Fill Those Seats


Serpico’s excellent post yesterday got me thinking.

A professional baseball franchise has two goals which sometimes conflict: winning as many games as possible and drawing in fans. You might think those two go hand in hand but, as Serp pointed out, swapping out new talent every season makes it hard for the fans to invest in the team.

“Well, yes,” I thought, “but you get to save so much money.”

Then I started to wonder – how much money? And what’s the tradeoff?

So I went to and and I got two figures:

  • Total player salaries by team;
  • Average home game attendance as a percentage of stadium capacity

And I made a graph in Excel.

Seats vs Salary

(click the graph to expand to its full size)

Some interesting findings:

  • In the lower half, you get two sudden spikes at the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers. They get White Sox level attendance despite playing like, well, the Padres and the Brewers. Where’s the draw? What did the Brewers do last season that I and the rest of the world missed?
  • The Boston Red Sox had 101.4% attendance on average in 2006. That’s not seats sold; that’s actual home game attendance. Look it up yourself. It pleases me to know that John Henry will admit more fans than the stadium has seats; anything for revenue.
  • The trendline continues upward pretty clearly except for one embarassing drop by the Baltimore Orioles. They spent $93.55 million in 2006 on player salaries but only filled 57.1% of their seats on average. They’re spending St. Louis Cardinals money to get Toronto Blue Jays attendance.

I don’t know whether this data supports my thesis or Serpico’s. It may be too soon to draw that kind of conclusion. But I do know that it’s really interesting.