Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Opening Day Payroll, Attendance, Starters & other cool stuff: 2016 Version


2015 opening day image via

2015 opening day image via

My recurring “Opening Day” trivia/useless information post.  Here was 2015’s version, 2014‘s and 2013.  Many of the below links are to Google XLS docs that i’ve updated for 2016 and which are available on the right hand side under “NatsArm Creations.”

Nats 2016 Opening day Payroll: $145,178,886 according to Cots.  This is down nearly $20M from last year’s figure.  We can only hope that Mike Rizzo will be allowed to “spend” that money later in the year at the trade deadline if this team actually needs to spend money to acquire helpful players.

My personal payroll estimate came in at $ $137,286,029 coincidentally; why am I $8M off?  Because Cots basically makes arbitrary proclamations of salary for current year when money is deferred whereas I’m counting it as real dollars.  So for example I’m charging the Nats payroll precisely $15M for Max Scherzer this year while Cots puts the figure north of $22M, and Cots puts all of Papelbon’s $3M deferred 2016 salary on the 2016 books.  So between those two players the entire delta is accounted for.

The question is this: as a Nats fan are you “happy” that your payroll is down nearly $20M in Stephen Strasburg‘s walk  year and while your Season Ticket prices continue to rise?


Opening Day Payroll; MLB

USAToday also publishes opening day salaries for teams and i’m convinced that they’re garbage.  I’ve got a comparison spreadsheet where i’ve put the USAtoday figures side-by-side with Cots’ analysis and for some teams they’re off by more than $25M.  The problem is that USAToday doesn’t count ANY payments handed to and from between teams, whereas Cots does a very detailed auditing of such money.

Nonetheless, here’s USAToday and Cots’ rankings for the 30 teams (this is my first time using this new Table plug in; head to Google XLS to read it if this is too difficult):

Cots RankUSA Today rankTeamOpening Day - USA TodayOpening Day - CotsDelta USAtoday-Cots
12Los Angeles Dodgers$221,288,380 $247,781,668 $26,493,288
21New York Yankees$222,997,792 $227,854,350 $4,856,558
33Detroit Tigers$194,876,481 $198,018,000 $3,141,519
44Boston Red Sox$188,545,761 $197,899,679 $9,353,918
56San Francisco Giants$172,253,778 $172,086,611 ($167,167)
67Chicago Cubs$154,575,168 $171,611,834 $17,036,666
713Los Angeles Angels$137,251,333 $164,673,333 $27,422,000
85Texas Rangers$186,038,723 $157,955,390 ($28,083,333)
98Baltimore Orioles$145,533,782 $147,693,713 $2,159,931
109St. Louis Cardinals$143,053,500 $145,553,500 $2,500,000
1111Washington Nationals$141,652,646 $145,178,886 $3,526,240
1210Seattle Mariners$141,683,339 $141,830,193 $146,854
1312Toronto Blue Jays$138,701,700 $136,782,027 ($1,919,673)
1414New York Mets$133,889,129 $135,188,085 $1,298,956
1515Kansas City Royals$131,487,125 $131,487,125 $0
1616Chicago White Sox$112,998,667 $114,498,667 $1,500,000
1717Colorado Rockies$112,645,071 $112,645,071 $0
1818Minnesota Twins$105,333,200 $105,333,700 $500
1920San Diego Padres$101,424,814 $100,759,500 ($665,314)
2019Pittsburgh Pirates$103,778,833 $99,945,500 ($3,833,333)
2123Arizona Diamondbacks$89,264,063 $98,172,683 $8,908,620
2221Houston Astros$94,893,700 $96,893,700 $2,000,000
2327Cleveland Indians$74,311,900 $96,304,400 $21,992,500
2422Cincinnati Reds$89,955,059 $89,871,228 ($83,831)
2525Philadelphia Phillies$83,980,000 $88,846,667 $4,866,667
2624Oakland Athletics$86,806,234 $86,806,234 $0
2729Atlanta Braves$69,005,791 $86,580,792 $17,575,001
2826Miami Marlins$77,314,202 $74,364,500 ($2,949,702)
2930Tampa Bay Rays$57,097,310 $66,681,991 $9,584,681
3028Milwaukee Brewers$69,282,737 $63,908,300 ($5,374,437)




