With baseball teams reporting to spring training in less than 90 days, it's already time to beef up on MLB betting trends for the 2015 season. Here we look at which three stadiums in the majors are the most friendly to pitchers.
Safeco Field, Seattle
First let's explain what ESPN's Park Factor ratings mean. This takes into account the amount of runs a team scores and allows at home per game combined and divides it by the number of runs a team scores and allows on the road per game. Anything with a rating over 1.000 favors hitters and anything lower the pitchers. Colorado's Coors Field was the most offensive friendly last year with a rating of 1.501.
The Mariners' Safeco Field was the most pitcher friendly with a rating of 0.825 and it has been this way for years because of the field's huge dimensions and the fact that the air in Seattle is often humid and that helps slow down those hard-hit airborne balls. Seattle was 28th in the majors in runs scored at home last year with 281 and allowed the second-fewest runs at home with 256. On the road, the Mariners were No. 6 in runs scored with 353 and fifth-best in runs allowed with 298. So: 281 + 256 = 537 or 6.63 runs per game; 353 + 298 = 651 or 8.03 runs per game. Divide 6.63 by 8.03 and you get that 0.825 rating. Safeco wasn't as bad in the Home Run Rating at 1.053 (use same formula as runs) that was 12th highest.
The Mariners are well aware they play in a pitchers' park and generally have been built accordingly. Their pitching staffs, led by Felix Hernandez, often are among the ERA leaders each year. Last year the Mariners were No. 2 in baseball with a 3.17 ERA, behind only Washington. The Nationals' staff had the advantage of not having to face the designated hitter except in some interleague games in AL parks. The M's had a 2.93 ERA at home, which was third best.
Seattle has had a hard time attracting big-ticket free-agent hitters because those guys know their numbers will be affected at Safeco. It's why the Mariners had to wildly overpay Robinson Cano last offseason to the tune of $240 million. Cano hit .314 this past season, just like he did in 2013 with the Yankees. But the 14 home runs were Cano's fewest since 2008. That's the Safeco factor. It's also why the Mariners are on the hunt for another big bat this offseason, but they may have to trade for it.
Betting the 'under' at sportsbooks for Mariners games was hugely profitable last season as 49 of the 81 went 'under.'
Angel Stadium, PNC Park are also among the best ball parks for pitchers.
Petco Park, San Diego
This is the Safeco of the National League, just not with the thick air. In 2011, Petco allowed just 100 home runs and then only 109 in 2012 so the team brought the walls in a bit for the 2013 season. It seemed to work a bit as Petco had a Home Run Factor of 0.936, meaning it was the 17th hardest to homer in. This past season it was the 24th hardest at 0.808.
On the overall Park Factor rating, Safeco was dead last at 0.825. Part of that certainly was that the Padres had a fine pitching staff. San Diego's overall team ERA was 3.27, No. 4 in the majors. At home it was a sterling 2.56, by far the best in baseball. Mostly, however, it was that the Padres had one of the worst offenses in the majors in recent memory. They finished with just 535 runs, 38 fewer than No. 29 Atlanta. At home the Padres had a big-league low 267. San Diego was third from last with 109 homers overall.
You can't blame that all on Petco. The team had a ton of guys who struggled or were injured. Seth Smith was the leading hitter at just .266. The home run leader was Yasmani Grandal with only 15 and he played just 128 games. Jedd Gyorko was great as a rookie but limited to 111 games in 2014 and hit .210. Former All-Star Everth Cabrera batted just .232 in 90 games. Chase Headley hit .229 in 77 games before being traded. Carlos Quentin lasted only 50 games with four homers. This is why the Padres are looking for bats this offseason and perhaps are willing to trade pitching for it.
Betting the 'under' on Padres home games on MLB odds was a wise choice in 2014 as San Diego's home 'over/under' record was 31-47-3.
Citi Field, New York
Citi Field ranked as the third-worst on the Park Factor rating at 0.847. That could change this season, however. The Mets are moving Citi Field's fences in yet again. The team moved the fences in three years earlier in both left and right field but decided that another correction needed to be made because there were so few homers hit there.
So this time the right-center field fence was brought in. According to the New York Post, a new fence was lifted between center and right-center, shortening the distance between five and 10 feet over the length of the span. In deepest right-center, the distance has gone from 390 to 380 feet. At the other end of the stretch, the distance has gone from 375 to 370 feet.
The Mets estimate that if the fence had been in its new location last season that 27 more homers would have been hit, 17 by the home team. The team believes this will really help star third baseman David Wright, who hits a lot of deep balls to right center. Wright had a career-low eight homers in 134 games last season. The Mets already have signed Rockies free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer and aren't done adding offense. A shortstop for sure will be added via free agency or more likely trade. The White Sox's Alexei Ramirez and Cubs' Starlin Castro have been mentioned.
The Mets were 34-41-6 'over/under' on MLB odds at home last season but don't be surprised if that number flips in 2015.
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