A Potential Marlins Park Park Factor Factor

It took almost no time at all for Marlins Park to develop a pitcher-friendly reputation. Its debut saw a number of long fly balls drop dead in the outfield, and of course, plenty of people were watching. Among those watching were the players participating in the game, and here’s Lance Berkman:

“It’s the biggest ballpark in the game,” Berkman said. “It’s huge. If they don’t move the fences in after this year, I’d be surprised.”

To my knowledge, the Marlins haven’t yet touched the fences. But Berkman’s was a popular sentiment, and indeed, in Marlins games last season, there were 113 home dingers, and 157 away dingers. One can conclude only so much from a single season of play, but the early evidence is that Marlins Park takes long fly balls and spits on them. The way it played in that regard mirrors the way it looks like it should play. It’s meaningful when the numbers match the expectations.

So Marlins Park didn’t allow very many homers, relative to games on the road. Yet, interestingly, there were 668 runs scored in Marlins home games, and 665 runs scored in Marlins away games. Overall, in one season, Marlins Park reduced homers, but it didn’t reduce runs. Again, almost nothing can be concluded, here, aside from the facts as presented. But in talking about Marlins Park, it’s worth wondering why it might play more neutral than it seems like it should. You know, just in case that’s the truth.

The park boosted line drives, and it boosted singles. It’s hard to identify reasons, but there’s something else of interest, tucked into the same article linked above. Berkman again:

“There might be less foul territory here than any place else in baseball,” Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman said.

Berkman’s not the only person to have observed that Marlins Park has limited foul territory. This way, the fans can feel like they’re “right on top of the game,” as opposed to being pushed too far back. Here’s a picture of the stadium layout, as made available at Marlins.com:

marlinspark

Nowhere that I know of calculates foul territory area. Just looking at the park visually, though, we know it’s not anything like Oakland. It does seem like Marlins Park has very little foul territory, and in that case, it should provide a little boost to the hitters, because would-be outs drift into the seats and extend plate appearances.

How did the foul territory actually play in 2012? This is tricky, because foul-ball statistics are almost impossible to track down. I’m sure others could do better than I have, but I had to lean on a Baseball-Reference split. At Baseball-Reference, you can find the number of plate appearances that ended with a ball in foul territory. You can find this for both hitters and pitchers, but you can’t split it up home and away by any means that I’ve seen. So the numbers you find are overall, home and away included. Last year, the average team had 220 plate appearances end with a foul, hitters and pitchers combined. The A’s had 351. Their home ballpark is widely known for its vast, endless foul continents. Marlins hitters and pitchers, meanwhile, combined to record 115 foul outs. This was the lowest mark in baseball, by 37. No one else besides the Marlins and Cubs recorded fewer than 180.

The numbers are sloppy, because they’re based on just one season of data, and because they aren’t split home and away. I wish that I could know more. But the limited numbers do back up the idea that Marlins Park has limited foul territory, which Lance Berkman immediately identified. And the numbers aren’t actually that bad. Here’s a quick year-to-year correlation for team foul outs per plate appearance, looking at 2011-2012 and excluding the Marlins since their ballpark changed:

foulouts

That’s a relationship, and that further supports the early data. In Miami, there should be fewer plate appearances ending with foul balls, extending the plate appearances and giving a slight edge to the hitters. It’s a very small park factor factor, but it still counts as one, because every little detail matters. Park factors aren’t just about park fences, after all.

Foul territory can matter, and while it matters most at the extremes, it’s always something to keep an eye on. People have long known that Oakland drives down offensive numbers for a variety of reasons, foul territory included. As far as the future is concerned in this area, here’s a thing for you to know:

That’ll make a difference, and while you might have ignored this tweet five weeks ago, now it’s relevant, and now you have a better idea what it could mean. With this little change, Dodger Stadium will become a little more pitcher-friendly. It’s not going to change everything, but it’s going to change a thing every so often.

