Keeping Score

Do Chicks (And Fans) Really Dig the Long Ball? Why No-Hitters Aren’t Drawing Crowds

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AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano delivers during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Tuesday, May 3, 2011 in Chicago

It may have been surprising that Minnesota Twins pitcher Franciso Liriano, who entered Monday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox with a 9.13 ERA, was the man who threw the first no-hitter of the 2011 baseball season. Thanks to several clutch defensive plays from his teammates, Liriano held the Sox hitless during a 1-0 Twins win.

However, these days news of a no-hitter is somewhat routine.

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Last season, dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher,” produced six no-hitters and two perfect games, the most in one season since 1880. Runs, hits, and home runs per game were at their lowest levels in nearly 20 years. This season, pitchers have picked up where they left off in 2010. Through May 3, according to Stats Inc., teams are scoring 4.29 runs per game, the lowest number since 1992.  This number also outpaces the 4.55 runs-per-game mark set through May 3 of last season.

Presumably, harsher steroid testing over the past few years has helped reduce offensive firepower. Fans, however, aren’t cheering these gaudy pitching numbers.  Across the majors, overall attendance is down 2%  for games through May 3. Swaths of empty seats have become the backdrops of baseball broadcasts – so much so that CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell has started regularly tweeting pictures of empty seats to his nearly 80,000 followers.

Are fans thirsting for more offense and scoring? Bad weather might be contributing to declining attendance. In New York, for example, rainfall was up 25% in April: Yankees attendance has dropped 7.6%, and Mets attendance is down 7.0%. St. Louis has had a colder, wetter-than-usual April: attendance has dropped 7% there was well.

Still, as baseball takes steps to address its attendance issues, the sport should realize that fans probably want more power back in the game.

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