Is Fenway Helping Or Hurting Adrian Gonzalez?

If there were questions earlier this year whether Adrian Gonzalez was among the best hitters in baseball, consider your doubts answered. After hitting 71 home runs and posting a .288/.400/.530 line (.390 wOBA) in the past two seasons in San Diego, Gonzalez has started off his tenure in Boston on a blistering pace. He now has a .434 wOBA — second-best in the American League behind only Jose Bautista — and his .357 batting average is the highest in the majors. Can he adjust to the AL? Will he thrive in the toughest division in baseball? Gonzo laughs at your concerns.

So while Gonzalez is tearing the hide off the ball, there’s also an interesting subplot going on. Namely, how is Fenway Park affecting his hitting value? He’s hit 16 home runs so far this season and he’s on pace for 34, a small bump from last season. But it was a common assumption during the off-season that Fenway’s cozy confines would lead to an even more dramatic homer increased for Gonzalez. In fact, although Gonzalez currently has the highest Isolated Power of his career (.248 ISO), it looks as though he’s hitting with less power this season.

Gonzalez’s home runs this season have traveled an average distance of 388 feet, according to Hit Tracker. The longest one so far tops out at 411 feet. Last season, Gonzalez averaged 394 feet per home run, and he crushed one 442 feet.  Take a look at the difference:

While there isn’t an egregious difference between the two, the tracker shows that Gonzalez hasn’t been hitting deeper blasts to center field. He’s pushing and pulling the ball well, but the power to deep center appears to be missing — and he’s only occasionally hit a home run that has landed beyond 400 feet.

It’s still less than halfway into the season, though, so it’s possible that this power will come around. Still, when you overlay Gonzo’s home runs from Fenway Park on a map of PETCO Park, you see how much Fenway is helping him this season:

Dark blue = home run; Light blue = double
Graphic from Katron.org.

It looks like Fenway Park is helping Gonzalez a good amount, as only two of his home runs and doubles this season would have been home runs at PETCO. You also can tell that Gonzalez hasn’t hit any deep fly balls to center field in Fenway — regardless whether they’re home runs or doubles (the same goes for fly outs, even though they’re not on this map). Many of those doubles to short left field look like outs in PETCO; at Fenway, they bounce off the Green Monster.

There’s no doubt that Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in baseball right now — he’s on pace for 34 home runs and 48 doubles, an insane number of extra base hits in this season’s depressed run-scoring environment. He’s hit nine of his 16 home runs on the road and posted a .423 road wOBA, so he’d be having a superstar year no matter where he’s played. But still, his numbers wouldn’t be quite this good if he hadn’t moved to Boston.

So get used to it, American League teams: Adrian Gonzalez is going to be abusing Fenway — and opposing pitchers — for a long time. The onslaught has only just begun.




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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


69 Responses to “Is Fenway Helping Or Hurting Adrian Gonzalez?”

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  1. Cliff Lee's Changeup says:

    This loss of power, despite the move to Fenway, shouldn’t be worrying for Gonzo fans? I understand that he’s adjusted well and should maintain his strong hitting credentials, but I don’t see how you can spin a loss of power in an offensive environment as a positive.

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  2. MikeS says:

    But how can this possibly be? The AL is so strong. The pitching is so much better. After all, what about Adam Dunn? So many idiots have been telling us that the reason he is struggling is the change in leagues. There must be some mistake here.

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    • juan pierre's mustache says:

      i don’t recognize that name–has he ever played for boston or ny?

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    • Tim says:

      If you like Adam Dunn’s O-contact percentage, it is a crazy 60%. While all his other contact numbers are the same as they have in his career, hes hitting the wrong balls and striking himself out. The high outside contact is what is killing his power.

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  3. majorkong says:

    He had shoulder surgery in the offseason. I kinda expected lower power numbers in the first half of this season.

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    • batpig says:

      correct. this analysis completely leaves out the fact that he was still recovering the first month of the season, when he only hit 1 homer with a .143 ISO. Since April he has hit 15 bombs and slugged 650ish.

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    • midnightsnackforgizmo says:

      That’s the first thing I thought of. Good catch. IMO, it takes at least a full year to get one’s power back after having shoulder or wrist surgery. Sometimes it never comes back, so I’ll be paying close attention to his numbers next year.

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  4. NJ_Andy says:

    It’s not a loss of power (in a statistical sense), it’s a loss of distance. It’s entirely possible that he’s just not swinging as hard, willing to be more relaxed in the cozier confines of Fenway. He’s average is way over the .288 of his last two years. He also has a better lineup around him, possibly leading him to push less for the big hit and just be content driving his friends home on a single rather than needing to drive himself home on the big fly.

