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Astros attendance: A sneaky good sign of the team's turnaround

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If you win games, they will come.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Turn on the local talk radio in Houston this summer and you'll hear a strange sound. Voices that haven't spoken the words "Houston Astros" in three years are devoting whole hours of their shows to the team. Trades are being bandied about, even if it's just Charlie Pallilo stumping so hard for Cole Hamels. Heck, there's even some prospect talk to whet your Astros appetite.

Throughout the city, Astros caps have come out of mothballs and jerseys are worn in public places. But, the real sign that things have turned around for Astros fans this summer is Minute Maid Park.

Glance around a home game broadcast and the stands will usually be full. Attendance seems to have spiked over the last few years. Since we're a pretty data-centric site here at TCB, though, we can't just leave it at that. We have to see if something has changed. Has the Astros hot start to 2015 turned into more fans in the seats?

The answer is yes and no.

Houston has drawn  just over one million fans this season in 44 home dates. That's an average of 24,489, or about 20,000 less than MMP's capacity. That's not the most overwhelming number, and that attendance figure puts Houston 11th in the AL.

Last season, the Astros finished 12th in the AL, drawing 1.75 million fans and 21,627 per game. So, there's a bit of an increase here, but not a huge one. In fact, the Astros aren't even drawing as many fans per game as they did in 2011, when they lost 106 games.

Yet, there are good signs for the attendance uptick. As Houston gets deeper into the season and stays a contender, it's seemingly picking up bandwagon fans. Houston has already drawn over 30,000 fans six times this season. They haven't drawn more than that since 2012, when they had eight games over that number. Given that they still have 37 home dates left, it's safe to assume they'll top that number.

What's more encouraging is that the bottom of the attendance list also looks good. Houston has drawn less than 20,000 fans nine times this season. For comparison, they did so 42 times last year, which was over half their home games.

The trend is also ticking upward. Of those nine games under 20K, just two of them came after May and those were both the first days in June on a Monday and Tuesday. In its last 16 home games since the end of May, Houston averaged nearly 27,000 fans per game. Some of that is the draw of the teams in town, but it's still significant enough of a bump to think there's a trend.

If Houston keeps up that pace, it'll pass 2 million fans in September. Again, that hasn't happened since 2011. It's also worth noting that these Astros also have the highest payroll since then. And that if Houston falters down the stretch, things could get dicey with attendance once school starts and the Texans begin playing games.

The point is, fans are discovering the Astros again. It's not as crazy as it was in the early 2000's when Minute Maid Park first opened, but it's a start.