The final attendance counts are out and the foul ball odds outlook is in.
The numbers are in and it’s looking like 2017 season will be less conducive to foul ball grabbing overall than the 2016 season was. The reason, as the below graph shows, is because so many parks saw an increase in attendance. The entire league showed a net gain of 67 seats filled per game than in 2016 over 2015.
For the following calculations, I have taken out all stadium seats located in homerun territory, so the odds are based only on ALL seats located in foul territory. Due to Major League Baseball’s request for extended netting, these numbers may be slightly different for those teams that have extended netting. Also, a disclaimer: Not all seats are created equal, though for the purposes of this post, I am treating them as such. Look for a post in the near future with a more comprehensive breakdown, which will include netting issues.
The Worst Odds for Snagging Game Used Foul Balls in 2017?
I don’t envy Los Angeles Dodgers fans. Every year I’ve been doing this has had the Dodgers as the team with the highest average attendance and the worst odds for the common guy and gal to snag a game foul ball.
The three parks with the worst odds for snagged a foul ball during a game remain the same pretty much every season it seems. The 2015 season continued the pattern. And so have the 2016 attendance numbers.
Topping all other parks for the third year in a row is Dodger Stadium. Odds were high the last few seasons, and the Dodgers’ lack of a breakout season (they choked up a loss in the NL Division showdown to the Mets in 2015) resulted in only a modest attendance drop. The lowered attendance (the lost 216 seats over the course of the season compared to the 2014 attendance numbers) had no significant impact on the odds though; the odds of snagging a game hit foul ball remains high at 1548:1. But the Las Angeles Dodgers’ 2016 saw a larger decrease in attendance than in 2015 (total lost seats: 759). Despite the nearly threefold drop over the previous season, they STILL managed to have the highest average attendance in the entire league. Gotta love the fan dedication!
Busch Stadium: The St. Louis Cardinals had a modest decrease of 244 seats between 2014 and 2015. In 2016 they continued to lose fans with average home attendance dropping 943 seats per game. Regardless of the sharp increase in decreased attendance, they managed to stay in second position. Due to an extremely loyal fan base, Cardinals fans packing into foul territory must fight one another to get a ball. Those who do beat out the rest also beat the 1440:1 odds of snagging one.
Giants saw a paltry 89 seat increase from 2014 to 2015, but enough to move them from #4 in 2014 to #3 in 2015) round out the top three worst parks in terms of the odds for catching a foul ball. In 2016, the team barely lost anyone. Like the league, which lost an average of 184 seats per game in 2016, the Giants lost, but they lost only 131 seats per game. Giants fans also have a rough time of it. To get a foul ball at AT&T, fans are up against 1385:1 odds.
Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays saw a significantly sharp rise in attendance. Having been to Rogers for one of those games, I was surprised at how packed it was given I do this attendance/odds breakdown every season and the Blue Jays are usually in the middle of the pack. But last year, they squeaked into third place from eighth the season before, beating perennial third place AT&T by a mere 332 seats, meaning the odds of snagging a ball at Rogers based on 2016 home attendance numbers is roughly the same as those at Giants games.
Snag a ball in any of these parks, and you’re a superstar…or extremely lucky. Either way, kudos to you!
The Best Odds for Snagging Game Used Foul Balls in 2017?
Want to avoid Dodgers, Cardinals and Giants games and have the best odds of snagging a foul ball during a game? The bottom three (or those parks giving you the best chances of snagging a ball) are Tropicana, Progressive and Marlin Park AGAIN. These are the perennial bottom dwellers when it comes to attendance in the big leagues. They all have existed in the bottom five parks. However, like in the Top 3, we saw a surprise team show up.
If you’re in Florida, it may be worth the four hour drive between Marlin Park and Tropicana to attempt to snag a ball in both parks. The Tampa Bay Rays have the worst attendance numbers again. They lost 2536 seats between the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Yet in 2016 they showed a modest increase in their attendance, enjoying 624 more fans per home game than in 2015. However, even that bump in numbers couldn’t save them from being number 30 in attendance. As a result, the odds of snagging a ball—though you might have to run a few sections to get to it—remain at 510:1.
The Cleveland Indians have had a rough go of it for the last few seasons despite being contenders in the American League Central. They’ve seen their attendance drop significantly over the last couple of seasons. Between 2014 and 2015 they only lost a marginal 339 seats, but given they aren’t even averaging 18000 per game attendance, the odds didn’t change much. Sadly, despite gaining an average of 2289 seats per home game in 2016, they still ended up in 29th. The increase in seats makes the odds of catching a foul—or maybe running over a section or two pretty good still at about 600:1.
Generally, Marlins Park rounds out the bottom three, but last season they ended up moving up to 4th worst attendance by sheer luck. The Miami Marlins saw a 246 seat increase average between 2014 and 2015. In 2016 they lost only 151 seats per home game, but that doesn’t move them up in the odds by much. To snag a game-used foul ball at a Marlins home game means you beat the 720:1 odds.
So who bumped up the lowly Marlins? The Oakland Athletics did. They saw the fourth steepest drop in home attendance last season, with an exodus of 3045 fans. This nosedive dropped them to the third best odds position. Interestingly, the Reds lost 6487 fans per home game and were STILL in the 18th spot in attendance. The Athletics’ sharp attendance fall is good for fans after the foul ball, because what used to be about 1100:1 odds has now dropped to about 700:1.
Want to improve your chances in your favorite ballpark?
Sit in the lower levels near the dugouts. Of the 46 foul balls hit during the typical MLB game (an historical average based on the number of fouls hit by each team between 1988 and 2015), and the 25 or so that find their way into the stands, most will find their way into the lower levels, generally in the vicinity of the dugouts. To increase your chances of being smoked by a foul or a fan going after a foul ball, sit behind or within a section of either dugout. These are hot zones. They also tend to have the highest density of fans, thus the most competition for balls).
The good news for baseball fans of all teams is that MLB saw a huge overall jump in attendance. Fans are finally returning to the American Pastime. In 2015, the entire league saw a net gain of 67 seats per team per game. This increase was hardly notable. Last season, that number was negated by the League average dropping 184 seats per home game. That’s good news for fans, but not the best for MLB.
As a reminder: PAY ATTENTION! Foul balls, contrary to myth, aren’t coming at you at an average 100 MPH. But they are humming along. It’s important to remember too that the average human response time at the typical distance fans are from the batter (80 feet) is plenty of time when a fan is paying attention. There are plenty of “know-it-alls” who claim the game’s gotten more dangerous. In fact, there are no more injuries than in the past, and about 70% of the fans hit in the face area by a foul ball at an MLB game could have avoided injury by paying attention. Nothing is so important that you have to be one of the 1500 fans on their phone at any given times during action on the field. There are signs and announcements at parks warning about the dangers of foul balls and bats. Pay attention. Still, accidents do happen. I recommend bringing a glove, even if that means getting teased. It’s better to be safe than injured. Let’s make sure MLB remains the SAFEST professional spectator sport—ONE death by foul ball in OVER 100 years (golf, car racing and even the Tour de France ALL have more fan deaths in 50 years!)
I’m pullin’ for ya.