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    • NJ_Andy says:

      Sorry. This should have been a reply to Cliff Lee’s Changeup.

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    • mcbrown says:

      Seems quite plausible. Knowing how thoughtful his approach is at the plate I would fully expect him to make the power/contact tradeoff quite consciously as circumstances warrant. And now that he is playing so many of his games in Fenway, not to mention the other cosy AL East Parks, why not turn into more of a contact hitter and let the park dimensions do the hard work? His higher contact and lower swinging strike rates certainly support this theory.

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    • Kyle says:

      I was going to say the same thing. It would make sense to me that he just isn’t swinging as hard, simply because he doesn’t have to. Whether it’s a conscious thing, or subconscious, when you are supposed to be a run producer and you have to hit the ball almost 400 feet just to reach the wall, you’re probably going to swing a lot harder than if you only have to hit it just over 300 feet.

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  5. Jerome S. says:

    Question: What is the BAbip of Fenway Park?

    His BAbip is insane right now, sitting at a lofty .387. That’s really what’s sustaining his sky-high average. Gonzalez has a career .317 BAbip, so it’s not going to regress all the way to the bottom, but Fenway Park must have an affect also. Balls are hit in play to left that the fielders don’t have a chance at because they bounce off the monster.

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    • RC says:

      Gonzo’s BABIP, outside of his home park, the last couple years has been in the .330 range. If Fenway is a good BABIP park, its entirely possible that his natural Babip is in the .350 range (playing half his games in fenway).

      SO I’d be surprised if his BABIP didn’t fall all that far.

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      • Larry Bernandez says:

        More than that, his BABIP on flyballs could remain higher than usual if he continues to abuse the green monster for doubles. This would serve to somewhat offset the naturally lower BABIP associated with flyballs.

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  6. Shaggychild says:

    He’s on pace to hit 34 home runs, but that pace hasn’t been consistent. He hit 1 HR in April, and 9 and 6 in May and June. Since the beginning of May, his home run pace has been closer to 45 per 162.

    The April power outage really have skewed his numbers, and I think it has everything to do with coming off of shoulder surgery.

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  7. Ree says:

    At least at Fenway, could the lack of homers to center be due to either the park (420 straightaway) or his approach at the plate due to how deep it is there? I wouldn’t be surprised if he was choosing where to hit the ball.

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    • Derek says:

      That is what I was thinking.

      Your graphs are nice and all but the reason he has hit homers to center is because CF is much larger in Fenway then Petco. I bet if you overlayed the flyouts to deep center at Fenway over Petco park they would be HRs

      Also his distance isn’t there yet because he had shoulder surgery during the offseason. I expect distances to go up.

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      • Seriously says:

        People fail to understand that park factors have shown when it comes to HR’s. Petco and Fenway rank the same. For some reason people see the Monster and Pesky Pole and figure its a HR Park when it cetainly is not

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      • Ari Collins says:

        Also, I doubt it’s worse than Petco, but Fenway is actually a worse than average park to hit homers to right in. If he weren’t coming from Petco, I’d wonder if it’s possible that some of his fly-outs to right would have been homers in his previous park. Maybe some still are? I dunno.

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      • Hone says:

        Seriously – according to StatCorner’s park factors, Petco has a LHB HR factor of 59 while Fenway has a LHB HR factor of 93.

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      • Christopher says:

        @ Hone -

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      • Steve Slow says:

        Good thought, but he has no deep fly outs to centerfield in Fenway that would be homeruns in PETCO. I made sure to check that too — the only reason I didn’t include it in the graph was because it made things messy.

        He really has very few flyballs hit to center in general…in Fenway, at least.

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      • Derek says:

        @Steve Slow

        Thanks for checking on that. I wonder if the lack CF flyballs is due to the pitching change. Perhaps he was getting more pitches down the middle in the NL, now they are more inside or outside. He tends to put the ball where it is pitched, which I still find remarkable.

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  8. walkoffblast says:

    I’d say this is a result of his approach at a different ballpark, weather factors and his recovery from injury, in that order.

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    • Mr. wOBAto says:

      people who have never watched a game played at petco don’t understand how much it kills power, it isn’t just the size, it is that nasty microclimate surrounding that stadium. When the cold air comes in off the ocean even hot shot lines drives have a hard time getting out, and flyballs have no chance.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        A brief perusal of Agon’s Career stats show a 70 point split in OPS between day and night games and that is not controling for home road, I would bet that Gonzalez has at least a 100 point Ops split between road night games and Petco night games maybe even a 200 point split.

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      • Kyle says:

        You don’t think there’s cold air in Boston in April and May?

