MLB Analysis: Putting 2011 Attendance in Perspective

Major League Baseball (MLB) sold 73.1 million tickets in 2011. As in past years, the news was mixed and MLB spun it to their advantage. It was better then 2010’s 73 million by 0.5 percent and it’s also the fifth highest attendance mark ever. Unfortunately, its still well south of the record hit in 2007 when they sold 79.5 million tickets and it’s hard to tell if this is an upward trend or a momentary blip. Still, several teams had success at the box office while others, not so much.

The Philadelphia Phillies led baseball in tickets sold with a franchise record 3.68 million and a per-game average of 45,441. The Phillies sold out every home game and that brings their consecutive sell out run to 204 games and counting. It was also the first time ever that they've led baseball in attendance. Right behind the Phillies and leading in the American League were the perennial contenders, the New York Yankees with 3.65 million fans and a 45,107 per-game average.

In addition to the Phillies, three other teams set franchise attendance records. The Milwaukee Brewers made some noise when they traded for Zach Greinke and Shawn Marcum and, with season ticket sales going up shortly after that trade and a successful playoff run in the National League Central, the team sold 3.07 million tickets. The San Francisco Giants, who finished third overall in attendance, set a new franchise record on the heels of their World Series win last year with 3.39 million tickets sold. Joining them were the Giants World Series opponent, the Texas Rangers, who unlike the Giants made the playoffs. Texas sold a record 2.95 million tickets as they fell just short of the three million mark.

The Boston Red Sox, despite their historic collapse in the final month of the season, sold 3.05 million tickets in 2011. That’s the second most ever and they were able to extend their consecutive sell out streak to 712 games. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim sold 3.07 million tickets which put them over the three million mark for the ninth straight season. Only the New York Yankees have a similar streak. The Cleveland Indians saw the largest increase in attendance. Their 1.84 million tickets sold were 449,151 more then last years 1.39 million. In all, nine teams went over the three million mark in 2011, which matches the 2010 total. Twenty teams topped the two million mark which is also the same as last year.

Not everyone was a winner though. The Los Angeles Dodgers saw a steep decline in the number of tickets they sold. The Dodgers were third overall in attendance in 2010 with 3.56 tickets sold but that fell all the way to 2.94 million in 2011 which is their lowest mark since 2000. The Oakland Athletics took over last place in attendance with 1.48 million tickets sold. In second to last, and with the lowest attendance of a playoff team, were the Tampa Bay Rays at 1.53 million. The next worst attendance for a playoff team were the Arizona Diamondbacks who came in at 2.11 million.

For the second year in a row, the Yankees came in first place in road attendance with 33,228 tickets sold per game. Oddly, the Cincinnati Reds came in second with 33,120 tickets sold per game. The worst road team was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with 26,125 tickets sold per game.

Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.

Get more great baseball analysis over at The Hardball Times.


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