Opening day Nats park attendance

Opening Day 2016 attendance was announced at 41,650.  That’s down more than 800 from last year (but still a sell-out).  Perhaps the rain forcast kept people away.   Here’s all our home openers in order with attendance, time of game, weather:

  • 2016: 41,650 (4:05 thursday game, 60 and 1.5hr rain delay)
  • 2015: 42,295 (4:05 monday game, 75 and gorgeous)
  • 2014: 42,834 (1:05 friday game, 50s and overcast)
  • 2013: 45,274 (1:05 monday game, 60 and beautiful)
  • 2012: 40,907 (1:05 thursday game 56, partly cloudy)
  • 2011: 39,055 (1:05 thursday game, 41 degrees and overcast)
  • 2010: 41,290 (1pm game monday, beautiful weather 80s and sunny): Phillies invasion
  • 2009: 40,386 (3pm game on a monday, chilly 53degr and overcast)
  • 2008: 39,389 (season and stadium opener), 8pm sunday night, Braves, nat’l tv clear but cold.
  • 2007: 40,389 (in rfk, 1pm game vs Florida, 72degrees
  • 2006: 40,516 (in rfk, tuesday day game vs Mets, 72degr and sunny)
  • 2005: 45,596 (in rfk, debut of entire franchise, 62degr and clear, evening game).

Here’s some attendance milestones for the franchise:

  • Nats park capacity for 2015 seems to still be 41,456 unless they announce an 2016 adjustment.
  • 2015’s opening day crowd wasn’t even close to 2013’s: 45,274.  That remains the regular season record attendance.
  • All time record attendance?  The ill-fated 2012 NLDS game 5: 45,966.
  • The first game in franchise history; 2005 in RFK: 45,596, which stood until the NLDS record-setting game.
  • The long-running regular season attendance record was the great Fathers day 2006 game in RFK against the Yankees: 45,157.  That record stood for more than 6 years.

Opening Day Box Scores and Results

Nats are just 4-8 in their home openers now since moving to Washington.  Just one guy has thrown more than one home opener for the Nats: Livan Hernandez When Livan gets elected to Cooperstown, I hope he’s wearing the curly W.  🙂

  • 2016: Marlins d Nats 6-4.  WP: David Phelps, LP Tanner Roark (Starters: Brian Conley and Roark).
  • 2015: Mets d Nats 3-1.  WP: Bartolo Colon.  LP: Max Scherzer
  • 2014: or  Braves d Nats 2-1.  WP: Luis Avilan.  LP: Tyler Clippard.  (Starters: Jordan Zimmermann and David Hale).
  • 2013: or  Nats d Marlins 2-0.  WP: Stephen Strasburg.  LP: Ricky Nolasco
  • 2012:  Nats d Reds 3-2.  WP: Craig Stammen. LP: Alfredo Simon (Starters: Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos)
  • 2011:  Braves d Nats 2-0.  WP: Derek Lowe.  LP: Livan Hernandez
  • 2010:  Phillies d Nats 11-1.  WP: Roy Halladay.  LP: John Lannan
  • 2009:  Phillies d Nats 9-8.  WP: Jamie Moyer.  LP: Saul Rivera (Nats Starter: Daniel Cabrera)
  • 2008:  Nats d Braves 3-2.  WP: Jon Rauch.  LP: Peter Moylan (Starters: Tim Hudson and Odalis Perez)
  • 2007:  Marlins d Nats 9-2.  WP: Dontrelle Willis.  LP: John Patterson
  • 2006:  Mets d Nats 7-1.  WP: Brian Bannister.  LP: Ramon Ortiz
  • 2005:  Nats beat Arizona 5-3. WP: Livan Hernandez. LP: Javier Vazquez

How about Season openers?

Record: 5-7.  # times home/away: 6 home, 6 away.

The Nats managed to lose 6 of their first 7 season openers … only winning in 2008 when debuting their new stadium.  And Jon Rauch did his darndest to blow that opener too, coughing up the lead in the 9th to give Ryan Zimmerman a chance at glory.

