How many runs?
Major League Baseball’s first-ever foray into Mexico City was a shake-up for betting odds as sportsbooks posted abnormally high run totals.
the line jumped even higher to 19.5
The total for Saturday’s game between the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres was set at 15.5, but even that didn’t come close to the 27 total runs that were scored in the Padres’ 16-11 victory. The line jumped even higher to 19.5 for the Sunday matinee, but that one finished at a much lower 6-4.
With MLB looking at additional games and possible expansion there, two games of evidence show that sportsbooks are going to have a steep learning curve in Mexico City.
Why is baseball in Mexico City different?
There was an average of 8.6 runs scored per game in MLB in 2022. Sportsbooks’ odds usually reflect that with a majority of run totals falling between seven and ten. Matchups between hot hitting teams can push the line to 11 or 12, and battles between elite starting pitchers usually drop the line to 6.5 or even six.
So why were there so many runs scored in Mexico City and why were the lines so high?
7,350 feet above sea level
The games south of the border were played in Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú in the heart of Mexico City and a cool 7,350 feet above sea level. For comparison, Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, is situated 5,200 feet above sea level and over 4,000 feet above the next-highest MLB park.
The higher the altitude, the lower the air density and the drag effects on a baseball. That allows the ball to fly higher and further than it normally would in a stadium closer to sea level.
Proof of that can be found in the Rockies’ scoring record. In 2022 home games, players crossed the plate 456 times for an organization that finished the year 68-94 and last in the National League West.
For comparison, the team with the best record and the most runs scored in the MLB, the Los Angeles Dodgers, scored 422 runs in their home park which is 522 feet above sea level.
Thoughts and remarks
The enormous runs total led to sportsbooks taking a win in the points total market Saturday, but caused an even greater loss Sunday. It is a rare situation in which sportsbooks reacted with volatility and a lack of assuredness.
Giants players, despite going 0-2 in the mini-series, spoke glowingly of the atmosphere inside the Mexican ballpark.
“I think it’s electric,” said infielder J.D. Davis. “It’s just a great place to play. I have nothing bad [to say] about it.”
“I would say [the energy in Mexico City is] a little better than sometimes in the States,” said outfielder Mitch Haniger. “It’s definitely fun to play down here.”
expansion to places such as Montreal, Canada and Mexico City
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has flirted with the idea of expansion to places such as Montreal, Canada and Mexico City for close to a decade. Front Office Sports also recently reported that the league is looking at two expansion spots once the Tampa Bay Rays’ and Oakland Athletics’ stadium situations are settled.
Since that report came out, the Athletics have settled on a move to Las Vegas before the 2027 season.
Sportsbooks will certainly get a tighter grasp on setting betting lines once more games are played in Mexico City. But one group that figures to struggle is pitchers, who are inevitably going to give up more runs because of the conditions. That could lead to lower pay and less desirability.
“God forbid someone is going through arbitration or going to become a free agent and they have to pitch here,” said relief pitcher John Brebbia. “Arbitration doesn’t give a (expletive) where you play, so there’s not a lot of equity if you happen to be stuck [in Mexico City].”