Phillies Just Set Dubious Attendance Record

The Phillies are the first major league baseball team to draw 500,000 fewer fans in three consecutive seasons. They were 25th in attendance this season.

Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur (3), center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) and left fielder Aaron Altherr (40) celebrate win in final game of the season at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Marlins, 7-2.

Philadelphia Phillies (from left) right fielder Jeff Francoeur, center fielder Odubel Herrera and left fielder Aaron Altherr celebrate a win in final game of the season at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Marlins, 7-2.

The Phillies did their job this weekend: They lost two games to clinch the first overall draft pick next season, and they won yesterday’s finale to avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 1961. The Phillies finished 2015 with a 63-99 record. Yesterday’s game was kind of fun: The Phillies won, Ichiro pitched, several young players looked good and gave fans some hope for the future. And, yes, the 99-loss Phillies distracted fans from the Eagles yesterday.

But the Phillies did set a dubious record with the end of the season yesterday. The Phillies drew 1,831,080 fans this year, an average of 23,475 fans a game. (That’s “tickets sold,” as actual crowds were much lower.) That was 592,772 fewer fans than last year. The Phillies drew 588,551 fewer fans in 2014 than they did in 2013, and 553,315 fewer in 2013 than they did in 2012. All in all, Phillies attendance dropped 21,966 fans per game from 2011 to 2015.

Per Number Tamer’s David Kronheim, the Phillies are the first major league team to lose 500,000 fans in three consecutive seasons. They have the largest attendance drop over three seasons (2015 vs. 2012) and over four years (2015 vs. 2011) in baseball history.

YearAttendanceMLB RankChange from previous year
20103,647,2492nd45,556 more
20113,680,7181st33,469 more
20123,565,7181st115,000 fewer
20133,012,4038th553,315 fewer
20142,423,85216th588,551 fewer
20151,831,08025th592,772 fewer

The reason for the Phillies’ attendance slide is rather simple: The team won 102 games in 2011. Since then, it hasn’t finished with a record better than .500. The fans have started to turn away in droves. To be fair, the Phillies’ attendance woes were exacerbated by several factors this season beyond the play on the field. Due to rainouts that led to a few old-fashioned 2-for-1 doubleheaders, they only played 78 dates at Citizens Bank Park this season. It’s the fewest number of dates the Phillies have played in a season at the stadium, and the first time they haven’t played a full 81 since 2006.

Phillies attendance has fallen by 1,849,638 fans since 2012. The Mets, who have the second-worst decline in MLB history over a four-year period, dropped 1,799,240 in attendance from 2008 to 2012. (The Mets moved to a much smaller stadium, Citi Field, in 2009.) The Phillies three-season decline is 1,734,638 fans; the next-worst three-year drop is Cleveland with a loss of 1,726,377 from 2000 to 2003. With three extra dates at average attendance, the Phils would have avoided the biggest attendance drops over both those periods.

Though the drop in fan attendance at Phillies games is huge, it’s obviously driven by the huge success the team had on the field from 2007 to 2011 and at the gate in 2011 and 2012. Without such huge attendance marks in 2011 and 2012, the Phillies wouldn’t have been able to set such an ignominious record.

So what’s next for the Phillies? Jayson Stark first noticed this precipitous drop after being alerted to it by Kronheim late last month. Earlier in the year, he asked Kronheim — who compiles incredibly detailed reports on MLB attendance each year — if the Phillies would lose another half-million in attendance this year.

“They might fall a little,” Kronheim remembers telling Stark. “Maybe 100,000, maybe 200,000 — but they won’t fall a half a million again. Well, they did.” He says there’s no way it will happen again next year.

That sounds about right. Per Baseball-Reference, most of the team’s value this year is from players who only spent part of the season with the team. Some of the team’s most valuable players by WAR were Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff — guys who only played part of the season. Odubel Herrera had a great second half and was probably the Phillies’ best player this year as a 23-year-old playing a new position. Ken Giles looked great in his first chance at closing.

The Phillies will undoubtedly be better next year! Attendance won’t plummet another 500,000. We think, at least.

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