Results from new parks
less than pretty

Apr 27, 2004 6:23 AM

There have been a string of new baseball parks built over the last decade. The interest began in the early nineties with the success of Camden Yards in Baltimore and Jacobs Field in Cleveland. These beautiful, state of the art parks not only increased interest and attendance for those franchises, but helped revitalize the local economies in the surrounding communities.

This helped fuel a converging interest in baseball owners and local politicians for new stadiums. Politicians helped push for new parks because of the possibility of improving the local economy (not to mention the media exposure sports and new stadiums provide). Ownership wanted new parks to increase their revenue while working with political leaders in an attempt to get taxpayers to fit part of the bill.

The results have been mixed and far from the rosy picture painted by those who originally pined for new stadiums. Attendance at new parks in Detroit, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh has been disappointing the last few seasons. The truth is, fans will turn out for a winning team, not a new stadium, a marketing model that goes back decades.

Sports bettors need to keep up on new parks and changes in stadium dimensions. This season there are new parks in San Diego and Philadelphia. San Diego’s new stadium, Petco Park, can be classified as a pitcher’s park with its expansive outfield. Notice that the Padres hit three home runs in the first nine games in spacious Petco.

After the first three weeks of the season, the Padres were averaging 4 runs per game at home — only the struggling offenses of the Expos and Phillies were worse. This has yet to translate into games going "under" the total, however, as the Padres’ pitching has not gotten off to a stellar start.

Some other large, strong pitching parks are in Oakland, Seattle, Atlanta, Florida, and Shea Stadium, the home of the Mets. Some strong hitter-friendly parks are Chicago’s Wrigley Field, Coors Field in Colorado, Minnesota’s Metrodome, Boston’s Fenway Park, the Ballpark in Arlington Texas (Rangers) and the Astros’ home field in Houston, Minute Maid Park.

Unlike football, basketball and hockey arenas, baseball stadiums are unique in that the dimensions of the playing field can vary remarkably from park to park. This is something smart sports bettors will pay close attention to. For example, in 2003 the Red Sox were built largely around their park, loaded with many slow, powerful sluggers. Yes, they could crush the ball (and win) at cozy Fenway Park, but the lack of speed and defense (Todd Walker, Manny Ramirez, Kevin Millar) wasn’t a great strength on the road. Notice that last season Boston was 52-28 at home, but 42-39 on the road.

Other unique aspects of parks can leave their mark on individual players. Yankee Stadium has a short porch in right field, and historically it’s been an easy home run park for lefty sluggers and favorable to lefty pitchers. A year ago, lefty starter Andy Pettitte allowed just 6 home runs at home with a 3.78 ERA, as compared to a 4.24 ERA on the road where he allowed 15 home runs.

Pettitte’s buddy, righty Roger Clemens, has always been stronger on right handed batters than lefties. Since teams load up on lefty batters while at Yankee Stadium, notice that in 2003 Clemens was 7-7 with a 5.22 ERA at home, yet 10-2 with a 2.53 ERA on the road! He allowed just 7 home runs all season on the road, but 17 homers in Yankee Stadium.

A lot of eyes are on last year’s AL MVP Alex Rodriguez this season, his first in New York. As a righty power hitter, he feasted on the short dimensions at Arlington and many expect his home run production to ebb a bit at Yankee Stadium, which is not an easy home run park for righties. After a very tough start to the young season it will be interesting to see how A-Rod adjusts.

The Florida Marlins stormed to a surprising World Series last season with a team built the old fashioned way: Pitching, speed and defense. They may have lost a few key offensive players, but this team is still very strong in all three of those key areas. Notice that the Marlins started this season 11-1-1 "under" the total.

So keep track of subtle changes in baseball, like new parks, home/road performance and players changing addresses. Staying one step ahead helps the savvy sports bettor turn hard facts into cold cash at the betting window.