March 4, 2013
2013 American League Attendance Projections
Attendance is a funny thing in Major League Baseball. Oftentimes, we pay so much attention to the correlation between paid-attendance numbers and on-field performance that we forget that the team’s performance during the previous season can have just as much of an impact on how many fans come to the ballpark.
Since we at Baseball Prospectus have just rolled out PECOTA’s player and standings predictions, I decided to go one step further and use this data to project teams’ attendance marks. Using historical data, the latest “Red Book,” and examining what has gone down in the offseason, here are my attendance predictions for each American League team. (Part two of this series, on the National League, will run next week.)
Baltimore Orioles – Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Last season reminded fans of what the Orioles once were: winners. The O’s 93 wins were their highest total since 1997 (98) and snapped a skid of 14 consecutive losing seasons. Prior to that skid, the O’s had finished below .500 in just 13 of their first 44 years of competition. After their loss on July 17 at Minnesota, which dropped their record to 46-44, the O’s went 47-25, with 24 of the 47 wins being decided by one (13) or two runs (11). The Birds won 38 of their last 56 games and, with that run, garnered their first postseason berth since 1997, when they lost the American League Championship Series to the Indians.
From August 1 through the end of the regular season, the Orioles had the best winning percentage in baseball (38-20, .655). That sustained run helped at the gate, as the Birds drew 2,102,240 fans, marking the 23rd time that the Orioles have crossed the two-million-fan mark and the 17th time that they have done it at Camden Yards. Along the way, the Orioles had eight home sellouts—an unheard-of accomplishment in their recent history—setting the stage for an uptick in ticket sales this offseason, which should pad their numbers in 2013.
Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park
Last season was supposed to bring improvement and a fresh start, sparked by the firing of Terry Francona and the hiring of Bobby Valentine. Oops.
The Red Sox ended 2012 with their first losing record since 1997 and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year, which hadn’t happened since 2000-03. The 2012 season was bad, as in historically bad, for the Red Sox: It marked Boston’s lowest winning percentage in 47 campaigns, since the team went 62-100 (.383) in 1965. The Red Sox had not lost 90 games in a season since 1966 (72-90, .444), which was the longest active stretch in the majors without a 90-loss season (a title that now belongs to the Cardinals, who last lost 90+ in 1990).
Injuries didn’t help. The Red Sox had 27 different players on the disabled list in 2012 for 34 separate stints, both of which were the most by a Sox team since at least 1971 and, according to STATS, the most by any team since at least 1987. All told, the team saw a total of 1,495 games and 1,729 days missed by players on the disabled list, shocking numbers that hurt the Red Sox in the standings and could dampen their attendance going forward.
On August 25, Ben Cherington pulled the trigger on a nine-player trade with the Dodgers that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto and cash considerations for James Loney, Ivan DeJesus, Allen Webster and two players to be named later (RHP Rubby De La Rosa and 1B/OF Jerry Sands). It was the fourth time the Red Sox had made a trade involving as many as nine players and matched the second-largest trade in club history. With no real star-power signings in the offseason, the Red Sox are taking a more methodical approach to rebuilding their roster, which should yield some improvement in the standings, but could hurt them at the box office. And, yet, as I wrote, attendance numbers don’t always directly reflect performance, especially at Fenway Park, with its small seating capacity and historical fan base.