Arthur: Tanking is responsible for a big chunk of MLB’s attendance problems

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on September 6, 2019:

Nearly seven months into the season, it’s clear that the attendance problems from early April were no aberration. Per game total attendance is down 300 fans, leading to a total reduction of roughly 700,000 people over the full season. This drop adds to a four million-person decrease since 2015.

There are many suspects for the drop in attendance and likely many culprits. Ticket prices are high and continue to skyrocket despite America’s stagnating median wages. The game itself has various aesthetic issues (or at least it might, depending on your taste). These may all be contributing. But one of the major factors appears to be fewer teams in reach of a playoff spot, and that lack of competitive games explains one third of the fall in attendance since 2015.

There’s a straightforward, if hypothetical, link between playoff contention and attendance. The idea goes that fans like to see a team in the postseason hunt. So as tanking squads proliferate, people are rebelling against rosters with no hope of success (e.g. the Orioles) by failing to show up en masse.

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Originally published: September 6, 2019. Last Updated: September 6, 2019.