An Attendance Pitch

Who wants to go see Jeff Suppan pitch? Not me. But will that really effect my decision to go to a game? Or any other fan's for that matter? That's a question that was posed on this morning's Frosty Mug over at Brew Crew Ball.

So it got me thinking, do people really not go to a game because of the pitcher on the mound? To find out, I went through the home attendance numbers from 2009 and broke it down. As is done when finding average numbers, the lowest and highest were both dropped. Also, any number that was unusually high as a result of bobble-head giveaways were also removed.

And here is what I came up with:


What conclusions can we draw from this? Aside from the fact that fill-ins like Mike Burns, Chris Narveson, Seth McClung and Carlos Villanueva drew the biggest average crowd? Simple, the pitcher on the mound last season had zero effect on whether or not fans would be going to the game.

Dave Bush had his worst year in a Brewers jersey but he also averaged more fans than the other four pitchers who started the year in the rotation. Yovanni Gallardo didn't have as strong of a showing from fans as Braden Looper, and that's with Looper's opening day start not included in the data.

There are two schools of thought that you can draw on when deciding what this information reveals. First, fans buy their tickets based on when they want to go to the game and nothing more. I know I'll be buying tickets to a game in the Seattle series next season because I want to see that team play in Miller Park. More often than not tickets are bought based on a person's schedule, not the rotation's schedule.

The second thought, and I would give this equal credence, is that fans aren't going to Brewer games to see pitching, they're going to see Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. In fact, as long as I've been going to see games there have only been two pitchers in the barley and blue I was excited to see pitch, Ben Sheets (who I saw numerous times) and C.C. Sabathia (who I never saw live).

Face it, people go to Miller Park to watch guys hit home runs. That won't be changing any time soon.


In case you were curious, here is a look at my actual spreadsheet on the team's attendance. Numbers with a * indicate either a bobble-head day or opening day.


  1. True. I'd usually buy tickets then look ahead to see who would be pitching that day, not the other way around. I swear most of the games I went to last season ended up being Suppan. I do enjoy watching Bush pitch, though he had a rough season I like him still. I saw several Yovanni games, and was always initially excited, but ended up getting treated to a snorefest as the Brewer bats usually went dead those days.

  2. Thanks for taking KL @BCB up on his request. I was quite curious myself. Would you be willing to release your dataset so others can take a look? I'd be interested in a quick and dirty Generalized Linear Model (log transform on attendance?). Thanks!

  3. Spreadsheet is available.

    That was my first attempt at a google document, so let me know if there is any trouble with it.

  4. Thanks! It worked perfect.

  5. FYI, I did the quick-and-dirty GLM modeling and it's not surprising that the weekday vs. weekend factor and Bobble head factors are the only notable factors. Actually, Parra comes out as being weakly significant as having a negative effect on attendance, but that's likely linked to him pitching only 3 weekend games and random chance.

    It's worth noting that the Doug Melvin Bobblehead day drew only 30,000 on Sunday, Sept 20 with Gallardo pitching and messed up all of the Bobblehead numbers so I had to remove it as a Bobblehead day. Sept 13th game drew a paltry 21,453 with Villenueva pitching so we can't say Doug Melvin drove people away. ;-)

    Thanks again for the data!

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