Where are the foul ball hot zones in each American League Central ballpark?
Many believe snagging a foul ball is pure luck. This is true only to a point. There is a science to it as well. Foul ball snagging, in fact, is closer to science than pure luck.
In The Baseball, Zack Hample briefly discusses the locations which review the most fouls: The areas closest to home plate on either of side of the protective netting and extending down both baselines to about the end of each dugout tend to have the most foul balls hit into them. In “Don’t Sit There…or There…or There,” Gil Fried and his team looked at foul ball injury risks. The authors confirmed these same locations are the most dangerous. If you’re a baseball fan you already knew these areas are the “hot zones” in each park.
While luck does play into it, there are ways to maximize the potential of snagging one of these precious jewels from the field. First, needing to know the odds based on attendance; this can be done using the odds calculators. A smaller attendance will increase one’s chances.
Another need is to know the starting pitchers as well as the lineups. The pitcher/batter matchups matter a great deal when determining where to sit in order to increase the chances of snagging a foul ball. While it’s difficult to know this weeks ahead of the game, if fans understand the basic physics of foul balls, they will still be able to maximize their odds.
Frequency of Foul Balls
Of the historical average of 47.7 foul balls hit per MLB game, roughly 29 balls are slapped into the seats. This calculation is based on Fried’s report that roughly 40% of all foul balls are out of play for fans. Therefore, 60% finding their way into the seats. Of these, about 60% (about 17 balls) end up in these “hot zone” areas. This means fans have a great deal of competition for a ball if they are at a game with high attendance. Fried also found
Although Fried discovered 38% of the foul balls studied traveled down the third base side and 32% went to the first base side, a relatively even spread, for the purposes here we will assume a completely even spread of foul balls into the sections on both the first base and third base lines, the guide below will help fans further capitalize on their chances.
To maximize the potential of a snag, we look at attendance, pitcher and batter match-ups, and where the “hot zones” are in each park.
Chicago White Sox U.S. Cellular Field
U.S. Cellular had an average attendance of 21677 during the 2015 season. This park has the second best odds in the AL Central for snagging a foul ball as a result of the low attendance. The best sections will be sections 136-144, because more fouls travel down the 3B side than the 1B line. If the White Sox decide to extend netting, section 136 will not receive any balls. Section 145 is in a high probability, but non-hot zone section. If you choose to go to the opposite side, then fans should buy tickets somewhere in sections 119-128.
Cleveland Indians Progressive Field
Progressive Field had an average attendance of 17361 during the 2015 season. This park has the best odds in the AL Central for snagging a foul ball because of the low attendance. The best sections will be sections 159-167, because more fouls travel down the 3B side than the 1B line. With extended netting, section 159 will not receive any balls. Section 167 is in a high probability, but non-hot zone section. Given the anemic attendance, you can sit on the first base line in sections 146 through 138 and stand almost an equal chance of grabbing a foul ball.
Detroit Tigers Comerica Park
Comerica Park had an average attendance of 33655 during the 2015 season. This park has the worst odds in the AL Central for snagging a foul ball because of the high attendance. The best sections will be sections 132-137 since more fouls travel down the third base side than the first base line. With extended netting a possibility, section 133 may not receive any balls. Section 138 is in a high probability, but non-hot zone section. We’ve sat in 138 and can attest to this fact. Many fouls are hit to the near side of Section 138. If you choose to sit along the 1B side, then your best bets are sections 122-118.
Kansas City Royals Kauffman Stadium
Kauffman Stadium had an average attendance of 33439 during the 2015 season. This makes it a very close second in worst odds in the AL Central for snagging a foul ball. The attendance is only marginally less than that of Comerica. The best sections will be 121 through 116 on the 3B side. However, with extended netting, section 121 could be framed off and not receive any balls. Section 115 is in a high probability, but non-hot zone section. On the other side, the best areas are in sections 133-139.
Minnesota Twins Target Field
Target Field had an average attendance of 27408 during the 2015 season. This park takes the middle spot in the division because of the attendance. The best sections will be sections 12-14 and the first few rows of 119-120, because more fouls travel down the 3B side than the 1B line. Even with extended netting, these sections should still have plenty of balls flying into them. On the first base side choose seats in 2-5 and in the front few rows of sections 107-109.
Seating charts adapted from seatingcharts.com.