If you want foul territory, go to Oakland. If you don’t want foul territory, go to Miami. If you want more foul territory than before, go to Los Angeles. On one hand, park factors can be incredibly simple. On the other, there are few things more complex. In some small way, everything changes the game.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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rusty
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rusty
3 years 7 months ago

Could you calculate foul-outs per foul ball? I assume Pitch F/X has numbers on total fouls — strikes minus called strikes minus swinging strikes? Seems like a way of controlling for some of the other issues in the per-PA calculation you performed.

mikec
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mikec
3 years 7 months ago

All parks should have small foul territories. The prices are exorbitant for fans to sit in the prized box seats. Place them close to the action to get their money’s worth. When you build and configure a ballpark these days, there are other ways to keep offenses in check. This connects very little to the article; just something about which I feel strongly.

jimbo
Guest
jimbo
3 years 7 months ago

I second that notion.

I also feel it would be fun to add a rule that after two strikes, if a fan catches a foul ball in the stands…strike three!

Trotter76
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Trotter76
3 years 7 months ago

But only for the away team!

Gabriel
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Gabriel
3 years 7 months ago

I enjoy diverse ballparks. Not every ballpark should have “continents” of foul territory, but I don’t mind at least one ballpark having them. Of course, I’m also in the cheap seats usually…

B N
Guest
B N
3 years 7 months ago

I’m surprised to not see Fenway as a park with limited foul outs. Particularly in the outfield, there’s almost nowhere for the ball to go but into the stands. I get the impression that was not uncommon for some of the older parks (e.g., Wrigley) but don’t have any pure numbers to back it up.

Danmay
Guest
Danmay
3 years 7 months ago

I was thinking the same thing, but then it occurred to me that the foul territory further down the lines must be much less relevant than foul territory closer to home plate. Fenway has plenty of foul territory around home plate.

Matthew M.
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Matthew M.
3 years 7 months ago

Splitting the outs in foul territory data by home and away isn’t too hard. I used Mike Fast’s code from his Fastballs blog to form a database of events, pitchf/x, hit locations, etc. If you do that, you can then look for events which end in the phrase “in foul territory” and also sort by home and away.

I actually took the event data, describing what happened in the at-bat, inside the Perl parser and hard-coded into the program a subroutine to form a batted ball type entry in the database, which also included whether or not the out was recorded in foul territory. Then you’re just an SQL Query away from the data you want.

Tom B
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Tom B
3 years 7 months ago

“It’s hard to identify reasons”

A bigger outfield means the outfielders have to play not only deeper but farther from each other… leaving more room for balls to fall in.

jimbo
Guest
jimbo
3 years 7 months ago

seems to be some sort of unspoken assumption that outfielders have untapped range in a ‘normal’ park…and therefore ‘huge’ parks just let them run more. but as you point out, most OFs have a limited range. seems am i missing something?

Krog
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Krog
3 years 7 months ago

Tom is exactly right. A big outfield might mean fewer homeruns, but it allows for more balls in play to fall for hits.

This is Colorado’s problem. They made a huge outfield to compensate for the lighter air, but the homeruns keep going out anyways. Now they have a homerun park with a huge outfield that allows for lots of hits to fall. Instead of a huge outfield, they should have built the park with a small outfield and giant outfield walls (like the Green Monster, but around the entire outfield). The walls could be transparent to allow for outfield seating.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony
3 years 7 months ago

Has anyone ever looked at the surface area of outfields to find a link between that and run producing environments? Fences farther back makes for larger surface area in the outfield and so more ground to cover for outfielders. Another aspect could be “non-infield” surface area of a playing field which would include foul territory. This could be a number to more accurately predict a run production environment.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
3 years 7 months ago

Joey Votto scoffs at your foul territory!

Ryan
Guest
Ryan
3 years 7 months ago

July 25 to July 29: Mark your calendars for Reds at Dodgers– or should I say Joey Votto versus 6 more feet of foul ground?

edwinblume
Member
Member
edwinblume
3 years 7 months ago

I think you just made up this story so you could use the headline. :)

Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 7 months ago

He wrote this using the free wifi at the Low-Cal Calzone Zone

purpleJesus
Member
purpleJesus
3 years 7 months ago

took me a good 5 minutes to wrap by brain around that title lol

Brian L
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Brian L
3 years 7 months ago

Front offices focus so heavily on fence depth when considering altering their park factors. While homers probably happen more often than foul popouts, the correlation between fences and run scoring does not seem very high. Very feasible that the Mariners, for example, could have better guaranteed an improved run scoring environment in Safeco by altering the foul lines vs. the fences.

joser
Guest
joser
3 years 7 months ago

But architecturally speaking it’s much harder and more expensive to do that, since you need to move a lot of seats and probably alter the bowl. Or you have to move home plate closer to the seats, which then changes how the foul lines run through the outfield.

