As you know, the (low) attendance numbers at recent Reds games has become a bit of a topic of conversation. With that in mind, this very interesting piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week:

Erin Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at NYU’s Stern School of Business, co-wrote a paper that shows a 48% increase in a team’s attendance makes that team score an extra run every game. Before Monday’s games, this scoring boost would have bumped the Padres to a game ahead of the San Francisco Giants instead of being tied with them, and it would have put the Rays two games ahead of the Yankees instead of a half-game behind. In the NL East, the Atlanta Braves would have leapfrogged the Philadelphia Philles.

Ms. Smith’s study, which was published this year in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, used a regression model to account for things like team ability, stadium size and weather. By doing this, she showed that increased attendance does, in fact, help teams play well, instead of this simply being a matter of good teams drawing more fans.

Unfortunately, I let my subscription to the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports lapse, so I can’t comment on the paper’s methodology. The reported results are interesting, to say the least. According to the study, Cincinnati would have had 3.18 extra wins this year if they had played before capacity crowds every game.

Take it for what it’s worth.

10 Responses

  1. jinaz

    I saw the WSJ article on this earlier, but haven’t yet pulled the original article. Seems like it’s hard to make that claim about the correlation, though.

    The key is how she quantified team ability. If she just used pythag or some similar approach, then essentially she’s showing that teams that won more than pythag have higher attendance. The could be because the attendance boosts wins. But it could just as easily be because the extra winning results in more fans showing up, which is not a new finding.

    Dunno, I will probably need to pull this article.

  2. Steve Price

    I think this is putting the cart before the horse, or more or less counting the horses after they’ve left the barn. I think scoring more runs on offense, preventing runs on defense, together translates to more wins, and puts more fans in the seat.

    What I wrote the other day seems to correlate to this…and the fans don’t come until the next year when they believe it’s for real. I didn’t write about postseasons, but from a casual inspection performed before, I suspect playoffs will sell well, and the deeper we go the more carry over we’ll have to next year.

  3. nick in va

    Unfortunately, I let my subscription to the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports lapse

    You too, huh?

  4. Brien Jackson

    @Steve Price:

    Big League Stew had an interesting thought on why September seems to consistently be a bad month for successful small market teams last week. The basic premise was that school is starting, it’s right after peak vacation time, and fans may be saving money for playoff tickets.

  5. Greg Dafler

    Well, it is only $485 a year for an academic subscription and $1,455 for a corporate subscription.

    I’d be interested in the details, too. Correlation doesn’t equal causation, so how did they come to the conclusion that attendance impacted W-L record instead of it being the other way around.

  6. Greg Dafler

    @Brien Jackson: September has been bad for the Reds whether they’ve been successful or not. It’s the worst attendance month of the year for the Reds, at least in the past decade.

    Last year, they averaged 11,000 fans on weekday games in Sept. This week they had attendance of 12k, 17k, 20k, and 22k in the 4 games. Their weekday average attendance is up 60% from last year, consistent with the % increase from August 2010 over August 2009.

    I would imagine school and school sports have a large impact on Reds Sept attendance.

  7. preach

    I’m sure the formulas used for this are just as enlightening as those used to figure out defense, and just as meaningful.

  8. Matt WI

    I didn’t read the full article, but this is what I think:
    “The purpose of science is to serve mankind. You seem to regard science as some kind of dodge… or hustle. Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy, and your conclusions are highly questionable! You are a poor scientist.” 😀