Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Declining Fan Support: Fact or Fiction? 

There's been some hand-wringing about D-Back fans giving up on the team. If I may summarize (and spin) the argument: "The fans aren't coming, so let's blow up the team."

Now it's not unreasonable to assume that fan interest is beginning to dwindle given the D-Backs' lousy record thus far. Hey, I've written about the low attendance at the Randy Johnson-Tom Glavine matchup. But it's time to do some actual analysis.

Arizona currently ranks 12th out of the 30 MLB teams in average home attendance, drawing on average 32,324 through its turnstiles in its 22 home games. This is down somewhat (6.7%) from 2003, in which Arizona ranked 8th in MLB, drawing 34,636 per game. Overall average attendance is up 2.9% from 2003; there are 21 teams whose average attendance has improved more (or fallen off less) then Arizona. Unsurprisingly, Florida (World Series Champion), San Diego (new stadium), and Philadelphia (ditto), are at the top of the list. Surprisingly, Tampa Bay is #4. Or maybe not, because the 2004 averages reflect 20 or so games while 2003 averages reflect 81 (minus rainouts) games. If Tampa has had a couple homestands against the Yankees already, that could seriously affect their average.

So obviously we need to go into a little more detail. This page contains attendance data for all MLB teams. Here is a comparison of Arizona's attendance by game date. Through the first 22 home games of 2003, Arizona's average attendance was 32,913, or just 2% more than the first 22 home games of 2004. And here you can see home attendance by team. For all of you thinking the early Cubs homestand skews Arizona's attendance higher than it otherwise would be, the average was 34,035, slightly higher, but not significantly affecting the average. For what it's worth, Tampa Bay's average attendance without its four Yankee games would be 11,466 -- 17% of their games account for 46% of their total attendance.

How did the opening schedule last year compare?... 3 games against LA and Milwaukee, 4 against Colorado and Florida, 3 against Atlanta and Philadelphia, and 2 against Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, you can't really compare as Colorado and Philly are the only common teams in both years. (This year's squads also include the Cubs, Montreal, Mets, San Diego, and St. Louis)

And their record after that Pittsburgh game? 19-24, 3 games better than this year.

So taking all that into common, I'd say that the team is doing slightly worse attendance-wise, but not nearly as bad as you might think. It will be interesting to see how LA and SF's arrival next week affect the figures.

Nice piece on the attendance. It's hard to compare the totally different schedules, but see my take, which suggests (albeit from a tiny sample size) that the gap is more than the 600 the average would suggest.

Jim McLennan
But It's a DRY Heat
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