Apr 22 2014, 6:51pm CDT | by Forbes
Now about three weeks into the MLB schedule, teams have begun to establish their identities. At this point last year, the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Pirates had all gotten out to fast starts, announcing their presence to the league as competitive teams despite lower expectations heading into the season. All four teams would go on to make the playoffs, with the Red Sox eventually winning the World Series. Contrarily, teams such as the LA Angels and Washington Nationals stumbled a bit out of the gate, and eventually faded out of contention by the summer months. Typically, performance out of line with expectations will begin to have an effect on ticket prices around this time of the year. Unexpectedly good teams will start to show price increases, while teams failing to live up to expectations will exhibit some decline. So far this season there has been no bigger surprise across baseball than the Milwaukee Brewers, and it shows in secondary market ticket pricing.
At 15-5, the Brewers currently hold the best record in either league. Fans in Milwaukee have taken notice, as tickets on the Brewers schedule have seen the largest price increases in baseball. On April 1, Brewers tickets carried an average price of $78.55 on the secondary market. Now three weeks later, they have shown an increase in price of 19.27% and currently check in at an average of $93.69. This figure puts the Brewers firmly within the top third of ticket prices across baseball, whereas back on April 1 they were squarely in the middle of the pack. While it is highly unlikely they will ever match the prices of tickets on the Red Sox schedule or Yankees schedule, Brewers tickets now have prices similar to Giants tickets and Cubs tickets, two teams with devoted fan bases that have been entrenched among the highest priced tickets for a number of years. This is no small accomplishment.
Joining the Brewers with surprisingly fast starts out of the gate are the Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics. Although not exactly taking anyone by surprise in the same manner that they did last year, these two teams were not expected to lead their divisions again this season. After seeing each of these teams win 96 games a year ago, Las Vegas still set win totals for the Braves and Athletics at 86.5 and 87.5 for 2014. Both teams seem once again poised to reward bettors that took the over. The Braves currently boast the best run differential in the National League at +25, and have allowed the fewest runs in all of baseball despite a pitching staff that lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy for the season to Tommy John surgery, and has been without ace Mike Minor to this point. This relatively unexpected early success has led to an increase in Braves tickets from the April 1 average of $69.57 to today’s average of $69.57, a premium of 1.07%. Across the country in Oakland, the A’s are the only team in baseball with a run differential better than the Braves, currently at +31. They too have done it on the strength of pitching, with their 59 runs allowed thus far being the lowest in the American League. As a result of their success last season, A’s tickets were already up 10% over 2013 at the start of the season. Thanks to their fast start this year, they have been able to hold onto that premium.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Diamondbacks are perhaps the most disappointing team in baseball thus far. With a preseason Vegas win total of 80, Arizona was expected to be competitive this season and give the Dodgers a run for the NL West crown. Up to this point, however, the Diamondbacks have been the single worst team in baseball, running up an abysmal -55 run differential and 5-17 record, both league worsts. The Diamondbacks have been featured on the Dodgers schedule six times this season and to date have a 1-5 record against their divisional rivals. As a result, Diamondbacks tickets have dropped -2.75%, to an average of $63.18 after opening the season at $64.97 on April 1. Of course, this decline leaves a lot of room for upward mobility. Perhaps the Diamondbacks, who still have a fairly talented roster, are just setting the stage to exceed expectations and be among the biggest risers for the second-half of the season.
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