Where are the foul ball hot zones in each National 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 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.
Arizona Diamondbacks Chase Field
The Arizona Diamondbacks saw the worst average attendance in the NL West in 2015, getting a mere 25681 each game. This low attendance means Chase Field has the best odds in for snagging a foul ball. The hot zones for Chase are N-R and 127-130, with 130 being on the outer edge of the zone. Fans can also sit in B/C-F and 115-117. Regardless, there won’t be a great deal of competition. That attendance level was 23 in both leagues.
Colorado Rockies Coors Field
The Colorado Rockies lost about 2000 fans per game in 2015. Even with the loss Coors Field still had 30948 in attendance per game. This places the park in the middle of the NL West for chances at grabbing a foul ball. Sitting behind the dugout on either side (3B: 137-140; 1B: 121-124) will offer the most opportunities. Sections 125 and 136 are pretty good too.
Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Stadium
The Los Angeles Dodgers are yet again the team with the highest average attendance in all of MLB. With 46479 at each game, the chances of snagging a foul ball, even if seated in the first few rows in the lower levels, is competitive. Dodger Stadium is the worst in both the NL West and the MLB. But to maximize the odds of catching a foul, sit in 18-28 on the third base side (which is odd numbered sections) and 19-28 (only even numbered sections) on the opposite side.
San Diego Padres Petco Park
The San Diego Padres‘ Petco Park had an average attendance of 30367 during the 2015 season, which put it at the 17 spot overall in Major League Baseball and in third place in the NL West. The best sections will be sections 108-114 (even numbered sections are on the 3B side), because more fouls travel down the 3B side than the 1B line. In the odd numbered sections 107-115 will be the best.
San Francisco Giants AT&T Park
The San Francisco Giants had the second highest attendance (41678) in the NL West and the third highets in all of MLB. This means your best bet is McCovey Cove. However, if you want to sit in the park, locate seats in sections 122-125 and 106-109.
Seating charts adapted from seatingcharts.com.