NL Central Payrolls and Attendance Figures

I noticed on Bob Smizik’s Post-Gazette site this morning that Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs has given this estimate of the Opening Day payrolls for the Pirates and the rest of the National League Central Division:

St. Louis: $108.5 million

Cincinnati:  $106 million

Milwaukee:  $100.5 million

Chicago:  $89 million

Pittsburgh:  $71.5 million

Here are the attendance figures for the NL Central teams over the last five seasons:


St. Louis 3,369,769

Chicago 2,642,682

Milwaukee 2,531,105

Cincinnati 2,492,059

Pittsburgh 2,256,862


St. Louis 3,262,109

Chicago 2,882,756

Milwaukee  2,831,385

Cincinnati 2,347,251

Pittsburgh  2,091,918


St. Louis 3,093,954

Milwaukee  3,071,373

Chicago  3,017,966

Cincinnati  2,213,588

Pittsburgh  1,940,429


St. Louis 3,301,218

Chicago  3,062,973

Milwaukee  2,776,531

Cincinnati  2,060,550

Pittsburgh  1,613,399


St. Louis  3,343,252

Chicago  3,168,859

Milwaukee  3,037,451

Cincinnati  1,747,919

Pittsburgh  1,577,853

5-Year Total:

St. Louis  16,370,302

Chicago  14,775,236

Milwaukee  14,247,845

Cincinnati  10,861,367

Pittsburgh  9,480,461

It should also be noted that the Reds television market is much larger than the Pirates market. Cincinnati’s market includes Columbus, Louisville, and Nashville. The Pirates market does not include any metropolitan areas that come close to the sizes of those cities.

***** Boldly posting facts at the risk of being called a “Nutting Regime Propaganda Machine” site. *****







179 thoughts on “NL Central Payrolls and Attendance Figures

  1. And just important as the attendance figures is ticket price. The most up-to-date numbers I’ve seen are from April 2013 with MLB rank in parentheses.

    Chicago $44.55 (3rd)
    St Louis $33.11 (6th)
    Milwaukee $24.95 (17th)
    Cincinnati $21.35 (23rd)
    Pittsburgh $17.21 (28th)

    Average MLB $27.73

    Average ticket prices do not include premium seats (i.e. luxury boxes, etc) .

    St Louis has 50% higher payroll than Pittsburgh with 50% higher attendance and 90% higher ticket prices. Their owners must be cheaper than Nutting.

    • Using last years attendance and the ticket prices I referenced, below are ticket revenues (w/o luxury boxes):

      Chicago $114.7 million
      St Louis $111.5 million
      Milwaukee $63.1 million
      Cincinnati $53.2 million
      Pittsburgh $38.8 million

      • I did something like this myself and those are pretty similar to the numbers I got. I extended it a bit farther and was curious how well things such as ticket revenue, metro population, team value and estimated TV deal correlated with payroll. Now of course my numbers were just estimates but below is what I got.

        Metro Pop: 51%
        TV Deal: 61%
        Ticket Revenue: 73%
        Team Value: 82%
        Ticket Revenue + TV Deal: 82%

        It was a bit of a crude exercise but I think it gets the point across that revenue is the big driver of payroll. I then derived an equation from the best one which was Ticket Revenue + TV Deal and created a formula to calculate expected 2013 payroll. The Pirates expected payroll was 74.1 million and they finished 2013 at 74.6 million.

        Now this was very rough math I did with a bunch of approximations and I’ll admit I didn’t try to refine my formula too exactly (I was really just going for a rough figure) but it give me a solid base. So basically what I’m trying to say is that my methodology has a ton of flaws but even with them it seems reasonable to suggest the Pirates operated at a reasonable payroll level in 2013.

        Now as for 2014 that is far less certain. The one data point I like is the Kansas City Royals. They are extremely similar to the Pirates in a lot of ways including attendance, estimated TV deal, franchise value plus they are coming off a good season after being bad for a long stretch. They are operating on a 90 million dollar payroll and are saying they are above their break even point.

        To me this seems to suggest a team like the Pirates could reasonably spend somewhere in the mid-80s and break even. Well if we take the above number, count in the prorated part of bonuses and add on the 12 million they offered AJ the Pirates total would be about 85 million which is right in line with what seems to be a reasonable figure.

