three times and 100 mph once.
I know we’ve talked some here about whether Wilson should be a starter or reliever, long-term. For now, that arm looks pretty special in the back end of the bullpen.