The 2015 MLB betting season is almost upon us, and it's time to take a look at how stadium factors might affect our totals wagering early on the long 162-game schedule.
Some ballparks are friends to the men carrying the big sticks up to the plate. Some are known for being buddies to the men on the mound delivering the horsehide covered balls plateward at 95 miles per hour. Still others favor one or the other from era to era, or even day to day depending on the direction of the wind.
Unlike football, basketball and hockey where every gridiron, hardwood floor and ice rink measure and play the same from city to city, no two baseball parks are equal. Yes, the bases are 90 feet apart and it's 60'-6" from the pitching rubber to home plate, but distances to outfield fences and the size of foul territory in play makes each stadium unique.
Park factors definitely influence the totals that sports books put out, and they can take advantage of the betting public's misconceptions in some cases. Wrigley Field and Minute Maid Park are often thought of as hitter-friendly, yet each played 39-41 O/U a year ago, a push on each diamond added to those marks.
Short Betting Window Often The Case At Wrigley
Houston's home begins its 16th season in operation this year, and it was notorious when it first opened for being homer-happy. That came during the peak of the steroids era, though, and the park has played fairly even if not slightly towards pitchers for a while now. Totals in 2014 played consistently 7½-8½ at season's end, and a tad higher early on.
Games at Wrigley, of course, don't give bettors overnight MLB odds to work with. The 2014 range was one of the widest for any stadium, 6-10½, and we should see a similar span again. One interesting note is the Cubs have 12 home games the first month, including the MLB season opener Sunday, but only four will be afternoon affairs.
Opposites Attract In NL West
Two stadiums that are polar opposites in terms of hitting/pitching reside in the NL West where the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres call home.
Coors Field in Denver is by far the king when it comes to ballparks that favor hitters. It has finished tops in the majors in offense each of the past three seasons, with 'over' bettors scoring a small profit last year (43-33-5 O/U/P). It took a 6-1 O/U final homestand to eke out that margin as totals routinely ran 10½.
Southwest out of Colorado to San Diego, Petco Park produced the least offense in the National League for a second year running. Seven was the highest closing total for any Padres home game a season ago, and 'under' bettors still grabbed about 13 units of black ink (31-47-3 O/U/P).
New Rules Aimed At Speeding Up Games
As it turns out, the best stadium to place MLB picks 'Under' the odds in 2014 was Safeco Field. Seattle's home diamond hosted 49 contests that failed to reach the MLB betting odds, a cool 20 units to anyone playing the low side in all 81 matches.
Dodger Stadium finished 27th in terms of overall offense on ESPN's ballpark list for 2014, but it was still the best place for 'over' bettors to put their money down. Chavez Ravine sported a 48-28-5 O/U/P record, and watching the weather reports is as crucial in Los Angeles as it is in Chicago since the ball really carries well when the thermometer climbs past the mid-to-upper 70s.
All 30 ballparks are going through the same facelift this season, though cosmetically minor. Timers are being added to each stadium to push the game along between innings, and it's set to 2:25 for regular games, an additional 20 seconds for the nationally televised matchups. The home viewer might occasionally see an inning already a pitch or two into the roll when their commercial ends.
The other new rule put into effect is for batters to keep at least one foot in the box at all times. This one could end up leading to fines and arguments that will only lengthen games, but it's seen as one that clearly gives the pitcher an edge over a batter.
There will be a grace period for batters in April, but once May arrives, things could get interesting *cough*BigPapi*cough. In the meantime, baseball bettors should just adopt and watch-&-adapt approach when it comes to placing MLB picks.