How Long Will The “5-Win Pass” Last?

The Padres new “5-Win Pass” has already been thoroughly critiqued at other Padres blogs, like Gwynntelligence and Gaslamp Ball, and even somewhat at the Union-Tribune, so I won’t get too into its overall shortcomings here. In short, among all the new innovative, month-long ticket promotions across MLB, the Padres plan has the worst value and strangely incentivizes fans to root for the Padres to lose.

But, if you’re still thinking about buying in, how long should you expect the promotion to last? The kicker, remember, is that it ends once the Padres win five games at home. As others have noted, this promotion is for the month of June, when the Padres are set to face the not-so-intimidating slate of the Rockies, Royals, Reds, Tigers, and Braves at home (with a single game against the Dodgers).

I used the Log5 method, popularized by Bill James many years ago, to estimate the Padres chances of winning each game. Instead of using straight winning percentage or even an adjusted winning percentage, I used Baseball Propsectus’ rest-of-the-season winning percentage for each team. This should give us a better estimate of each team’s true talent level, instead of relying on the relatively small sample of the season’s first month and a half. I also included home field advantage into the formula, since the home team in baseball wins about 54 percent of the time.

Here’s the Padres expected winning percentage against each team in June:

By this method, the Padres are actually favorites against three of the teams, and they’re pretty close against two of the others. Obviously these don’t include specific pitcher vs. pitcher matchups, and if you did it by straight or adjusted winning percentage, you’d get less favorable expected winning percentages for the Padres. But the point here is that this is a group of bad teams overall, and that the Padres—as bad as they are—should be expected to be somewhat competitive with all of them, particularly the Royals, Reds, and Braves, which were all expected cellar-dweller types coming into the season.

Now, by simply adding up the expected win share for each game, I figure that this promotion should end, on average, after the 10th home game of the month, the Friday night game against the Tigers. Of course, it could end after nine games or 11 games, or five games or 16 games; baseball is unpredictable like that. We’re simply coming up with a best guess. Just for comparison, the Padres won their fifth home game in April after just seven games, but have only won four home games in May in 14 tries.

In this scenario, you’d be able to attend 10 games for $99 dollars, or about 10 bucks a game. It’s a good deal, sure, but the average person that buys into this promotion can’t be expected to attend every home game. Maybe they get to six or seven of those first 10 games, and then all of the sudden it’s like $16 a ticket. Again, an okay deal, but nothing special given the seat quality and typical selling price of tickets in the allotted section.

During losing seasons like this one, the Padres should try everything to get people into the ballpark. For one, it extends an olive branch, so to speak, to loyal fans in downtrodden times. Also, more fans equals more beer and food and merchandise sales, and just a better ballpark experience overall. Further, and perhaps most important, allowing people to get into the park at a super reasonable rate would help build new fans altogether, meaning a bigger fan base by the time the team is good again. There’s no reason why the Padres couldn’t have done a similar deal, just without the 5-win catch.

It’s still not a bad promotion, per se, but given what the rest of the league is coming up with, it leaves a lot to be desired.

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