The Twins are Also Winning at the Box Office

The Twins have done a lot of winning lately.

Entering games on Monday, Minnesota was 36-16. No team in baseball had more wins, and no team in baseball had a better record. They’ve been buoyed by a potent offensive attack, becoming just the second team in baseball history to hit 100 home runs over their first 50 games in a season. Their pitching, too, has been quite good, as one might expect for a team that is already 20 games over .500 this early into the season.

Clearly, the 2019 season is going just about as well as the Twins could have expected. They’ve already built a double-digit lead in the AL Central, and their playoff odds reflect this newfound dominance:

The only place where the Twins were struggling was in attendance. As Craig Edwards chronicled at the end of April, baseball attendance to begin this season was a mixed bag. But the Twins in particular seemed to face difficulties putting people in the seats at Target Field. At the end of April, their average home attendance of 17,007 fans was the ninth-lowest in baseball, and their year-over-year change of -4,065 fans per game represented the third-most per game of any team.

Those weren’t promising numbers, especially for a team that had jumped out to a 17-10 record after the first month, holding an early AL Central lead.

In the weeks since, though, the Twins’ attendance has seen a major turnaround. On Sunday, Target Field hosted its largest crowd since 2016, with an official attendance of 39,913. That represented the third time in four games that the park hosted a crowd of at least 30,000. With that in mind, take a look at the Twins’ 5-game rolling average attendance since the beginning of 2017. (Single admission doubleheaders were counted as one game for this graph.)

Overall, the Twins’ remarkable month of May has brought their season-average attendance per game up to 19th in baseball, a three-spot jump, and their year-over-year change in fans per game has increased to just -659 fans. If this trend continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins find themselves with more fans at the ballpark in 2019 than they did in 2018.

Of course, none of this should be shocking to you. The Twins are in first place, and this would probably be more of a story if the team still wasn’t drawing well even after all of these wins and this large division lead. But what’s so interesting to me is just how quickly the Twins were able to see their attendance complete a full 180-degree turn.

I see this great run boiling down to a few factors.

First, warmer weather. Over Memorial Day weekend, Minneapolis enjoyed a great three days of baseball weather: a 72-degree and partly cloudy first pitch on Friday, a 66-degree and partly cloudy first pitch on Saturday, and a 68-degree and sunny first pitch on Sunday. Those sound like gorgeous days to spend outside watching first-place baseball to me.

But despite the lovely long weekend, weather can’t be the only variable in the Twins’ attendance rebound. Last April saw average temperatures in Minneapolis 13.4 degrees lower than the average, the coldest among teams with outdoor stadiums, according to research from Accuweather.

Here’s a graph showing Minneapolis temperatures in April 2018:

And now here’s a graph showing Minneapolis temperatures in April 2019:

As you can see, there appear to have been more typical temperatures in 2019, and yet the Twins still drew 4,000 fewer fans per game this April compared to last. So, while it’s easy to point to weather being a main factor in this recent run of success at the box office, it’s likely not the only reason why more Twins fans are at the ballpark.

The second theory that could apply here is affordability. You may recall that, on May 8, the Twins announced they would be selling $5 tickets for the remainder of their home games this month. They sold 20,000 tickets within a day of the announcement and, due to the large volume of interest, released over 10,000 more.

Affordability has often been cited as a main reason why baseball fans would rather watch the game at home. Teams have attempted to tackle the issue of affordability in different ways; one of the more popular options that we’ve seen in recent years has been the ballpark pass, something the Twins offered even before this $5 ticket promotion was announced.

But through this new strategy, the Twins have continued to make affordability a priority, even if it was for just a few thousand seats per home game. They were rewarded with significant interest in the team, which in turn probably sold plenty of seats on its own. With those two factors—affordability and interest—combined, the Twins were able to draw an enormous crowd like they did this past Sunday.

Still, it’s likely none of this would have happened without all of the victories that the Twins have piled up. Good weather is important to convincing fans to grab a ticket and hot dog, and so is affordability, but team success probably also has a significant impact. In this specific case, it’s hard to distinguish what exactly has led to these increases; it is likely a combination of all three of these things, potentially more. Still, it’s great to see fans in the seats at Target Field, supporting this surprisingly successful Twins season.





Devan Fink is a Contributor at FanGraphs. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.

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DustyColorado
Member
DustyColorado

Just imagine the attendance figures if they stopped playing service time manipulation games and called up Wander Javier.

dewelar
Member
dewelar

In case this isn’t a joke, which I’m about 95% sure it is, but anyway…

A 20-year-old who missed all of last year, has played one game in A-ball this year, and plays the same position as the best-hitting everyday player on the team? Really?

DustyColorado
Member
DustyColorado

Yes really Mr./Ms. Dewelar. Wander Javier’s will is stronger than your doubt.

Billsaints
Member
Billsaints

Are you his Dad?

DustyColorado
Member
DustyColorado

No? That’s a weird question to ask Bill. Are you?

sadtrombone
Member
Member
sadtrombone

Check out Dusty’s twitter account sometime if you want the full-on crazy.

dewelar
Member
dewelar

No thanks. Twitter’s interface is lousy when you don’t see well like myself. I consider it half-a-step up from Reddit, which is the bottom of the barrel. I’ll just remember not to take the user seriously going forward 🙂 .

DustyColorado
Member
DustyColorado

Thanks for sending new followers my way, sadtrombone. Wander Javier’s will is stronger than your doubt.