Which MLB Teams Will Fly the Most in 2016?


We’re a mere 42 days from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, so why not take a look ahead at the MLB season? The longest of the professional sporting seasons of the four major sports leagues of the US, the MLB schedule requires significant amounts of travel for every team. In fact, 28 of the 30 teams in 2016 will travel more than the entire circumference of the Earth (24,901 miles)! How can I be sure? I did the math, using MLB’s 2016 schedule, a handful of assumptions, and a bit of time with my old pal Excel.  Here’s what I came up with.

 

First, my assumptions:

  • All miles given are statute miles on the great circle route between the two most likely airports used by teams playing games in that city
  • For cities with multiple airports, I made the following airport associations
    • New York Yankees and Mets – La Guardia (I could not confirm that the Yankees fly out of there and data from the early 2000s says they may fly out of Newark, which may slightly affect numbers but not too dramatically). However, LGA is the closest airport to both stadia so it is what I will use for illustrative purposes.
    • Chicago Cubs and White Sox – O’Hare (Midway is closer, but I am 99% confident that the teams both charter with United out of ORD)
    • LA Dodgers – LAX
    • LA Angels of Anaheim – Orange County
  • Teams playing successive games in the same metro area will not fly between the two airports, but instead drive.
    • When OAK plays SF, I do not count that as mileage flown, because it is highly unlikely that they are flying SFO-OAK.
    • This counts for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles (excluding San Diego), the Bay Area, and Baltimore-Washington.
  • Conversely, teams playing in close metro areas will still fly between them
    • A team that plays in LA and then San Diego will fly between the two, even if teams in the past have used other forms of transport (bus, train, whatever).
    • This includes Philly to Baltimore/Washington, Boston to New York, basically all the close cities within the east coast where historically teams have had numerous transport options besides airplanes.
  • Teams do not start at their home field, but rather where they play Game 1. However, all teams return “home” after their last game of the season, if away.
    • This is because of the nuances of exhibitions played in random locations (Biloxi, MS for example) and the fact that single game exhibitions may be played with some of the team already in the city where the first regular season game will be played. Basically, to iron out potential kinks, I’m keeping it simple.

 

So with that, I present the figures for 2016.  It’s no surprise that the most geographically isolated team, the Seattle Mariners, end up being the winners, far and above with 47,503 miles flown for the full season.  With their closest division foe, the A’s, being 670 miles away, and their farthest division opponent being a whopping 1874 miles, it’s easy to see how they rack up the mileage. Unsurprisingly, the AL West makes up five of the top six positions in the mileage totals, with the NL-leading Dodgers taking the fourth spot, preventing the divisional sweep.  To give you an idea of how much traveling the Mariners are doing this year, I threw together this map for you:

Mariners 2016 Map

As you can see, beyond the divisional games, the Mariners also have quite a few east coast trips that are single or double series events, rather than a true east coast “tour”.  At one point, the Mariners go Seattle-Tampa-Boston in a week, for a total of 3705 miles, the highest weekly mileage in a non “out-and-back” trip.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, the Chicago Cubs took the bottom of the mileage totals with only 24,440 miles flown. Most of this is a function of geography, as being in the center of the country generally lessens the impact of road trips, but when we see the Cubs map, it looks very different from the Mariners:

Cubs 2016 Map

In the Southwest, you can see that the Cubs generally get prolonged series in their west coast road trips, playing the Angels and then the Diamondbacks, then later on swinging out west to play the Rockies, Dodgers, and Padres all in one trip. While the Cubs may have the lowest mileage, the biggest gift this year was to the Washington Nationals, who despite inferior geography to the Cubs, travel only 217 miles farther. Here’s the Nationals map:

 

Nationals 2016 Map

 

Like the Cubs, the Nationals have well scheduled west coast trips that involve multiple series in relatively close locales. The majority of games being against divisional opponents in the second smallest geographic division also likely helps, as does geographically beneficial interleague play (@KC, Chicago, Baltimore).

 

I’ve bored you with enough maps, below is the table with what every MLB team’s 2016 flown mileage will be.  Enjoy, and be sure to post your thoughts in the comments section.

TeamMiles to travel in 2016 season
Seattle Mariners47503
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim44847
Oakland Athletics41969
Los Angeles Dodgers40832
Texas Rangers40817
Houston Astros39529
New York Yankees39346
San Francisco Giants39318
San Diego Padres37658
Tampa Bay Rays37592
Boston Red Sox37022
Miami Marlins35982
Arizona Diamondbacks35299
Toronto Blue Jays33284
Colorado Rockies33258
Baltimore Orioles32431
Atlanta Braves29291
Minnesota Twins29117
Kansas City Royals28956
Philadelphia Phillies28372
New York Mets26997
Chicago White Sox26891
Cleveland Indians26791
Pittsburgh Pirates26588
Milwaukee Brewers26324
St. Louis Cardinals26314
Detroit Tigers25869
Cincinnati Reds25031
Washington Nationals24617
Chicago Cubs24440