2016: away: Nats d Braves 4-3.  WP Treinen, LP O’Flarity (starters Scherzer, Teheran)
2015: home: Mets d Nats 3-1.  WP: Bartolo Colon.  LP: Max Scherzer
2014: away: Nats d Mets 9-7.  WP Aaron Barrett, LP Familia (starters Strasburg, Dillon Gee)
2013: home: Nats d Marlins 2-0.  WP: Stephen Strasburg.  LP: Ricky Nolasco
2012: away: Nats d Cubs 2-1.  WP Clippard, LP Marmol (starters: Strasburg and Ryan Dempster)
2011: home: Braves d Nats 2-0.  WP: Derek Lowe.  LP: Livan Hernandez
2010: home: Phillies d Nats 11-1.  WP: Roy Halladay.  LP: John Lannan
2009: away: Marlins d Nats 12-6.  WP: Nolasco, LP; Lannan
2008: home: Nats d Braves 3-2.  WP: Jon Rauch.  LP: Peter Moylan (Starters: Tim Hudson and Odalis Perez)
2007: home: Marlins d Nats 9-2.  WP: Dontrelle Willis.  LP: John Patterson
2006: away: Mets d Nats 3-2.  WP: Glavine, LP: Hernandez
2005: away: Phillies d Nats 8-4.  WP: Lieber, LP: Hernandez

Opening Day Starter Trivia

Here’s my Opening Day starters worksheet in Google docs.  Here’s the answer to some fun Opening Day Starter trivia:

  • Leader in Opening day starts: remains C.C. Sabathia with 11, though he’s missed the last two years.
  • Leader in consecutive opening day starts: Felix Hernandez, making his 8th consecutive, 9th overall.
  • Justin Verlander returned to Opening Day duties, getting his 8th career opening day start; he remains in 3rd place actively.
  • For the Nats; Max Scherzer gets his 2nd and Stephen Strasburg continues to have three.
  • Ten (10) pitchers made their first opening day start in 2016.
  • There’s 8 guys out there still active with 4 or more Opening Day starts who did not get them this year, and they include a number of former Aces who might be on the way out of the game (Tim Lincecum in particular, but also guys like James Shields, Bartolo Colon and Yovanni Gallardo)
  • The most ever?  Tom Seaver with 16.  The most consecutive?  Jack Morris with 14.



25 Responses to 'Opening Day Payroll, Attendance, Starters & other cool stuff: 2016 Version'

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  1. You neglected to mention that the team’s record on opening day is now an abysmal 4-8. I’ve been to six openers, including last year’s frustrating Desmond debacle, and am 2-4 in those games.

    No, I’m not happy that payroll is contracting while seat prices are rising. Others might be feeling the same way given that Sunday’s attendance was only 24,000. I think this is a key year in that regard. If the Nats miss the playoffs again and Strasburg walks, I think attendance is going to take a steep downturn, especially given how many of the “fans” I see at the ballpark arriving late, leaving early and fiddling with their phones the whole time.

    Karl Kolchack

    11 Apr 16 at 3:12 pm

  2. That’s a good point Karl; I have consciously noted that. I used to keep track of their record while I was in the stadium … it was also rather abysmal. But then again I was a STH from 2005-2008, so we saw a lotta losses.

    I’ll have to think about the openers i’ve gone to. We tried year after year to go but kinda gave up these past two years (kids).

    Todd Boss

    11 Apr 16 at 3:57 pm

  3. I dug back in the archives and cut-n-pasted and updated a full list of the home opener scores with links to boxes and WP/LP. Indeed: 4-8. We’re slightly better in Season openers (5-7)

    Todd Boss

    11 Apr 16 at 4:07 pm

  4. I think the payroll situation is actually encouraging, when you think about the uncertainty surrounding their tv revenue. With Angelos as their adversary, they are looking at continued difficulties stabilizing that number at a healthy rate, yet they are still top 10 or 11, and they tried to add a big ticket OF but were unsuccessful. Where else should they have spent it?

