Over the past week or so, I've been scouring through the attendance numbers of all 30 MLB franchises just to get a feel for how well each one is supported. Since some of the data was pretty interesting, I decided to put together a fanpost on it. We can't draw as many hard conclusions as I would like from these numbers due to the extreme number of variables involved, but I tried to highlight as many of them as possible so our observations will be pretty close to what's actually going on.
First up, here's a link to the first (and largest) spreadsheet I made regarding the subject.
- The spreadsheet covers the last 20 years worth of attendance and lists each franchise's attendance for each season. It also lists the average number of fans per game for each franchise each season.
- To add depth to these figures, I adjusted many of the boxes.
- If a franchise was in the top three in the league in attendance (top three N.L and top three A.L - total of six teams per season) I bolded the numbers.
- If a franchise was in the bottom three in the league in attendance (bottom three N.L and bottom three A.L - total of six teams per season) I underlined the numbers.
- If a franchise opened a new modern baseball only stadium that season, I highlighted the box in purple.
- If a franchise went to the World Series that season, I highlighted the box in Red.
- If a franchise went to the playoffs that season, I highlighted the box in green.
- If the franchise just had a winning season, I highlighted the box in tan.
- If none of these things happened, I left the box in white. These white boxes with large attendance numbers (particularly white boxes not followed by purple, red, or green boxes) are signs of a loyal fan base.
- Finally, I adjusted the font size of each box. If the franchise averaged 50,000 or more people a game that season, the numbers appear in size 13 font, if the franchise averaged between 40,000 and 50,000 people a game that season, the numbers appear in size 12 font, if the franchise averaged between 30,000 and 40,000 people a game that season, the numbers appear in size 11 font, and so on...
The next thing I did was take the average number of fans each team attracted per game over the 20 year span (1992-2011) and ordered them. Again, to give a little more depth here I added two columns. The first notes how many times each team won 85 or more games and the second answers whether or not the team received a new modern baseball only stadium.
Note: The Nationals numbers listed here are only for the time they have been the Nationals.
|Team||Average Att.||# of 85 win Seasons||New Stadium?|
After that, I took the top five teams each season and the bottom five teams each season and put them into tables. Again I color coded them with the following order of preference.
1) If the team opened a new modern baseball only stadium that season, they are listed in dark purple.
2) If the team opened a new modern baseball only stadium the previous season, they are listed in light purple.
3) If the team went to the World Series that year, they are listed in bright red.
4) If the team went to the World Series the previous year, they are listed in the light red/maroonish color.
5) If the team made the playoff that season, they are listed in dark green.
6) If the team made the playoffs the previous season, they are listed in lime green.
7) If the team had a winning record, they are listed in grey.
8) If none of the above applies to the team, they are listed in white.
Fans of teams in white listed in the "Top Five" chart should be commended. Fans of teams listed in colors other than White on the "Bottom Five" chart should be ashamed.
|Year||Highest Att.||2nd Highest Att.||3rd Highest Att.||4th Highest Att.||5th Highest Att.|
|1992||Blue Jays||Orioles||White Sox||Braves||A's|
|Year||Lowest Att.||2nd Lowest Att.||3rd Lowest Att.||4th Lowest Att.||5th Lowest Att.|
Here’s my immediate reactions on each team after looking at these numbers (in the order they are listed on the spreadsheet).
Blue Jays: It’s hard to believe now, but Toronto is one of just three teams in the last 20 years to have a season in which they brought an average of over 50,000 people a game through the gates. Now largely a victim of geography, they have not sniffed the playoff since 1993; but with the second Wild Card, the winds of change may start to blow here. For my money, there’s not another team in baseball better positioned to reap the benefits of this rule. Combine that with exciting players like Jose Bautista and Canada’s own Brett Lawrie and attendance numbers here may be in for a turnaround.
Orioles: Camden Yards, Cal’s streak, and a loyal fanbase made this one of baseball’s best attendance franchises in the 90’s, but 14 consecutive losing seasons have taken a toll. To the credit of O’s fans, even this has not landed them in the bottom three of the A.L. numbers for any season. If they can ever get away from this model of doing business, I’m sure the fans will come back in large numbers again.
Rays: I have nothing nice to say here. Always near the bottom of the league in attendance numbers. They had an excuse for years but now Tampa has a team other fan bases would kill for and the number of fans in that ballpark is just as embarrassing as ever. The Trop is a terrible facility for baseball but A’s and Twins fans started showing up when their teams starting playing well despite the setting. This whole situation really saddens me.
Red Sox: They have sold out every game at Fenway since the middle of the 2003 season. The only reason they don’t appear closer to the top of total attendance numbers list that the ballpark has capped the amount of people in the mid 30,000’s per game. Boston is a baseball crazy city!
Yankees: Second highest fans per game total over the last 20 years but these fans only started showing up in this fashion after the success. It took a World Series in 1996 to push the Yankees past 30,000 fans per game, another World Series and a 125 win season in 1998 to push them past 40,000, and a rivalry with the Red Sox reaching a boiling point to get above 50,000.
Indians: A new ballpark and one of the best lineups of this generation made the Indians the toast of Cleveland for much of the 90’s. Now the place seems a shadow of its former self.
Royals: Bad team, bad attendance. Not much else to say.
