Monday, November 30, 2009

The Treasure Map to the Key to the Golden City

If you recall last week in this space I threw a bunch of information up on a graph and made bold claims about the nature of fandom and the need for more than just "on-field success". Lots of interesting discussion arose in the aftermath, much of it revolving around my decision to use percentage of tickets sold rather than raw tickets sold. The difference in stadium size seemed to be the main sticking point. Selling 100% of a small stadium is the same as selling 60% of a huge one!!11!

After a little research, I can say it breaks down like this with a little more confidence: there are 6 stadiums with capacities under 40000, with Oakland's listed as smallest at 35067. It should be noted that Network Associates Coliseum, like two of the other "undersized" stadiums, has a much larger true capacity. The clubs simple rope off massive sections of the park to avoid looking ridiculous. These are also three teams that rank at the bottom of the attendance % anyway, so I don't think it skews the numbers. Also, the arthimetic mean capacity is 43772, so the difference between any two stadiums isn't really that great.

The way the information was presented wasn't exactly perfect (or perfectly clear) so I took a slightly different approach. Using 81 wins (50%) as one baseline and the median attendance percentage (63.5%) as the other to create four quadrants: well supported good teams, poorly supported good teams, lovable losers and apathetic crapfactories. The results are mildly interesting as you can see below.

Click here for a break down of which teams sit where. Some highlights:
  • There is a real glut of teams right around the center (circled them in red). They all hover around the .500 mark and hover around the median attendance numbers. Mainly teams, like the Jays, with middling success and moderate to impassionate fanbases.
  • Of the 90 or so instances of good teams with good attendance, 1/3 are Red Sox, Yankees or Cardinals.
  • The number of good teams with good attendance is nearly identical to the number of bad teams with poor attendance.
  • The Twins! Lo, the role model Twins sit in the over .500 record but sub-median attendance a whooping 7 times! The A's are the other stalwart successful team with poor gate numbers. Both of these teams qualified for post season play on multiple occasions in the last decade and should serve as giant red warning beacons.
  • Bad teams with loyal fans? The Cubs, Orioles, and Giants feature the most patient fanbases, though the Orioles support dwindled greatly as the decade wore on.
  • As stated above the Red Ring of Death is a real village of the damned. Drifting and bobbing in the vast sea of ambivalence. The Marlins (the two years after they won the World Series) the Reds, the Mets, and your 2007 Toronto Blue Jays.
It seems that looking at the information this way presents a slightly clearer picture of how teams are supported. In short, a team like Phillies capitalized on their new ballpark with an exciting and successful team to create a passionate fanbase. By virtue of history and diehardedness, teams like the Giants draw crowds because hanging out at AT&T Park beats a kick in the head. Just across the Bay the far more successful A's can't draw people to a crappy ballpark no matter how many games they win. Could a new ballpark change the fortunes of the A's or Twins? The owners sure think so. Hopefully the loyal taxpayers aren't on the hook to figure it out.


  1. So. Much. Math.

    Seriously though, great stuff as always Drew. You actually put actual well thought out work into your posts. I wish I could say the same.

    Some very interesting points:

    Of the 90 or so instances of good teams with good attendance, 1/3 are Red Sox, Yankees or Cardinals.

    The number of good teams with good attendance is nearly identical to the number of bad teams with poor attendance.

    The Cubs, Orioles and Giants all have great ballparks. I've only been to Camden, but have heard great things about Wrigley and AT&T. Clearly, having a landmark ballpark has a lot to do with gate success.

    Do you think the Jays should cover up some of the 500 section, like the A's do? How many years do you think the SkyDome has left?

    And I'm still not sure how an open-air stadium is going to work in Minnesota. Sure, it'll draw crowds, but after a while I can't imagine people won't be bitching.

  2. The Padres, Reds, and Pirates all have nice ballparks too. The Padres is even in San Diego! yet the Padres only draw when the win. Hmmm.

    I wonder if the Jays would section off more of the 500 level than they already have. They like the extra revenue when the Sox/Yanks come to town.

    Good luck to Minnesota. They're of a healthy stock out there, they can brave the cold. Jays fans did it for 12 years.

  3. Hate to say this, but I get the impression that Minnesotans might be a tad tougher than Torontonians when it comes to braving the elements.

    Also interesting (from a Jays-centric point of view) is the fact that many of those who are calling for a new park or an open air park in Toronto are pretty much stating that their main issue with the SkyDomeRogersCentre is that they are bored with it.

    You have to be careful about appealing to fans such as those, because they will probably tire of any new taxpayer-and-debt-funded stadium a decade before the first dollar goes against the principle.

  4. I'm not ashamed to say I'm bored with the Skydome. New shiny things please!

  5. Out of all the concentrations of numbers, it looks like the two biggest are the upper right and the lower left. So if you build a winner, they will come - but if you suck, they won't.

    Great work once again!

  6. Your love of numbers and statistical information truly knows no bounds, and we humble, regular folk are appreciative for your sharing of this passion...

  7. Am I the only motherfucker who likes the SkyDome?

  8. No. I like it too. It's ours. What's not to like when it's snowing during the home opener in April and the lid is shut.

  9. You shouldn't look at just numbers of wins. You need to look at how many games out of a playoff spot a team is. You have 2003, 2006 and 2008 Blue Jays as being good teams and lazy fans. Were those teams even remotely in a pennant race? What does it matter if you get 88 wins when you are 10 games back?


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