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      • polyrhythm07 says:

        It’s not just the cold air Mr. wOBAto is talking about. PECTO is almost sitting on the pacific ocean so the heavy marine layer settles into the park and thickens the air. It is even more dense when the the temperature is lower. Having lived in San Diego was a dream as the weather seemed to be 75º year round but it would rarely get much hotter and would always get cooler at night.

        I rant. In sum, vast field + marine layer + never getting constantly hot enough to alleviate air density = PETCO Park. The place is truly a hard to hit at and an absolute graveyard during night games.

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      • RC says:

        Fenway is about 2 miles from the atlantic ocean.

        Its also 420 feet in straight away center, and has one of the biggest right fields in baseball.

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      • Mr. wOBAto says:

        I don’t know everything about Fenway but in a SSS this year AGon has a 1.045 OPS in night games well ahead of his Career .866 OPS in those games.

        I am not pretending to know everything about this situation but I have watched a lot of fly balls that would have been in the third deck at Yankees stadium die well short of the track at Petco.

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      • walkoffblast says:

        If you use standard distance (which controls for altitude, wind and temperature) the difference between Gonzalez in all of 2010 and thus far in 2011 drops to about 3.5 feet instead of the 6.25 feet true distance suggests. He hit 16 hrs by the beginning of July both last year and this year. Last year he gained an extra 9 feet from wind on his total home runs distance at this point (26 vs 17), he lost 5 less feet due to temperature (-6 vs -11) and gained 5 more feet from altitude (8 vs 3). It looks like the temperature has some small effect and this smaller difference could even out quickly if he catches a couple of good wind days at Fenway.

        While he had to play in petco he was able to enjoy some altitude factors when he played in Coors and to a lesser extent Arizona and Philadelphia (9 HR in those three stadiums vs 11 in Petco).

        The speed the ball the left his bat on HRs through July was actually higher in 2011.

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      • Sultan of Schwinngg says:

        In sum, vast field + marine layer + never getting constantly hot enough to alleviate air density = PETCO Park. The place is truly a hard to hit at and an absolute graveyard during night games.

        I may be way off here but that statement is incorrect, imo. Since I’ve experienced very few muggy cool days, I assume lower air temperatures decrease the dew point, and if that’s the case, a ball will carry further in cooler air because there’s less moisture. Now, I also recognize that a players aren’t as limber with cooler air, so maybe that’s what you’re trying to point out, polyrhythm07? That would make more sense.

        Whatever the case, I don’t think that air temperatures matter in this case at all. Simply, Gonzalez can’t be pitched inside, nor can he be pitched outside because of the Green Monster. As many were presuming before his acquisition was consummated, Fenway would be a perfect park for him to hit. Apparently, that’s true.

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      • walkoffblast says:

        421 foot blast just left of center and the standard distance is now a mere 1.5 foot difference.

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  9. Jon says:

    how can anyone write an article about agon and not talk about this .387 BABIP

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  10. Mr. wOBAto says:

    It would seem that a smart hitter like Agon coming off of shoulder surgery would take an Ichiro like tradeoff of contact vs power. True AGon has a .387 BABIP this year but his career road BABIP has been .326 so a true talent .315-.325 hitter is not an unreasonable expectation for AGon going forward. This guy has a career home BABIP 30 points lower than his career road average, this when most players get a bump playing at home.

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  11. Hurtlocker says:

    American league MVP this season I predict, I suppose that means something in Boston is helping him. :-)

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  12. Sky Kalkman says:

    What’d I’d like to see, and I’m not sure if it’s currently possible, is how many non-HRs off the Green Monster would be HRs in other parks, like PETCO.

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    • walkoffblast says:

      It seems like it should be possible but it would require getting your hands on an extensive batted ball data set. Isolate the events you are interested in and apply the equivalent of whatever they do for true distance to those events.

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    • Bill says:

      I highly doubt there are many balls hit by LHH that would fit this description. It’s just kind of physically impossible.

      For RHH, absolutely. The monster turns HR into singles.

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    • Steve Slow says:

      Hit Tracker out there? This is beyond me, but I’d also really love to see it.

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  13. North Sider says:

    Adrian Gonzalez has the sweetest swing in baseball.
    If you guys watch Red Sox games you will notice how easy he swings, there is no power-torque approach a la a different Adrian, Beltre.
    There is no doubt those fly balls heading to left field would be outs in Petco, and doubles in Fenway. Look a the doubles stats – 25 already this year compared to 60 TOTAL over the last 2 years.
    Power isn’t all about HRs; it’s about getting extra bases and moving runners.
    And the reason his BABIP is high is because he’s a great hitter – that’s a tricky stat that needs to be scrutinized before it’s thrown out there to make a point.