    I’d like to see Stras return, but we’ve talked about this: he has a chance to get a $200m contract with a great year, and probably a floor of $100m if he avoids a devastating injury and just has a bad year, so what does it take to make him walk away from that chance, and would you pay it right now if you were Rizzo? I think it takes $175m over 7 years, with an opt out after two or three, to sign Stras right now, and I wouldn’t do it.


    11 Apr 16 at 9:24 pm

  5. I think the payroll is fine. Leaves Rizzo with some dry powder to replace an injured guy. Plus, I can’t think of who we missed out on that I would have wanted to throw more money at.

    If anything the payroll should be $6mm lower by ditching Espy and Drew and playing Trea.

    Andrew R

    12 Apr 16 at 12:13 am

  6. You have to look at the payroll situation through the eyes of the casual fan–those who make up about half of the team’s attendance. They don’t know anything about the nuances of building a team. All they know is Z-nn walked, Strasburg may be walking and the team is very much at risk of losing Harper in three years yet ticket prices keep going up.

    Getting to the World Series would largely offset the loss of Strasburg in those fans’ eyes, but that will most likely require spending money around trading deadline time. Let’s see if Uncle Teddy and co. are actually willing to do it.

    Karl Kolchack

    12 Apr 16 at 1:21 am

  7. Money can’t buy you love. And spending money on guys who don’t really fit just to make a big splash hasn’t worked out so well for the Redskins (and many other teams). None of the big OF free agents really fit for the Nats, even though they flirted with all of them. None of the second-tier starters would have offered that much improvement on what the Nats already have and would have come at inflated prices. O’Day clearly would have been better than any of the bullpen arms the Nats did get, but his price went insanely high for a middle reliever. I also thought Zobrist would have been a good fit, but goodness, how can you argue about “ending up” with Murphy instead–for far less–at least so far? I don’t love the bang for the bucks they got for the bullpen, but they didn’t have a lot of choices on the market (which they seemed to acknowledge by also trading for Gott).

    So I don’t feel short-changed, at least while we sit at 4-1! (And watch the Mets looking a lot like the early season Nats of 2015.) And I feel good that we have some money in the bank for deadline deals and perhaps on account for the $40M/per that we’re going to be paying Bryce in three years.


    12 Apr 16 at 8:22 am

  8. Payroll: they certainly *tried* to increase payroll, losing out on a number of FA acquisition targets. Of course, as it turned out most of their losses were because of deferred payment issues … a clear sign to me that the MASN thing is dragging on and affecting their budgets.

    Karl is right: if you’re reading this, you’re likely more than a “casual fan.” So you understand the nuances of team building and player decisions moreso than a casual fan. Good GMs do not bottom out their team; they try to maintain a 90 win recurring playoff team knowing that anything can happen in the playoffs.

    Bigger concern to me: attendance last night: 18,119. Now, i get that its a monday, a school night in april. But it was awesome weather yesterday and the Nats’ ace was on the mound. Does this tell you something about a) the ST base right now or b) the overall level of interest in the team? 18k is a far cry from the robust mid 30k figures they’re used to. And you could tell on the TV broadcast; massive swaths of empty seats.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 16 at 9:03 am

  9. So, Strasburg leaves this off-season and we have like-for-like replacement with Giolito. They’ll still be fine in terms of SP; the rotation will be consistent. Now, if Roark needs replacing they can go find a 5th starter on the FA market and/or hope that someone like Cole or Voth actually turns into a MLB quality starter.

    But when Harper leaves….well you just can’t replace him. You can’t replace an MVP. So that will be a bigger seminal moment for the franchise. Will his departure be softened by the team spending wildly on the FA market that off-season, when so many other players will be available? Perhaps. Robles’ arrival could help if he turns out to be as anticipated. But they need some draft picks or IFA signings to pan out and quickly on the hitting side.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 16 at 9:16 am

  10. Could we please stop with all this gibberish about Harper leaving.

    He’s here for 3 more years; that’s a long time in baseball and maybe we can start with the moaning about that in 2 years or so.

    The Nats have these first 22 games to inflate their record before they play anyone good. Let the team find its identity these next 2 weeks.

