Which MLB Teams Will Fly The Most in 2017?


Baseball season is upon us, having snuck out of nowhere this year.  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, 25 of the 30 teams in 2017 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 2017 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
  • 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.

So with that, I present the figures for 2017.  It turns out that the Oakland Athletics have the longest season ahead of themselves, dethroning 2016’s frequent flyer champion Seattle Mariners, who are third this year. Oakland will rack up 47,877 miles this year, 1500 more than the second place SE Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Tech A&M.  This is no surprise that the western divisions have a higher amount of travel, given the distance between teams. Surprisingly, in fourth place are the Miami Marlins, logging 42,185 miles this year due to some poor west coast swing timing that requires four trips to the west coast.

 

To give you an idea of how much the A’s will be traveling this year, here’s a map of their planned travel:

 

On the other end of the spectrum, the Pittsburgh Pirates took the bottom of the mileage totals with only 21,854 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 Pirates map, it looks very different from the A’s:

In the Southwest, you can see that the Pirates have only two west coast swings, going through Los Angeles and Phoenix on one, and Denver, San Francisco, and San Diego on the other. The NL Central itself holds the bottom four mileages this year, as it does every year, but this year there’s a surprise at the 25 spot.  The Baltimore Orioles will travel only 24,045 miles this season. This is largely a function of having just one west coast swing, and relatively close interleague opponents. Here’s the O’s map:

 

 

I’ve bored you with enough maps, below is the table with what every MLB team’s 2017 flown mileage will be.  Enjoy, and be sure to post your thoughts in the comments section.

TeamMiles flown in 2017
Oakland47877
Anaheim46346
Seattle45129
Miami42185
San Francisco41555
Houston38452
San Diego38185
Los Angeles37060
Philadelphia36258
Tampa36178
Colorado33742
Texas33133
Boston33057
Arizona33040
Atlanta32326
New York Mets32311
Washington31405
Toronto29615
Cleveland29209
New York Yankees28359
Chicago White Sox28336
Kansas City27993
Minnesota27017
Detroit26145
Milwaukee25073
Baltimore24045
St. Louis23662
Cincinnati23628
Chicago Cubs23130
Pittsburgh21854

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