Preview: Game #161, Diamondbacks vs. Nationals

Christian Petersen

Penultimate game of the year: Arizona needs to win today to have any chance of finishing above .500. But what has this season's mediocrity done for attendance?

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Dan Haren
RHP, 9-14, 4.87
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Brandon McCarthy
RHP, 5-10, 4.64

Diamondbacks line-up

  1. Adam Eaton, CF
  2. Gerardo Parra, RF
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Martin Prado, LF
  5. Miguel Montero, C
  6. Matt Davidson, 3B
  7. Chris Owings, 2B
  8. Didi Gregorius, SS
  9. Brandon McCarthy, P

With two games left, the D-backs have had 2,074,702 through the turnstiles at Chase Field, which is down about 56,000 in total on last year, about 700 per game. While initially disappointing, that kinda makes sense: ticket sales last year will have been boosted by the performance of the 2011 team, which came within a FedEx envelope's thickness of a NLCS berth. There was no such impetus going in to this winter, and it was clear that attendance would suffer as a result. For a better comparison, we should probably find another teams who reached the division series in 2011, failed to make the post-season last year or this, and see how their crowds have changed.

So, how have things been in Philadelphia? Like us, they were knocked out in the NLDS in 2011, then ended 2012 with 81 wins, so you might expect a similar kind of pattern of attendance foreshadowing for 2013. However, crowds there have cratered, off by more than 550,000 or 6,800 per game. That's the second-largest drop in all baseball, ahead of only the woeful Marlins, whose new stadium honeymoon lasted no time at all, and are down over 8,000 each time they play in their taxpayer funded accommodations. Admittedly, the Phillies have been worse than Arizona this year - likely around 73 wins - but that's a hell of a drop, even if they will still draw more than three million.

Indeed, even the Brewers, who beat us in 2011, then regressed close to .500 last season, have been hurt much worse than the Diamondbacks, losing 3,700 per game, though again, they're going to end the year well below .500. On that basis, the losses at Chase seem kinda manageable, especially considering that overall attendance across all of baseball is down by 432 per game, not radically better than here in Arizona. Overall, the team's ranking dipped from 19th to 21st, so there's no room for complacency, and there did seem to be an awful lot of "specials" available this year. But I get the feeling that winning drives attendance here, more than in franchises with longer tenure.

This evening sees Brandon McCarthy finish out the season, and he has kinda been finishing the season as he opened it: allowing a crap-ton of hits, though not as many have been converted into runs as you'd expect. Normally, if you allow opposing hitters to bat .367, as he has done in the past three games, you'd expect worse than a 4.50 ERA. However, McCarthy hasn't allowed a walk in that time, helping minimize the damage: the last time any D-back had a longer streak of walkless starts was 2005, when Javier Vazquez went seven.. McCarthy came close, with one walk over his last six, covering 42 innings - and, ironically, that was to Matt Cain!

That level of control is certainly good to see, and if McCarthy's BABIP (.386 over the last three games) regresses to normal. the hits should decrease as well. It has been six games since a D-backs starter got the W, so I'm hoping McCarthy and Wade Miley can finish strong and give us something good as our last memories of the 2013 season.

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