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It is August 2nd, 2023, and the Orioles are in 1st place in the AL East. They have the best record in the AL and the second-best record in all of MLB (2nd to the Braves). That’s the great news.

The good news? Attendance at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (OPACY) is up. Last year, the O’s drew 1,368,367 fans. That’s an average of 16,893 fans/game. Good for 11th in the AL. But this year, the Orioles have already drawn 1,186,292 fans (9th in the AL) in 53 home games with 28 more to go. That’s an average of 22,382 fans/game and on pace to draw nearly 1.8m fans to Camden Yards. An increase of ~33%. You might be asking yourself, “But isn’t attendance up across all of MLB?” Yes, it is. 8%. So, the increase from the Orioles doesn’t appear to be only driven by some combination of renewed interest in the sport, the waning of COVID worries, or the rule changes.

There has to be some reason why the Orioles attendance is beating the league wide numbers by so much.

Well, I have the biggest reason: WINNING.

It’s that simple. Now, I could just end this post right here and move on with my day. But I wanted to at least put together some numbers and run them against a competing theory sensationalized by Sinclair Broadcasting/Fox News. And we’ll use statistics to do so.

My data sources for this exercise:

The Baseball Cube and Spotrac for payrolls

Baseball Reference for attendance numbers

The Baltimore Sun for homicide numbers

I’ve excluded 2020 from my calculations as it was both a COVID shortened season and fans weren’t in the stands during the regular season. Attendance was a big fat zero that year. And for 2023, I projected attendance, homicides, and wins since, well, 2023 isn’t over. Now, I did these calculations yesterday (prior to the Orioles win), so the O’s are actually on pace for 100 wins.

Here’s my table of data:

I wanted to use a simple correlation coefficient to see what mattered more when driving attendance: an increase in wins, team spending, or the number of homicides. After all, the Sinclair Broadcasting and Fox News talking points is that the main determiner (or a big one) for attendance is crime. I’ve always hated that sensationalist talking point. It doesn’t use data. It uses emotion. And that’s all these networks care about. But I digress.

As a backdrop, here’s how I calculate the correlation coefficient (which will give a decimal value between -1 and +1):

Excel’s CORREL function

A positive coefficient indicates a positive correlation. As variable X (example: wins) goes up, variable Y also increases (example: attendance). Or vice versa.

A negative coefficient indicates a negative correlation. As variable X (example: attendance) goes up, variable Y decreases (example: homicides). Or vice versa.

I did two sets of calculations due to the problem of COVID on attendance in 2021 and - to a lesser extent - 2022:

2007-2023 (total dataset)

2007-2019 (pre-COVID)

Additionally, I did 3 different calculations for each time period:

Wins and Attendance

Payroll and Attendance

Homicides and Attendance

Here’s the resulting correlation coefficients:

If you’re asking yourself what do these numbers mean/suggest, I’ll tell you:

From 2007-2019, the number of homicides had very little to do with attendance. Since this coefficient (-0.2) is much closer to 0 than -1, it would indicate there is a weak correlation.

From 2007-2023, that coefficient increases to -0.4, but that still indicates a weak correlation.

From 2007-2023, payroll appears to have a weak correlation (+0.47) to attendance. It gets even weaker (+0.20) when just using 2007-2019.

From 2007-2023, wins appear to have a stronger correlation (0.64) to attendance than both payroll and homicides. And when using data from 2007-2019, that correlation skyrockets to +0.86. Which that number being so close to +1, it indicates a stronger positive correlation.

My takeaway is that payroll increases don’t matter much unless winning goes with it. Additionally, while there might be some impact on the number of homicides in Baltimore City with Orioles attendance, the correlation is weak.

So, what matters most?

Winning. Winning. Winning.

You don’t need correlation coefficients to simply see it in the data. Why did attendance go up in 2012 after 14 losing seasons? They won more games than they lost. Why did it go up from 2013 to 2014? They won the division in 2014.

To put a bow on this, I want to use another (formerly beleaguered) team other than the Orioles to drive home my point: The Miami Marlins.

The Marlins are 57-51. Their new stadium was built in 2012. They hit 2.2m fans that year. They promptly finished dead last. Attendance plummeted in 2013 with the Marlins drawing 1.6m fans. The immediate next year after a fancy new stadium.

After years of losing, massive mismanagement, tanking, the Marlins hit rock bottom in 2018 with 811k fans. They haven’t been above 1m fans since 2017. The Marlins haven’t had a winning season (not including 2020) since 2007. They’re on track to barely scrape over 1m fans this year. But attendance would be up. Why?

Because they’re winning.

Just win, baby. People like winning. People like winners.

Uhh, the end.