What parks top the list for being hitter friendly? More importantly, how do those stats help or possibly hinder bettors when it comes to playing totals on the MLB odds?
Most of the baseball I've witnessed in person during my near six decades of existence, was played in the Harris County Domed Stadium, aka The Astrodome. As far as ballparks built after 1960, it still ranks among my favorites, though bias no doubt, plays into that.
It was a pitcher-friendly park in the short term, especially during its first 20 or so years of use, and so it developed the reputation for skewing stats in favor of anyone who took the mound. The Astrodome definitely helped fly ball/strikeout pitchers, that is, as long as they had better-than-average defensive outfielders behind them, but even the Eighth Wonder of the World, as it was billed in 1965, morphed into a ballpark that favored offense at the end, ultimately favoring OVER bettors the final couple of seasons.
Minute Maid Park replaced The Astrodome in 2000 and immediately got a reputation for being a little bandbox that hitters could exploit. Home runs were definitely up in the early years, but the stats over the stadium's first 13 seasons lean to being more neutral or even pitcher friendly. Yet the general public still thinks of it as a place to expect a ton of runs.
When it comes to betting totals on the MLB odds board, it's dangerous to allow any ballpark to be ingrained in your head as a hitter's palace or pitcher's ally. So many other factors figure into it, from teams on the rise or decline to fickle weather. Houston teams of the late-90s, early-2000s featured strong lineups in the infamous Steroids Era; hardcore baseball fans and bettors would be lucky to name 50% of the Opening Day lineup this season.
North Texas Locale Different Story
It's sort of ironic that Nolan Ryan, a guy known for no-hitting teams, is the boss of a franchise that makes its home in a stadium that favors hitters. It also makes perfect sense that Ryan could succeed in running a club in a batter-friendly park. Rangers Ballpark has long been a haven for men with sticks in hand, and it has shared honors with Coors Field in Denver as the friendliest parks for hitters the past five seasons.
Coors Field provided the most offense in 2009-10 and again in 2012 while Rangers Ballpark led the way in 2008 and 2011. Offense was way up in Denver last year as far as runs go, but two more we'll discuss later actually saw more home runs. The extra scoring in the Mile High City proved a boon for OVER bettors at a 49-28-4 clip, and that was with an average betting total just under 10.2 runs per game.
Rangers Ballpark dropped from No. 1 in 2011 down to fourth in 2012, and UNDER bettors prevailed by a very slight margin (38-40-3 O-U-P). Texas led the AL scoring with just below five runs per contest, but that number was down by more than a quarter run a game from 2011. With Josh Hamilton gone from the lineup, the general consensus is the Rangers will score less in 2013, and we'll see how sports books respond setting totals, especially early in the schedule.
Chicago's South Side Consistently Provides Extra Offense
Start a conversation with someone about baseball in Chicago, and when Wrigley Field is mentioned you will hear about it being a hitter's park. Much like Minute Maid Park, that's not true. Yes, when the wind's blowing out you will see more homers, but the ivy-covered walls end up holding more fly balls within their confines and Wrigley plays fairly neutral in the end.
US Cellular Field is an entirely different story. Long-term park factors at Baseball-Reference.com place The Cell tied for fourth with Fenway Park and Chase Field, and those three venues ranked 2-3-6 respectively at ESPN for the 2012 campaign. Bettors riding the OVER on White Sox home games a year ago cashed at a 44-34-3 rate, and one odd note is it was the stadium batters were most likely to draw a walk by a pretty substantial gap. The extra offense allowed by Pale Hose pitchers also leads to their road games seeing totals too high, churning out an even more profitable return for UNDER bets last season (27-50-4).
Fenway played 42-35-4 against the MLB odds to the high side of totals while Chase was almost level at 39-38-4.
Like Homers? Head To Cincinnati Or Milwaukee
Last year saw Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and Miller Park in Milwaukee provide the best chances of seeing a home run. Most interesting about those stats is the Reds were minus Joey Votto for a big chunk of the slate, and the Brewers lost Prince Fielder before the season via free agency.
The HR total at the Reds' home field didn't help OVER bettors at all, however, with the low side of the number winning out 40 times against 33 losses and 8 pushes. If it's easier to poke a homer, it makes sense that a park also takes away singles and triples, which Great American Ball Park does.
Miller Park was a boon for folks playing the OVER at 48-32-1, though it must be pointed out the final score skipped just ahead of the total by a half-run 19 times.
Though it is important to pay attention to the park for your baseball picks, there are still the current trends that may override the park set up for you plays on the total. Be sure to not put your horsey blinders on and only look at one thing.