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How will Bill Schmidt interpret Rockies attendance data?

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, October 15, 2021

New GM Bill Schmidt has a lot to figure out this offseason. Amidst all his decisions, I wonder if Schmidt will use attendance as an indicator of what should be done.

I hope not.

In their third consecutive losing season, the Rockies just clocked their fourth straight top-10 attendance year (not counting a fanless 2020). On June 11, I wrote an article examining the Rockies attendance mark up to that point, which was fourth best in the league at 518,771 through 34 games with an average of 15,258 people per game amid capacity limitations. At the time, the Braves, Rangers, and Astros were better.

A little over two weeks later, Coors Field opened to a full capacity and the Rockies finished the 2021 campaign with 1,938,645 total fans. This averages out to 23,934 fans per game, which was seventh best in the MLB. Let’s dive into that now that the season is in the rearview mirror.

Baseball attendance data is already tricky. With each stadium seating a vastly different amount of fans, from the low end of the Blue Jays, who were relocated to the 16,600-seat Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y. in 2021 to the tops of Dodger Stadium, which can hold 56,000 (not counting when the A’s open up Mount Davis to stretch the Coliseum capacity to 56,310), it’s not an even playing field.

That’s why attendance per-game average is a better indicator, but since 2021 still happened in the midst of a global pandemic, those numbers are skewed too. This is only to be expected with not only capacity limits in place for many stadiums at different parts of the season, but also because of fan hesitancy with health concerns. All things considered, it’s not surprising that the MLB overall saw 45.3 million fans in the 2021 season, which is a 37-year low. If you look at that number without context, you could also say there was an increase of 45.3 million fans from 2020 to 2021. It is indeed all relative.

Acknowledging that the data is skewed by state and local government pandemic restrictions, the data is telling nonetheless. The Rockies, in their third consecutive losing season and after trading away superstar Nolan Arenado in the offseason, still finished ranked No. 9 in overall attendance at 1,938,635. Colorado had 78 home games, which bumped them up to No. 7 with an average game attendance of 24,854. Despite having one of the later full-opening days, the Rockies still finished seventh.

2021 MLB Attendance

Team Average Total Record Stad. Cap. Payroll Full Cap. Date
Team Average Total Record Stad. Cap. Payroll Full Cap. Date
L.A. Dodgers 34,625 2,804,693 106-56 56,000 $267,200,832 June 15
Atlanta 29,490 2,300,247 88-73 41,084 $147,487,625 May 7
San Diego 27,061 2,191,950 79-83 40,209 $178,264,272 June 15
St. Louis 26,281 2,102,530 90-72 45,494 $168,969,994 June 14
Texas 26,052 2,110,258 60-102 40,300 $95,636,948 All season
Houston 25,537 2,068,509 95-67 41,168 $194,472,041 May 25
Colorado 24,854 1,938,645 74-87 50,144 $114,408,966 June 28
NY Yankees 24,498 1,959,854 92-70 46,537 $203,319,863 June 18
Chicago Cubs 24,431 1,978,934 71-91 41,649 $144,607,670 June 11
Milwaukee 22,522 1,824,282 95-67 41,900 $97,377,415 June 18
Boston 21,300 1,725,323 92-70 37,755 $184,529,100 May 29
San Francisco 20,734 1,679,484 107-55 41,265 $163,890,308 June 25
NY Mets 20,620 1,484,665 77-85 41,339 $166,904,168 June 21
Chicago WS 20,466 1,596,385 93-69 40,615 $140,926,169 June 25
Philadelphia 19,188 1,515,890 82-80 42,492 $183,852,734 June 4

The Texas Rangers were the only team in 2021 to play the entire season with full capacity. They are also the only team who had the benefit of playing in a brand new stadium, which is always a huge draw for fans. Other teams slowly started opening up to full capacity in May and June. The Rockies had Opening Day 2.0 on June 28 and by July 19, all stadiums across the MLB were opened up to full capacity.

The Rockies started the season with 42.6 percent (21,363) capacity before moving to 70 percent (35,000) on June 1. Once Coors Field had no seating limits, the Rockies averaged 31,878 fans per game — a 28 percent increase.

The All-Star Game may have added more draw for fans or the freedom of being let out of a lockdown. Perhaps big chunks of those fans were there to cheer for the other teams as the Rockies hosted the Cardinals and Cubs in July and August and teams like the Dodgers six times from July on. The Rockies were already well on their way to being out of playoff contention, but they did have an outstanding home record.

This all leads to this question: does the product on the field affect attendance? There are too many factors to get an easy answer, especially with COVID still swinging a wrecking ball through the data. While the Rockies definitely have higher attendance numbers in years when they posted a winning record, they still get a consistent number of fans regardless of wins.

