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Baseball Parks and Totals

   by Ben Burns - 07/18/2008

One important aspect of betting 'totals' in baseball is knowing the variuous ball parks/stadiums. Certainly starting pitchers, offensive and defensive stats come into play when oddsmakers are making totals on games. The wind direction, too, is a factor and you may have noticed that some Cubs’ games in Wrigley Field aren’t posted until the day of the game. It’s not called the Windy City for nothing, and bookies don’t want to get caught posting an overnight total of 7½ for a Wrigley Field game with Carlos Zambrano pitching, then finding out the next morning that the wind is blowing out 20 miles an hour to center.

The configurations of each park is also important to look at, especially with so many parks having been built over the last decade. San Diego’s relatively new Petco park is a pitcher’s paradise. The correlation is striking in two areas: San Diego is the worst offensive team in baseball, plus they started 23-14 under the total at home. That’s a solid winning percentage just wagering blindly on the under. Not that I would recommend ever blindly wagering on anything!

You may recall a few years ago when San Diego slugger Ryan Klesko became frustrated, as he couldn’t hit home runs at home anymore because the Padres new park was so big. In short, it’s a great 'pitcher’s park' and a very difficult home run park. Two years the Padres were 40-35 under the total at home averaging 3.7 runs. When they went on the road, however, the offense averaged 5.1 runs. Not surprisingly, during the past few seasons, they’ve been a solid 'under the total team' at home.

Shea Stadium in New York, the home of the Mets, is another pitcher-friendly park, along with Dodger stadium, (although not quite as much as it once was) Oakland and Washington. Notice that this season the Nationals average 3.4 runs at home, but 3.8 runs on the road. Certainly the park plays a key role in this disparity, leading to a 28-21-1 start under the total at home. In they're most recent game here, the Nationals failed to score a single run. Conversely, in their most recent road game, they put up a '5-spot.'

Due to playing in a pitcher friendly park, it’s essential that the Dodgers have some kind of speed in the lineup, particularly atop the order. That’s why the loss of Rafael Furcal in the first half of the season was such a huge blow. He’s an outstanding leadoff hitter atop the order, one who can get on base and jumpstart an offense by helping to manufacture runs. The Dodgers were 18-14 in games started by Furcal, then went 12-24 in games after he got hurt.

Parks don't always remain the same either. A few years back, Dodger Stadium underwent some renovations which saw new seats added into areas which had previously been on the field and part of 'foul ball terrritory.' This did have an effect but not quite as much as some may have expected. At the time Dodger catcher David Ross was quoted as saying that he expected the effect to be relatively minimal. "It may be five or six balls in foul ground," he said. Ross continued by saying: "I don’t think there’s that many outs made in that area. The pitchers’ park is more because of the heavy air at night in L.A. During the day, a ball flies. At night, it doesn’t come close to going out."

How about Coors Field? Several years ago, it was common to see over/under lines of 13, 14 or 15 in games played in the high altitude of Colorado. Those numbers have gradually come down though and today we now routinely see over/under numbers of 9, 9.5 or 10. Despite the lines being adjusted, 24 of 45 games (excluding one push) managed to stay below the total there.

Other offensive parks, besides Coors, include Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, Texas, Houston, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Toronto. Indoor parks like the Metrodome can be tough on pitchers. Not only does the artificial turf cause the ball to scoot faster making it tougher on infielders, but the lack of wind can make indoor places easier home run parks. We may have to include Arizona into this mix, another indoor facility. This season the Diamondbacks are averaging roughly four runs per game on the road, but more than five per game at home. They're hitting a healthy .277 at home but a dismal .220 on the road.

The Oakland A’s visited last month in an Interleague game and scored 15 runs, most off of ace Brandon Webb. The next night Arizona returned the favor by scoring 11 runs. The previous two days the weak hitting Royals came to Arizona and scored 12 and 8 runs in consecutive games. Anyway, the point is that to be a successful 'total' handicapper, one needs to know the parks and their various dimensions.

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