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    • don says:

      Great hitter or not, .387 is very high. His true talent may be well above the .290 average but there are only 12 player seasons over .380 in the last 5 years, and I think the only guy who owns more than one of them is Ichiro.

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      • midnightsnackforgizmo says:

        That would be genuinely strange if the short left-field porch helped Gonzo achieve a BABIP similar to Ichiro. I can’t think of two players who remind me of each other less than they do, aside from that swing against Sabathia earlier in the year.

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  14. RC says:

    “the two, the tracker shows that Gonzalez hasn’t been hitting deeper blasts to center field”

    All those 400 foot shots last year, are outs in Fenway. Fenway’s straight away center is 420 feet, and left-center is 390 feet and 38 feet tall.

    Its really tough to hit homers to center in fenway.

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  15. nikolai says:

    fenway park is a little bandbox. he should hit 30 homeruns and 30 doubles in fenway alone.

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  16. waynetolleson says:

    Adrian Gonzalez is batting .352 with a .428 wOBA and had 71 RBI halfway through the season.

    He’s ONLY on pace for 32 HR, 6 3B, 51 2B and 144 RBI.

    OBVIOUSLY, Fenway Park is KILLING Adrian Gonzalez.

    Don’t you guys have a better way to spend your time?

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    • Sultan of Schwinngg says:

      +1

      No kidding. I read this and then wondered, what the hell are these idiots talking about. Gonzalez is on pace to win the AL MVP. WTF, he’s having a tremendous season.

      Just goes to show you, Fangraphs could run a piece about how poor Ruth or Young were at their jobs and its brainless minions would just nod their heads yes: ‘Oh, it must be’.

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  17. West Coast is Best Coast says:

    Fucking Boston, AGon is just the same as he was when he was here in SD, but now that he is in the spotlight of the East he’s going to get the MVP award he deserved every year.

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    • Kyle says:

      “Just the same” with a 60-70 point higher avg and leading the majors in RBIs. Those aren’t the greatest stats, but they get you noticed, and get you votes.

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  18. Brian Cartwright says:

    The mutli-year park factors used for Oliver @Hardball Times has Petco 0.77 HR for LHB, 0.85 for RHB. Fenway’s HR factors are 0.97 for RHB, 0.85 for LHB. Fenway is 1st in the AL with a 1.06 BABIP factor for both RHB and LHB

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  19. Brandon says:

    Cool, humid air is denser air, air which causes more air resistance — perhaps speed off the bat would be more telling than distance?

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  20. Sean O says:

    For once and for all, dead-center at Fenway Park is 387′ give or take a few inches, with something between a 17′ and 18′ wall. The 420′ mark is off to right center.

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    • Kyle says:

      But to say that center field is 387′ with no mention that 10′ to the right of center is 420′ is misleading at best.

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      • Sean O says:

        It’s not 10′, it’s more like 40-50′. I don’t have my model here at work, but it is a substantial difference between dead-center and the top of the CF triangle.

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    • midnightsnackforgizmo says:

      Thank you. I was really surprised by these comments. 420′ is not dead right-center, but it’s towards right field. I’m not sure of the exact measures for how the wall just out, but the benchmarks are 379′ for left-center/center and 420′ for right-center/center. The high BABIP and lower home run ratings of Fenway that people are talking about make intuitive sense to this long-time fan.

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  21. pft says:

    “In fact, although Gonzalez currently has the highest Isolated Power of his career (.248 ISO), it looks as though he’s hitting with less power this season.”

    A-Gon is coming off shoulder surgery, so that could affect his power a bit until he is 100% strengthwise.

    He also gets the chance to play 27 games in hitter firendly parks of Toronto, NY and Bal (compared to the 18 he got playing at Colorado and Arizona).

    Being in the middle of a tough lineup like the Red Sox will also have him see more hittable pitchers.

    Good fit for A-Gon.

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  22. Frank says:

    I don’t know what dimensions you all are looking at or if you’ve ever seen Fenway, but centerfiel dis not 420 feet, its 390. That 420 is the triangle, which is not straight away.

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  23. lex logan says:

    I found a site with a good map of Fenway’s odd dimensions:
    http://www.baseball-almanac.com/stadium/fenway_park.shtml

    Scroll down the page below the seating chart.

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  24. dominik says:

    I think we should also look at his GB rate. His career average is like 40% which is about average. but this year he is at a whopping 47%. that is a lot and certainly costs him some power.

    His HR/FB rate is only down a little (still not good of course because of fenway).

    Also fenway has a long RF and short LF so lefties should not benefit from it as much as righty hitters. he has 9 HRs at the road and only 7 at fenway.

    Still I think his power is a little down. I expect his power to climb a little and his average to drop a little. About .300-.330 is more realistic than .350+.

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