    Mark L

    12 Apr 16 at 10:09 am

  11. Re: attendance, I think the only take away at this point is the size of the ST base. I gave up my full season tix this year after 9 seasons. The increase in price wasn’t unexpected, but I wasn’t willing to pay more after years of being treated like crap by the sales staff and seeing the benefits erode. As late as mid-February they were still asking me to reconsider and to stay on with my LL 2nd row seats. That surprised me a little that the team wasn’t more willing to move on and fill my seats earlier in the off-season, especially after I made it abundantly clear that I was done. I would bet the ST base is only ~15k.


    12 Apr 16 at 11:16 am

  12. RE: concern about last night’s attendance of 18,110. No, I’m not worried. It was a weeknight in April against a crappy opponent. Although the weather turned nice, that was a bit of a surprise coming off of literally one of the coldest, most miserable weekends in DC history. What such games really are is a tell for the “floor” – the minimum number of tickets already paid for going in by STH. It’s off a few thousand from 2015 and 2013 (23k/24k), but off much less from 2014 (20k) and was in fact much better than 2012 (14k). That’s just the attendance bump that one sees after a successful (98/96 wins) season. Unsurprisingly, winning drives attendance.

    John C.

    12 Apr 16 at 12:12 pm

  13. Attendance; well, what I was getting at was the ST base. 18k in April mid-week seems like a good representation of the ST base. And I’m suspecting that the base is down. Still a “fair weather” fan base; make the playoffs, increase the ST base. But miss and it goes down immediately. And you have to think this has an effect on the budget of the team. Tying this back to one of the original questions …. is payroll down BECAUSE the ST base is down and the team missed out on playoff revenues?

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 16 at 12:57 pm

  14. The base is down because last season was a downer. This also happened in 2014. If they win, it goes back up.

    For that reason I don’t think the lower payroll is directly tied to the STH base. As noted above, they did go out and try to spend serious coin. Now, it seems from reports that they weren’t willing to go beyond last year’s payroll, and thus walked away (or, if you prefer, refused to match more valuable offers) when bidding got too high.

    As Todd noted above, it’s hard not to see the MASN dispute being a much bigger factor curbing payroll growth than straight attendance. This is both direct (less $$ coming in -> less cash available) and indirect (it helps build the litigation argument that the current mess is negatively impacting the franchise).

    John C.

    12 Apr 16 at 1:11 pm

  15. Oh, a return to the comment I made about “Harper Leaving” .. i guess like it or not Harper’s FA date is kind of an important date in this young franchise’ history. As is Strasburg’s.

    Let me put it this way: if this team doesn’t win a World Series by the time they lose both their #1 overall picks … isn’t that a pretty bad indictment of the team’s management? Its the same thing right now with the Los Angeles Angels: if they don’t win with Trout (aka, the best player in the game), then they’re just “wasting” his seasons.

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 16 at 1:18 pm

  16. Team management can’t win a WS for them – postseason baseball is too fluky for that. The team has already gone to the playoffs more in Harper’s time in DC than the Angels in Trout’s time in LA. And that’s with Trout consistently pegging 9-10 WAR and Harper only leading his team in WAR once.

    The Nats have a long way to go before they are in the LAA neighborhood of “waste.” In Trout’s four years of utter dominance (9-10 WAR seasons), the Angels have averaged 87.5 wins per season. In the same four years the Nats have averaged 90.75 wins per season, and Bryce has only one dominant season in that time. If the Nats don’t go to the playoffs the next three seasons, that might be comparable. But from where I’m standing the Nats are in much better shape to leverage Bryce going forward than the Angels are with Trout. That franchise is a mess – the worst farm system in MLB and (outside of Trout) an aging, increasingly ineffective-yet-really-expensive roster.

    John C.

    12 Apr 16 at 2:00 pm

  17. Here’s my bigger point. Last year, it was clear to me that Matt Williams had to go … and it was clear from the way the team was playing and the decisions he was making rather early on. But this front office a) let him finish the season and do all those embarassing things that were well detailed in the 3-part WP series and B) absolutely mis-read the bullpen situation by acquiring a needless, expensive and aging “proven closer” to layer and replace a reliever who had better numbers.

