Today I will look at regular season home attendance in MLB. To do so I grabbed the data from ESPN. First thing to note is that overall regular season attendance has decreased by over 600,000 fans from the 2015 regular season. The biggest drop by far in home attendance was with Cincinnati (-525,421). The next largest declines in home attendance were with Minnesota (-256,142), Pittsburgh (-249,575), Oakland (-246,669), Detroit (-232,189) and Milwaukee (-227,994). But not all teams had lower attendance. Some teams had increases and the largest was Toronto (+597,408), followed by the Chicago Cubs (+272,608), New York Mets (+219,849), Texas (+218,527) and Cleveland (+202,762). So while total attendance is lower this regular season as compared to the 2015 regular season, is it statistically different from the previous regular season? Last year I took a brief look at whether there was any statistical difference in home regular season attendance in MLB, and concluded that statistically, MLB attendance has not been different from one season to the next since 2005.
How can we determine if this season is really different from last season. To answer this, let me lay out the process of how I will perform the statistical analysis and then make some conclusions.
First, I am going to look at regular season average home attendance for the 2015 and 2016 MLB season. The reason I am looking at average attendance is that not all teams play the same number of home games from one season to the next and using the average is a much more accurate for comparing one season to another.
Second, I am going to use a t-test as the means to perform the analysis. Here the t-test looks at the differences
between attendance for two regular seasons average home attendance and allows us to judge the difference between their means
relative to the variability of their regular season average home attendance. You can quickly perform a t-test in Microsoft Excel =t.test(...). I choose to use a two tailed test, since regular season average home attendance can increase and decrease as compared to the previous regular season. I looked at both the paired test and the tests where the sample variance is both equal and unequal. In each case, the result of the t-test is that it fails to accept (rejects) that regular season average home attendance is different between the two seasons.
So, while MLB attendance is lower by over 600,000 total fans, this season's regular season attendance is not significantly different from the 2015 regular season in terms of the differences in the means. While this might not be a comfort to the Twins, Pirates, A's, Tigers and Brewers, it is not a sign that MLB is in significant trouble.