        So yes the team is operating under its payroll maximum right now but that is because it rightly or wrongly held funds for AJ after failing to land Josh Johnson and/or James Loney.

        • I think the comparison to the Royals is accurate. And I agree that the Pirates seemed willing to go $85 million, given the offer to Burnett. Thanks for doing the math on revenues and payroll.

          I find it hard to say what payroll should be for any team, since we don’t know the total expenses and total revenues.

    • How dare you suggest that payroll should be based on revenue.

      I’d bet that those who complain the loudest about the Pirates payroll would be the most unwilling to pay $27.73 major league average ticket price.

      • I’m pretty sure about that. I wonder how many even attend games. Or contribute any revenue.

        I am a partial season (20 game) ticket holder. I usually attend between 5 and 10 more games than those in my season ticket package also. I have never heard anyone @ PNC suggest they would be willing to pay 50% more for their tickets to accommodate a higher payroll.

        It has been very vocal around Pittsburgh this offseason that the fans did their part last year and the Pirates aren’t increasing payroll enough. However people showed up on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for 2/3 of the season. There were a whole lot of empty seats Monday thru Thursday all year and even on the weekends at the beginning of the year. For all the talk of fan support, every division team out drew the Pirates. And that is with bottom $ ticket prices. I do not see how that is going to constitute some huge increase in payroll.

        I enjoyed watching a winning team last year (from great seats directly behind home plate in the upper level); especially since I could afford 4 tickets so my family could see that great season unfold. I was able to add 2 seats last year (from the 2 I had previous years) for my kids because the Pirates discount children seats in certain sections by almost 40%. I got to see the greatest Pirates season in over 20 years with my Dad and my 8 year old and 5 year old last year. All because of that low average ticket price. (Cheap Nutting!)

        I hope they keep the payroll as low as possible while fielding a winning / playoff contending team. As long as they are winning, all an inflated payroll is going to do is increase ticket prices. And the complainers aren’t going to buy those tickets anyway.

        • Totally agree man. I was a full season ticket holder and it was pathetic to see so many open seats through the week and even on weekends at he beginning of the season. I was one of 3 people in my section when King Felix pitched. How sad is that. I had seats in section 26. It was awesome to buy season tickets for he first time and have them make the playoffs. I wish I could have renewed this year too.

  2. The Reds TV market does not extend to Nashville. It does extend to Lexington, but to say they have a larger TV market than the Pirates is not true. They have a deal with Fox Sports Ohio which has 5 million subs. However, a large part of Fox Sports Ohio (lncluding some of the Columbus market) fall within the area that Cleveland maintains exclusive rights. Reds games are blacked out in those areas. You can basically divide FoxSports Ohio in half to get the sub base that get Reds TV broadcasts. ROOT sports Pittsburgh with 2.5 million subs is basically the same size. As for ticket price, of course fans would have sticker shock if ticket prices were drastically raised. That is why putting such poor product on the field for so long hurts revenue now. They were so bad for so long that they went 10 years without raising ticket prices. Had they had just one or two good seasons in the 10 years after moving into PNC they would have ticket prices in the range that the Reds do.

  3. The reality of the PBC is that this team need NOT spend greatly more “mula” to stay competitive, for apparently years to come. For example…..

    Taillon and Polanco. They’ll immeasurably help this team, in 2014 and beyond. Their salaries will be nominal, and allow the team to offset it’s 2013 salaries to AJ and Byrd.

    T. Sanchez and Kingham in 2015 will reduce the team’s salaries currently paid to Liriano and Martin. Of course, the team will pay increasing salaries to regulars such as Walker, Pedro, Cutch and Marte. Let’s consider the 2015 salary scale basically a wash, give or take a few million.

    I’d be seriously content if the PBC pays roughly a similar salary (+/- 10M) over the next several years, as the team improves from within. The hue and cry from the “cheap seats to spend more and more” disregards the best talent pool available i this sport, and that is from our very own farm system.

    • The Pirates are in position to be consistent contenders without having to spend like other contenders. They don’t need to just have a “window of opportunity” and then blow it up and rebuild. They’ll need to keep the farm system stocked with talent, even while they are drafting near the bottom of the first-round. Some will complain, but they can do that by trading players like Alvarez prior to their final arbitration year – just like the Rays did with James Shields and Matt Garza.

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