Your verification ID is: guDlT7MCuIOFFHSbB3jPFN5QLaQ Big Computing: MLB Attendance - Do fans come to the ballpark because of loyalty or wins?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

MLB Attendance - Do fans come to the ballpark because of loyalty or wins?

In the book The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri there is a short discussion about the field success of the Rays not resulting in success at the turnstile. There are many reasons given for this lack of connection between winning and attendance. I also came across an article that claimed that the recent success of the Pittsburgh Pirates is bringing fans back to the the stadium. It got me thinking about what bring fans to the stadium.

So far in the 2011 season the best team has a .652 Winning percentage and the worst team has a .330. While it is true the Phillies with the .652 winning percentage have the highest attendance percentage in baseball, the lowly Houston Astros with the worst winning percentage of .330 are 17th in attendance percentage.  The Chicago Cubs are fifth in home attendance percentage even though they are one of the worst teams in baseball and sixteen games out in their division.

There are also the good teams that do not get fans in the stadium. Division contenders Cleveland and Arizona are ranked 25 and 26 in home attendance. They both fair better on the road with rankings of 11 and 19.  5,000 more people per game attend either team's away games than home games.

So in general winning teams do better in attendance than losing teams, but it is not a hard fast rule. The Chicago Cubs draw fans both home and away in spite of poor on field performance. Winning teams can also fail to attract their local fan base even if they are fighting for a division lead. Even a new ballpark does not seem to influence attendance as Arizona's opened in 1998 and Cleveland's in 1994. Cleveland's Progressive Park was ranked as Major League Baseballs best park in 2008 in a survey done by SI.

The conclusion is that there are multiple factors to bringing fans to the ballpark, and if a teams wants fans in the stadium it must address all those factors. Winning alone will not put fans in the seats unless the locals identify with the brand. Losing alone will not drop a teams attendance if the team's brand is strong enough.