Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Red Sox Sellout "Streak" Is Fairly Impressive



The Red Sox sellout "streak" ended last night after 820 games dating back to May of 2003. For those of you who don't know about this already, the streak was pretty dubious, as the Red Sox counted complimentary tickets (an average of about 800 per game) and Standing Room Only tickets towards their count for game attendance. Fenway's seating capacity is also only 37400, the smallest in baseball. But here are a few reasons why the streak is still pretty impressive.



Firstly, let's not single out the Red Sox for fudging the numbers during their sellout streak. Apparently, teams across baseball and professional sports use a similar method in calculating attendance (per the Deadspin article linked above). So though the streak may not be "true" in some sense, it's more or less the industry standard, and the standard by which every team is judged attendance-wise. There's no good data that I can find about how each team across baseball fudges its particular stadium's attendance numbers, and therefore no way to tell if the Red Sox fudge them more than others. But for all intents and purposes, each MLB team's official attendance is goosed to some degree, and the best way to compare teams is by using their official attendance numbers.

With this in mind, let's take a look back at MLB teams' attendance in recent history. Have other teams had at least 37400 fans "officially" at each game for the last 10 years? First, it will be helpful to look at the average attendance per game for each MLB team.

The Red Sox, in 2012, were 8th in MLB in attendance per game (and remember, Fenway Park has the lowest seating capacity of any stadium in Major League Baseball). That means that 22 teams necessarily, BY THE POWER VESTED IN MATH, had games in which their official attendance was less than 37400.

Now let's look at the remaining 7 non-Red Sox teams. In 2012, the Phillies, Yankees, Rangers, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Angels had higher average attendance than the Red Sox. Have any of those teams had at least 37400 "official" fans at each of their games since the Red Sox's streak started?

Let's look at them in ascending order of average 2012 attendance. The Angels had plenty of games where attendance was lower than the 37400 magic number in 2012. It took the 2012 defending World Champion Cardinals all of 4 home games to have attendance below Fenway's capacity. The Dodgers netted under 30K in their second home game last year. You have to go all the way back to 2010 to find a game in which the Giants netted less than 40K, let alone 37.4K, but there you have it. All it took for Texas to net less than 30K was the Mariners coming to town last year. The Phillies haven't had less than our magic number in a few years, but if you take a look at 2003-2007 attendance, before the Phillies got good again, there are plenty of games that are well below our magic number.

And even the Yankees conglomerate has seen its fair share of games that were "attended" by fewer than 37400 people since 2003. Before I began this post, I did not think this was the case. I thought I'd have to say, at the end of this post, hat in hand, that the Yankees were the only exception. But they're not! This makes me happy. Also, not only have all the above teams had official attendance of less than 37400 at games since 2003, but games where official attendance was below 36000. So even if they're not fudging the numbers at all (and they are), their official attendance has been less than what the Red Sox "true" attendance was likely to be during this streak.

So what does this all mean? It means that other no team, during the Red Sox's sellout streak, had "official" attendance that would have exceeded the seating capacity of baseball's smallest stadium. The Red Sox do indeed have the easiest path to a sellout streak because they have the smallest stadium, but what these facts show is that no other team during this period would have had a similar sellout streak, even if their seating capacity equaled Fenway's.

Congrats on the streak, RED SAWX NATION. It's perhaps a bit more impressive than the FACKIN HAYTIZ would have you believe.

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