Where are the foul ball hot zones in each American League West 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 match-ups 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.
Houston Astros Minute Maid Park
The Astros had an average attendance of 26587 during the 2015 season. In the AL West this attendance means Minute Maid Park offers the fourth best opportunity for snagging a foul ball. The best sections will be sections 112-116 along the third base side and sections 122-126 along the first base line. Sections 111 and 127 are also decent for foul balls and are out of range of broken or loose bats as well.
Los Angeles Angels Angel Stadium
Angel Stadium saw an average attendance of 37195 during the 2015 season. In the AL West this attendance means Minute Maid Park offers the worst opportunities for snagging a foul ball. The best sections will be 109-112, because more fouls travel down the 3B side than the 1B line. Nearly equal opportunities will be available in sections 124-126 on the opposite side of the diamond.
Oakland Athletics Oakland Coliseum
The Oakland Athletics had the lowest average attendance in the AL West with only 21829 showing up for each game during the 2015 season. This means O. Co. has the best odds in the AL West for snagging a foul ball. The best sections in the Coliseum are along the 3B side in 120-123. On the 1B side the sections behind the visitor dugout, 112-114, are the best. It’s important to know the Athletics field has some of the largest foul territory in the MLB. To increase the chances, fans should sit as close to the field as possible.
Seattle Mariners Safeco Field
Safeco Field had an average attendance of 27081 during the 2015 season. This puts the Mariners home games in the middle of the pack in the AL West for snagging a foul ball because of the mediocre attendance. The best sections will be sections 135-140, because more fouls travel down the 3B side than the 1B line. Along the first base side sit in 121-126. With extended netting, sections 135 and 126 will not receive any balls.
Texas Rangers Globe Life Park in Arlington
The Texas Rangers had an average attendance of 30764 during the 2015 season. This means Globe Life is in a distant second place behind the Angels for worst chances the AL West for snagging a foul ball because of the low attendance. The best sections will be sections 18-21 (unless netting is extended, then subtract parts of 22 and all of 21 from the hot zones). Along the other side sections 31-34 offer the best seating for foul ball opportunities.
Seating charts adapted from seatingcharts.com.