The Texas Rangers hope that Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish, arguably the most-coveted pitcher on the market this offseason, will help increase ticket sales in the coming 2012 season.
Despite back-to-back American League crowns, the Rangers still ranked 10th in attendance in the league, playing in a ballpark that is ranked sixth in capacity for the MLB, at just under 50,000 seats.
Ranger fans watched the team’s divisional rival Los Angeles Angels sign Albert Pujols and former Rangers’ pitching ace C.J. Wilson this offseason, which makes signing Darvish even more important. The Rangers successfully bid $51.7 million for the right to negotiate exclusively with Darvish, and that window expires January 18.
Will Flaherty, spokesperson for ticket search engine SeatGeek.com, expects the Rangers to crack 3 million in regular-season attendance in 2012 with Darvish’s help. The team was more than 50,000 fans short of that number in 2011.
The Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers’ home field, can be a difficult place to generate sellouts because of the raw Texas heat. Adding a potential marquee name like Darvish could help tip the balance, according to Flaherty.
“The Darvish acquisition will likely help bolster fan excitement that could lead to additional season ticket sales,” Flaherty told TicketNews. “Ultimately, the number to keep an eye on will be the season ticket sales, as I think that’s where the Darvish signing will have the most substantial effect.”
In seven seasons for the Nippon Ham Fighters, Darvish was one of the hottest pitchers of Japanese baseball. He won 93 games and posted an ERA of 1.99. He was able to keep his ERA under the 2.00 mark in each of the last five seasons, and he is coming off a particularly brilliant 2011 campaign in which he posted an ERA of 1.44 and a WHIP of 0.83.
With Darvish’s incredible track record, the Rangers hope that he will be their ever-elusive ace, with the potential to create a buzz factor that could draw fans. As for how much impact Darvish will have on walk-up ticket sales for games he does not pitch, Flaherty said the effect may be minimal.
However, Flaherty remains optimistic about the Rangers potential this season, due to their previous successful back-to-back seasons.
In 2011, the Rangers ranked 12th in the league in average ticket price at $48, while the in-state rival Houston Astros had an average ticket price of $41. By comparison, the Boston Red Sox held the league’s highest average ticket price at $95.