These numbers are not adjusted to inflation. They are base numbers compiled from Cots Contracts and www.thebaseballcube.com via retrosheet.org. All graphs show data from 1995 through 2020. Attendance numbers are through 2019 due to Covid-19 pandemic. 2020 payroll data is adjusted for the shortened 60 game season.
First overall Cleveland Indians payroll vs MLB yearly average since 1995
Numbers inflation adjusted to 2020 dollars...
Cleveland Indians yearly payroll ranks since 1995.
Cleveland Indians yearly attendance rank since 1995.
Indians WINS vs YEAR to YEAR attendance change. Changes in attendance don't seem to be connect with team success.
All MLB team payrolls vs team average attendance over five years (2015-2019). R-squared is 0.525
Where do the Cleveland Indians fit on this scatterplot? See white dots on graphic below.
This would suggest that is a fairly significant correlation between attendance and team payroll.
If we subtract the top and bottom 10 teams each year, we get this relationship below. The correlation seems to be a better, tighter fit.
Next we correlate MLB team payroll vs winning percentage. The correlation is less significant. R-squared is only 0.225.
White dots below indicate the Cleveland Indians on the graph. Notice that they have been pretty good at making the most out of their limited financial resources.
Does attendance and winning percentage correlate more than payroll/winning percentage? Not really. R-square is only 0.241. Look at the upper left quadrant. Many teams have decent attendance numbers with more loses than wins! Having a good team (more than 81 wins) doesn't mean attendance always follows.
(See the graphic earlier showing Cleveland WINS vs Changes in attendance)
Cleveland Indians are the white dots below for comparison
So what does all of this mean?
* The correlation between MORE team spending and higher attendance is strong (graphic 6, 7, 8).
* Spending tons of money doesn't necessarily mean a higher winning percentage (graphic 9 & 10)
* Winning more games (81 or more) doesn't necessarily mean higher attendance (graphic 11 & 12)
* There are other factors (perhaps unemployment, socio-economic, other professional sports team influences) which drive attendance unrelated to team spending and team success.
Fangraphs has an excellent piece showing other factors