Rockies Attendance Since 2005

Year Record Total Atten. Ave. Atten. Rank by Ave.
Year Record Total Atten. Ave. Atten. Rank by Ave.
2021 74-87 1,938,645 23,934 7th
2020 26-34 N/A N/A N/A
2019 71-91 2,993,224 36,954 6th
2018 91-72 3,015,880 37,233 7th
2017 87-75 2,953,650 36,465 8th
2016 75-87 2,602,524 32,130 11th
2015 68-94 2,506,789 30,948 14th
2014 66-96 2,680,329 33,090 10th
2013 74-88 2,793,828 34,492 10th
2012 64-98 2,630,458 32,475 13th
2011 73-89 2,909,777 35,923 12th
2010 83-79 2,875,245 35,497 10th
2009 92-70 2,665,080 32,902 11th
2008 74-88 2,650,218 32,719 13th
2007 90-73 2,376,250 28,979 19th
2006 76-86 2,104,362 25,980 23rd
2005 67-95 1,914,389 23,634 26th

The front office may alienate players and cast them out of town. Some fans may fume and call for boycotts. The Rockies may have winning streaks. But will anything change?

Even though Coors Field is one of my favorite places on Earth, I haven’t been to a Rockies game in person since 2019 because I can’t support this front office. Even after Jeff Bridich left, it’s still the same Dick Monfort calling the shots.

I know my money won’t make a difference. There are enough people that either love Coors Field, love the Rockies, love the opposing team, or love an outdoor bar on a Colorado summer night to fund this organization.

Instead of going into a perennial cycle of hope of a productive offseason, I am preparing myself for more of the status quo. I hope I am wrong. Instead of dreams of free agents to bring power back to the Blake Street non-bombers, I can only picture James Earl Jones standing out on the diamond at Coors Field. I imagine him holding a script for “Field of Monforts,” telling Schmidt an inspirational tale to guide his choices:

Bill, people will come, Bill.

They’ll come to Coors Field after you trade away Nolan Arenado. They’ll turn up in LoDo, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at 21st and Blake as innocent as children, longing for the past … They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and winning we lack.

… Coors field, this team — it’s a part of Colorado summer, Bill. We’ll forget that there’s no NL West title and perhaps never will be.

No matter. Ohh, people will come, Bill. People will most definitely come.

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Brendan Rodgers on the move? Raimel Tapia? Ranking the Rockies’ most likely trades | The Athletic ($)

Nick Groke seems to project some optimism here with Bill Schmidt hinting that more could happen this winter than things did last offseason with Jeff Bridich. Of course, the Rockies lost the chance to make major moves by hanging on to Jon Gray and Trevor Story, so Groke projects what current Rockies he believes could become trade pieces, including Raimel Tapia, Colton Welker, Brendan Rodgers, Daniel Bard, Ryan Vilade, and Grant Lavigne.

Rockies’ end-of-season outfield analysis: Searching for free-agent power, banking on potential | Denver Post ($)

In his post-season review series, Patrick Saunders concludes that the Rockies need to add power to an outfield that ranked No. 29 in homers in 2021. He pretty fairly doled out grades to what he assumes to be the starters in 2022: Charlie Blackmon (C-), Sam Hilliard (D), and Raimel Tapia (B-). He dreams of acquiring Chris Taylor, Nick Castellanos, or Michael Conforto, “if the Rockies can afford them.” I don’t think it’s whether they can or not, it’s whether they want to. Connor Joe got the best grade (B+) in the fourth outfielder category, but it still seems clear: something has to change.

Shildt out as Cardinals manager | MLB.com

Despite an amazing September and historic win streak to earn a Wild Card spot, the Cardinals fired manager Mike Shildt on Thursday. By all appearances, Shildt and the front office had different visions of the future and the sides couldn’t come together. Shildt had been with the organization for 18 years, working his way up from scout to manager.

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On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition

Surprise Saguaros 1, Salt River Rafters 0

RHP Matt Dennis got the start in the second Rafters game of the AFL season and gave up a solo homer to Ivan Johnson in the third inning in an otherwise solid three innings with two strikeouts. The Rafters only got six hits in the shutout, even though that doubled the amount of hits that the Saguaros totaled. Rockies prospects were responsible for three of the six hits as Michael Toglia (No. 4 PuRP), Ryan Vilade (No. 10 PuRP), and shortstop Ezequiel Tovar (No. 12 PuRP) each got a single, while Toglia also drew a walk. Catcher Willie MacIver (No. 22 PuRP) went 0-1 after entering to catch late in the game.

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