NL West Dominates MLB Attendance as AL Central Lags

The American League and National League have evenly split the last 24 World Series, each winning 12. But, as Yahoo Sports’ Kendall Baker pointed out, the latter dominates the former in attendance.

As of May 30, seven of the top eight MLB teams in average home attendance play in the NL, and seven of the bottom nine play in the AL. In total, NL teams draw an average of 30,557 fans per game, while the AL clubs fill just 23,784 seats.

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That gap is nothing new—NL teams have averaged more fans in each of the past 20 seasons—but it is growing. The NL’s lead is larger than it’s been at any point during that time span.

A closer look at the data reveals just two divisions drive most of the disparity: the NL West and the AL Central.

The NL West has been the dominant division in attendance in every season since 2006. The Los Angeles Dodgers have drawn MLB’s largest crowds for more than a decade continuously as they have usurped the New York Yankees as baseball’s winningest regular-season team. Their offseason additions of pitchers Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto in free agency should help sustain their edge in the coming years.

The San Diego Padres have made a climb to second in the big leagues in attendance after ranking in the bottom half of clubs as recently as 2018. Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies’ faithful have consistently shown up to support their team in recent years despite their lack of on-field success.

One season after riding the moneyball comet that comes around every 10 years or so all the way to the World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks have seen an uptick in their attendance in 2024. Although crowds across MLB overall are down 7% year-over-year, the Diamondbacks’ 29,936 fans per game reflects a 24% increase and ranks 13th.

At the other end of the spectrum is the AL Central. The Cleveland Guardians are the highest-ranked franchise in the division at 22nd in MLB, followed by the Minnesota Twins (23rd), Detroit Tigers (24th), Kansas City Royals (26th) and Chicago White Sox (27th).

The lesson learned from the dichotomy between these two divisions: If you build it, they will come.

The two largest offseason spending commitments in MLB history came from the Dodgers in 2024 and the Padres in 2023. Every single NL West team is among the top 16 total payrolls in MLB, according to Spotrac, with the Rockies’ $145.8 million bringing up the rear.

Compare that to the AL Central, in which the White Sox are the highest-spending team at $136.3 million and 18th in the majors.

Also true: If you don’t build it, they won’t come. Look no further than the Oakland Athletics, which have MLB’s stingiest payroll and are averaging fewer fans than minor league hockey and college wrestling teams.

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