Pulling in the fences may involve moving bleachers, but it doesn’t necessarily — in some cases they just leave the outfield fans further from the new walls — and potentially it even frees up space the team can use to generate revenue (as they are doing in Safeco with Edgar’s).

Mr. Jones
Member
3 years 7 months ago

This post has the best title I’ve seen in a very long time.

Bono
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Bono
3 years 7 months ago

Now here’s a new ballpark Peter Gammons can get behind!

Wade8813
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Wade8813
3 years 7 months ago

This thread title wins the internet.

stathead
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stathead
3 years 7 months ago

A lot of these new parks seem to have no foul ground and faraway fences. Seems to me that they change both situations by just moving the diamond closer to the outfield wall.

Tim
Guest
Tim
3 years 7 months ago

What does “6 feet more foul territory” actually mean? They’re moving the fences back six feet? They’re moving one fence back six feet? They’re adding six square feet? (Yeah, that’ll change the park factor.)

Xeifrank
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Less foul territory should increase the SO and BB factors as more hitters go deeper in to counts. Also, if the field is so big like Berkman states, then you are probably seeing the additional runs from the outfielders having to play deep to cover the gaps like the outfielders do in Denver.

CB
Guest
CB
3 years 7 months ago

I like the title as well, but it would have been better (and less confusing) with grammatically correct hyphen usage. To wit: “A Potential Marlins-Park Park-Factor Factor.”

Brass Knuckleballs
Guest
Brass Knuckleballs
3 years 7 months ago

Marlins Park is a proper name, so no hyphen there.

CB
Guest
CB
3 years 7 months ago

Ack, you got me. Capitalization would normally resolve that layer of ambiguity, then, were it not a title…

Alex
Guest
Alex
3 years 7 months ago

It seems like it would be possible to get at pitches per plate appearance data on a per-park basis. I’m not sure exactly how to get that information for all teams, but I thought I’d start doing it for Marlins pitchers. The first couple things I calculated were:

Mark Buehrle home P/PA: 3.65
Mark Buehrle away P/PA: 3.73

Josh Johnson home P/PA: 3.91
Josh Johnson away P/PA: 3.96

That appears to be something! Perhaps a trend? Not a huge one, and exactly the opposite of what we would expect from reduced foul territory, but if it holds up, it’s not nothing. After looking at those two, I figured out how to calculate this for the Marlins pitching staff in 2012 as a whole, in hopes of getting a larger sample size.

Marlins pitchers at home: 11987 P in 3144 PAs, or 3.81 P/PA
Marlins pitchers away: 11634 P in 3035 PAs, or 3.83 P/PA

So… maybe nothing. What about Marlins hitters?

Marlins hitters at home: 11338 P in 2968 PAs, or 3.82 P/PA
Marlins hitters away: 11604 P in 3089 PAs, or 3.76 P/PA

This is a bit more significant than the pitcher data, but still pretty minor. It is, however, trending in the expected direction. I’m not convinced that a 0.06 P/PA difference for a single team comparing two 81 game samples is worth considering too deeply, but I’m really not sure how to get at this data for Marlins Park vs. Not Marlins Parks. Even if we can, the best we can do is approximately double the sample size of people hitting in Marlins Park, so I’m not sure how much that will help.

Alex
Guest
Alex
3 years 7 months ago

I think the only thing I learned from this is that Marlins hitters performed better on the road, and they do it in fewer P/PA, which is a little weird.

Alex
Guest
Alex
3 years 7 months ago

I also learned that I mess up tense when talking to myself on a message board at 5pm on a Friday afternoon.

carpengui
Guest
carpengui
3 years 7 months ago

“…and of course, plenty of people were watching.”

Well… not so many of these watchers had actually purchased tickets.

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