    So to me, 2015 was a wasted year. A waste of Scherzer (who is only going to regress from here). A waste of Harper (and his historic season). A waste of Strasburg’s 2nd-to-last season, even if he didn’t really help much. Our pythagorean record was identical to the Mets; there was zero need for the Nats to crater and miss the playoffs last year. I’m entirely in the belief that a better manager would have guided the team to the playoffs.

    So, yeah, I do still hold “team management” responsible. And accountable. And yes i get that the playoffs are a crapshoot. But you have to at least get there when you have these kinds of players. And the Nats have now missed 2013 and 2015 with both guys (and 2015 with frigging $210M man Scherzer to boot).

    Todd Boss

    12 Apr 16 at 4:52 pm

  18. If they don’t win the WS by 2018, I’ll be disappointed but I wouldn’t consider it an indictment of management. I don’t think there is a credible analysis of management’s (i.e. Rizzo’s) tenure that is anything other than a clear success.

    Rizzo is kind of arrogant and can rub people the wrong any, and of course he made mistakes: some like Williams and maybe Pap that he should have known better (Williams was a mistake because he’d never managed anywhere before, and he inherited a team looking to win now)., and others that just didn’t work but I can’t fault them, like McClouth or even Haren.

    But he improved the overall talent base immeasurably beyond the big two, and got ownership to raise payroll from the dregs to number 5 last year, all the while dealing with a very difficult guy in Angelos. If anything, I think its ludicrous and potentially damaging that they haven’t picked up his option yet.


    12 Apr 16 at 8:13 pm

  19. Off topic, but here are three KLAW draft prospects with ties to the area:
    27. Joe Rizzo, 3B, Oakton High School (Vienna, Virginia)
    Another polished high-school bat, Rizzo is clearly a first-rounder, if you think he can stay at third base

    30. Carter Kieboom, SS, Walton High School (Marietta, Georgia)
    Kieboom, younger brother of Nationals catcher prospect Spencer, has feel to hit and outstanding makeup, but his tools are more second-round than first, and he will end up moving off shortstop.
    33. Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia

    Another strike-throwing sinkerballer, Jones’ delivery has regressed since high school, so he hasn’t gained any velocity and lacks an out pitch but still looks like a durable back-end starter with a track record of solid performance.


    13 Apr 16 at 6:55 am

  20. Back to the present, it’s hard not to be pleased with the 5-1 start, all the more so since the offense has yet to engage. If Gio and Ross pitch like they did on their first outings, it’s going to be a good season. The team looks like it did in spring training, keeping every game close and finding a way to win, with an animated manager celebrating every big hit. And if Maddux can keep Gio that dialed in all season, he’s worth every penny.

    Meanwhile, I know it’s very, very, very early, but it’s hard not to chuckle about how things are going in Queens.


    13 Apr 16 at 7:42 am

  21. I sure hope Dusty isn’t using up his Mojo Magic in April. Spot start for Drew and he homers. Roark gets shifted in the rotation and goes seven scoreless. Werth shows actual signs of life. (I assume Werth would have been ticketed for a day off in a day game following a night one, but he may beg to stay in the lineup after actually making solid contact.)

    Find some wood to knock. It’s hard to fault too much about how the season has started. Admittedly, we’re beating up on the Braves, but the Nats didn’t take care of business against the bad teams early last season and it came back to bite them.


    14 Apr 16 at 8:21 am

  22. Wally; i think his #50 on that list was UVA catcher Matt Thaiss. So yeah definitely some serious local area prospects. Rizzo, Jones, Thaiss, Shawaryn and Robinson probably the biggest names.

    Todd Boss

    14 Apr 16 at 12:48 pm

  23. Very happy with the start; this is precisely what they needed to do. Beat up on the known weak teams and hope to hold serve against the Mets. You can only play who is in front of you, and the Nats will benefit from many many games against Atlanta and Philly.

    Todd Boss

    14 Apr 16 at 12:48 pm

  24. It would be kind of cool to see them grab Rizzo or Jones


    14 Apr 16 at 1:53 pm

  25. […] my recurring “Opening Day” trivia/useless information post.  Here was 2016’s version,  2015, 2014 and 2013.  I also reference many Google XLS/Google Doc creations with historical […]

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