Roger Dean Stadium

Brian Walton looks into the numbers behind two decades of spring play by the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

2017 marks two decades of spring play for the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. This year, the team set a new record for winning but a new low in average attendance. Will there be a carry-over into the regular season?

With a Wednesday win over the Washington Nationals, the St. Louis Cardinals completed their 2017 Grapefruit League schedule and 20th year playing at Roger Dean Stadium.

Having been a regular at spring camp back when the Cardinals still trained across the state in St. Petersburg, it is hard for me to believe that two full decades have passed since the move to the then-new complex in Jupiter, Florida in 1998.

St. Louis’ 20th spring at “The Dean” was marked by extreme highs and lows. The team played better than ever before, but fewer people than ever traveled there to see it.

In the most important measure, on the field, the results were very positive. Specifically, the club’s 20-8-4 record and .714 winning percentage are both tops in the Jupiter years. In addition, the spring improvement over last year of 17.3 percent (.173 in terms of winning percentage), tied 2012 for the top annual gain.

On the downside, fan participation hit an all-time low this spring. Both St. Louis’ average attendance per game (5,644) and year-to-year change (-19.4 percent) are the worst showings in the team’s 20 years in Jupiter.

In the table below, I bolded the high and low points in key columns. Though not connected to spring results, I also included at the far right whether the Cardinals went on to the playoffs that fall. In an oddity, in almost every prior case when there was a spring extreme in winning or attendance – either high or low – the club ended up staying home that October.

Some have speculated that the 2017 World Baseball Classic may have eaten into spring ticket sales. Until full MLB attendance figures are released, this cannot be fully assessed. However, I have seen reference to several Arizona-based teams setting new attendance records this spring.

These factors will certainly bear watching during the regular season as well. In 2016, a dismal .469 winning percentage at Busch Stadium led to the team’s second consecutive year of declining home attendance. The Cardinals’ 2016 drop of 2.2 percent was considerably more than the overall MLB decline of 0.6 percent compared to 2015.

Further, Cardinals television ratings, while still second highest in MLB in 2016, were down by a whopping 21 percent from 2015 (from 10.86 to 8.54) – during a year in which MLB television ratings overall were up 1.0 percent. (More details on 2016 attendance and ratings can be accessed here.)

St. Louis Cardinals spring training record and home attendance – 1998 through 2017

Spring Overall record Win pct. YTY   Home attend. Dates Average YTY Playoffs
2017 20-8-4 0.714 17.3%   90,304 16 5,644 -19.4% TBD
2016 13-11-3 0.542 8.3%   90,985 13 6,999 6.5%  
2015 11-13-3 0.458 0.0%   98,533 15 6,569 -5.0% yes
2014 11-13-1 0.458 -7.5%   96,795 14 6,914 12.1% yes
2013 16-14-1 0.533 -10.7%   93,433 15 6,170 -6.6% yes
2012 16-9-2 0.640 17.3%   85,857 13 6,604 6.9% yes
2011 14-16-1 0.467 -5.1%   92,652 15 6,177 -10.8% yes
2010 15-14-0 0.517 -9.6%   96,910 14 6,922 22.5%  
2009 19-12-2 0.613 -1.7%   101,740 18 5,652 -2.2% yes
2008 17-10-2 0.630 1.4%   92,465 15 5,779 -15.5%  
2007 16-10-3 0.615 9.8%   102,619 15 6,841 3.6%  
2006 15-14-1 0.517 -6.0%   92,070 15 6,603 4.8% yes
2005 15-11-2 0.577 -0.9%   94,543 15 6,303 -1.0% yes
2004 17-12-1 0.586 14.2%   95,483 15 6,366 5.7% yes
2003 12-15-2 0.444 -18.5%   84,336 14 6,024 -7.6%  
2002 17-10-3 0.630 9.8%   97,733 16 6,516 -4.3% yes
2001 17-15-0 0.531 -7.6%   95,369 14 6,812 -4.3% yes
2000 17-11-0 0.607 5.5%   99,668 14 7,119 -0.7% yes
1999 16-13-1 0.552 12.3%   100,398 13 7,171 11.7%  
1998 12-16-1 0.429     83,468 13 6,421    

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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