Where are the foul ball hot zones in each National League East 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.
Atlanta Braves Turner Field
During the 2015 MLB season Turner Field saw average attendance of 24709. Losing an average of 4300 fans per game over 2014 made this park one of the best in the NL East for snagging a foul ball. The best sections, those that will give you the best chances, will be sections 110-118 and 109-117. Remember: Turner Field has the even numbered sections along the 3B side and the odd numbered section line the 1B side.
Miami Marlins Marlin Park
The Marlins always ranks low in attendance. In 2015 they had the lowest average attendance in the NL East with 21633 . This minimal attendance means the park has the best odds in for snagging a foul ball. While you won’t have a great deal of competition for foul balls the best sections will be in the vicinity of 19-22 and 7-9. The sections immediately above each of these sections, all of which as also numbered the same will be high foul ball spots too.
New York Mets Citi Field
The Mets’ average attendance skyrocketed by nearly 5200 extra fans per game, climbing to 31725 during the 2015 season. The jump raised the park to the number two position, less than 1000 fans fewer per game than the Nats. It also means there will be considerably more competition for a ball. Citi Field sections that offer the best opportunities will be 121-124 and 111-114.
Philadelphia Phillies Citizens Bank Park
Citizens Bank held an average attendance of 22606 during the 2015 season; this is a drop of over 7300 fans per game compared to 2014 data. Due to this plunge, this park offers the second best opportunities in the NL East for snagging a foul ball. The best sections will be along the 3B line in sections 129-132. Over on the other side, sitting in 115-118 will boost your chances.
Washington Nationals Nationals Park
The Washington Nationals had the highest attendance in the NL East in 2015. By having 32344 fans per game, National Park comes in at the top spot and, therefore the worst spot for grabbing a foul ball in the NL East for snagging a foul ball because of the low attendance. Depending on the pitcher and the line-ups, look to sections 114-117 for the most opportunities, and 128-131 for the next best areas.
Seating charts adapted from seatingcharts.com.