Tigers: These numbers were actually worse than I expected. Fans just weren’t coming out to old Tiger Stadium near the end of its tenure and Detroit was so bad during its early Comerica days that the new ballpark only game the franchise a small bump. Only now are we starting to see attendance numbers climb. Perhaps with the Prince Fielder signing complete and a second consecutive division title within reach, we will finally see Detroit surpass the 40,000 per game number in a season.
Twins: Had one of those awful multipurpose stadiums for years and it hurt attendance but winning teams helped numbers creep up and a new ballpark sent things through the roof. This team really fell apart fast last season though so it will be interesting to see what happens to attendance numbers this season.
White Sox: Attendance here is usually not horrible but it’s certainly hasn’t been anything to write home about either.
A’s: They need to get out of a stadium that has enough foul territory to land a plane on.
Angels: Meek support for many years but attendance boomed and hasn’t looked back since that World Series in 2002 – And with the Albert Pujols signing, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a decline anytime soon.
Mariners: We’ve just about seen it all here. Attendance low enough at the old Kingdome to threaten a move of the team, a new ballpark and one of the best teams to never win a World Series vaulting them to the top of the attendance heap, and recent struggles slowly pushing the numbers back down again.
Rangers: A perfectly middle of the road attendance team. It will be interesting to see if they crack 40,000 a game now though after back to back World Series appearances.
Braves: Good attendance numbers, but nothing less than what these fans actually posted should be expected from a team that’s enjoyed as much success as the Braves have over the last 20 years.
Marlins: Another Florida embarrassment! The fans here have some excuses but not nearly enough to fully justify these putrid numbers. In any case, we should see a big bump in attendance starting this season as that new circus…err…ballpark opens .
Mets: This team’s attendance numbers mirror the team’s record as well as any franchise you will find. Considering the current situation, I wouldn’t expect attendance to be good over the next couple of seasons.
Nationals/Expos: The last few years in Montreal were ugly and the team is still gaining traction in Washington as they have yet to post a winning season there. The real test starts now as Bryce Harper and a wave of young talent hit the big club. I bet fun times lie ahead in the Nation’s Capital!
Phillies: The new ballpark and five straight division titles have been instrumental in launching this team to the top of the NL attendance heap each of the last two seasons.
Astros: Fans supported this team with nine straight seasons of at least 30,000 per game from 1998 to 2009 but with the shine of the new ballpark wearing off and an utterly horrendous team, dark days lie ahead.
Brewers: The golden era of Brewer attendance is happening right now.
Cardinals: This fanbase has a great reputation and for good reason – They consistently show up to the ballpark! (Although they have not gone through a really rough stretch at any point during the last 20 years so perhaps we have not seen a very tough test yet)
Cubs: The historic ballpark works in their favor more than the team’s play. Overall, these numbers are solid.
Pirates: 19 straight seasons have destroyed any hope at decent attendance numbers; which is a shame because they have one of the nicest ballparks anywhere in the sport. The uptick in attendance numbers last season when they briefly contended suggest that the fans will show up if they ever turn this team around.
Reds: You don’t think about them much when it comes to attendance. They generally sit somewhere in the middle.
D’Backs: Solid numbers but a new ballpark, five division titles, and one of the most unforgettable World Series wins of all time have made it easy to be a D’Backs fan more often than not in their brief 14 year existence.
Dodgers: As a division rival I hate to give Dodger fans too much credit but they deserve it. Dodger Stadium has seen more fans pass through the turnstiles than any other park in the majors – And this is without it being new or a championship banner being raised.
Giants: There may not be another team in this country that was helped more by a new ballpark than the Giants. Since they moved to AT&T park in 2000, the Giants have averaged at least 35,000 a game each season and set their own franchise record last year after following the World Series win.
Padres: Their attendance numbers are as forgettable as the team itself.
Rockies: Absolutely shattered all time MLB attendance per game records in 1993 and 1994 and remained the # 1 attendance franchise in the NL five years after Coors Field opened despite only one playoff appearance. Six straight losing seasons sent the numbers down but a World Series berth in 2007 coupled with the arrival of adored players like Tulo and Cargo have pushed the figures back over 32,000 a game for four straight seasons. The Rockies have only had two seasons in history where they have won more than 83 games so I’d really like to see what would happen if they ever put back to back playoff season’s together. I think the attendance would once again surpass 40,000.
Next up, I made graphs for the attendance of each team in each division.
Note: Even though Milwaukee was in the A.L. until 1998, I left them completely on the N.L. Central graph to minimize confusion.
After that I took the average attendance for each division and put it into a table and a graph to see where fans show up the most. These numbers only start in 1998 when the current division set up was put in place but it still reveals some interesting numbers. What catches my eye the most though is that the N.L. West teams have had the highest attendance of any division EVERY SINGEL YEAR. Perhaps it’s the combination of four new modern ballparks mixed with a classic in Dodger Stadium, perhaps it’s the amazing parity that exists within the division, or perhaps these fans are just the most loyal in the nation, but whatever the reason, the consistency of strong attendance within the N.L. West is remarkable.
|Year||A.L. East||A.L. Central||A.L. West||N.L. East||N.L. Central||N.L. West|
Finally, I took the average attendance per game for A.L. teams and compared it to the average attendance per game for N.L. teams. Interestingly enough, the N.L. has consistently been just a little more popular attendance wise every year since 1993. Both leagues feel the sting following the 1994 strike, both leagues see their numbers increase through the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and both leagues suffer a little setback during the most recent recession – But through it all, the N.L. always remains just a tad more popular than the A.L.