Jered Weaver and Park Effects

Over the next few days, you’re going to read an awful lot about how Jered Weaver left money on the table to re-sign with the Angels and pitch close to home. That is almost certainly true, since he probably could have commanded a significantly larger deal had he stayed healthy through 2013 and hit the free agent market, where prices for pitchers of his quality are significantly higher than the $17 million per year he just agreed to. But in addition to his desire to stay close to home, Weaver also knew that re-signing with the Angels was in his best long-term interests, because he’s pitching in one of the best environments possible for his skillset.

More than anything else, the defining characteristic about Jered Weaver is that he’s a fly ball guy. In fact, he’s one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in all of baseball. Since the start of the 2009 season, the only starter who has generated fewer ground balls than Weaver is Ted Lilly – Weaver is 73rd out of 74 qualified pitchers in ground ball rate.

One of the main reasons Weaver has been able to succeed despite all the fly balls, however, is that he has managed to give up fly balls that don’t go out of the ballpark. Despite being an extreme fly ball guy, his HR/9 since the beginning of 2009 is just 0.88, about the same mark as you’d expect from a guy with a neutral GB/FB split. So, in addition to not walking guys and racking up strikeouts, Weaver has made a living giving up fly balls that his outfielders can run down. It’s a pretty good recipe for success.

That recipe, however, wouldn’t work everywhere, and it wouldn’t work nearly as well in almost any other ballpark besides Angels Stadium. While it doesn’t have the reputation of an extreme pitchers park, the ballpark in Anaheim is one of the toughest places for left-handed batters to hit home runs in all of baseball. And Weaver has taken full advantage of this effect.

For his career, 49.7% of the balls Weaver has allowed to be put in play at home have been fly balls, and only 6.0% of those have left the yard. On the road, 8.8% of his fly balls have carried over the fence. While most players perform slightly better at home, Weaver’s skillset is perfectly tailored to the strengths of his home team’s stadium, and that shows up in the results. His career FIP at home is just 3.22, while his FIP on the road is 3.95.

This isn’t to denigrate Weaver at all. Like Dustin Pedroia, he’s found a park effect that he can exploit to great success, and he’s tailored his style of pitching to take full advantage. That’s just smart pitching, and it was also smart of Weaver to realize that his current home park is the perfect place for him to pitch. Yes, he could have taken his talents to free agency and let teams with small ballparks and short right field porches bid for his services, but by staying in Anaheim, Weaver gave himself the best possible chance to sustain his high quality performances.

If he stays healthy and continues to pitch well in Anaheim for the bulk of the next five years, Weaver will likely be looking at another sizable contract extension before this current deal runs out. If he had gone somewhere like New York and had to put up with 320 foot “home runs” down the right field line, there’s a decent chance some of the shine would have come off his particular skillset.

The bottom line is Weaver probably did leave money on the table on this deal, but the side benefits of being able to pitch in a park that should help him land another big deal down the line – and be close to home – almost certainly outweigh the extra cash he could have gotten by hitting free agency after next season. While this was a good deal for the Angels, it was also a good deal for Jered Weaver.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


45 Responses to “Jered Weaver and Park Effects”

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  1. Deadpool says:

    So, I think you alluded it to it but I’m not sure, but bring specifically a pitcher’s park against lefties isxwhat tailors the stadium to Weaver? In other words he’s good enough against same handed batters to only need the buffer against lefties?

    Seems like that’s an innifeciency the Angels could tap. They could load up on rh relievers who get hurt by lefties but own righties, or even fill th back of their rotation with guys like that relatively cheaply.

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  2. Telo says:

    All good points, but he still could’ve gotten more money and pitched slightly worse… It’s not like the money isn’t guaranteed. We’re implying vanity is a factor.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Was the increase in potential money necessarily worth the risk of injury or regression? Gotta remember that 2012 is shaping up to be a buyers market for top-end starting pitching.

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      • Telo says:

        Depending on his performance over the next year, he left anywhere between 15-40 million on the table (over 5 years), and potentially additional years. So, it really depends. I think the EV of letting it ride is definitely higher, however, he chose security and staying put. Not a bad decision by any means. But it’s definitely a bargain for the Angels, compared to market value.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        I’m not convinced his EV is that high. Staying healthy and maintaining performance is not a 50th percentile projection for a starting pitcher, and with an inordinately high number of SP potentially available, he wouldn’t see a team doggedly pursuing him the way, say, the Yankees did with Sabathia. John Danks, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, Cole Hamels, Chris Carpenter, James Shields and Colby Lewis not being under team control yet probably had a LOT to do with this deal happening now.

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      • Telo says:

        If 3 or even 2 of those names actually hit the FA market, I will be shocked.

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  3. Mr wOBAto says:

    From Wade Boggs to Don Drysdale there have been plenty of players taking advantage of a home field that matches their skillset, kudos for Jered finding his and sticking with it

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  4. Kirkwood says:

    Is there a quote out there of Weaver’s where he alludes to understanding the effects Angel Stadium has on his pitching? Don’t understand the context of a few sentences in this post:

    “Weaver also knew that re-signing with the Angels was in his best long-term interests, because he’s pitching in one of the best environments possible for his skillset.”

    “…and it was also smart of Weaver to realize that his current home park is the perfect place for him to pitch.”

    Not really a big deal with regards to the rest of the post, but I’ve never read or heard of a pitcher consciously choosing a park, outside of an obvious extreme park (i.e. Petco), based on their batted ball skill set.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Boras and Beltre turned down Oakland’s superior offer before the ’10 season specifically because they wanted to get Adrian into a ballpark (Fenway) that was tailor-made for him.

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      • Kirkwood says:

        I was talking about pitchers, not hitters. It’s pretty common knowledge that hitting in Oakland sucks and in Boston is awesome, as well.

        In others words, actually how aware of Angel Stadium’s park effects is Weaver and how much did that play into his decision. Dave made it sound like Weaver, while obviously wanting to remain an Angel, also wanted to continue taking advantage of Angel Stadium’s propensity to favor right handed pitchers in forgoing more guaranteed money. My question is, did that really have anything to do with it? I’ve read or seen nothing of Weaver and his love for his home park.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        I guarantee you that Scott Boras made him well aware of his home/road splits. The Boras Corp is nothing if not thorough.

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      • Kirkwood says:

        Now that certainly seems likely. Boras, you sly man.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Park effects (and how common the knowledge about them is) work for pitchers, too. I’m not sure there’s any particular reason why one should separate pitchers from hitters here – the logic for Beltre and Weaver was the same.

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      • ettin says:

        Kevin,

        I am not sure about the quote, but I definitely know that Weaver is looking at the Angels current OF configuration of Bourjos in CF, Trout in LF, and Hunter in RF and knows that any flyball he gives up that doesn’t go out of the park has a VERY high likelihood of being caught by that future GG-caliber defense.

        Assuming no injuries or severe regression, Jered will be in line for a big payday in 5 years. He could become a lifelong Angel at that time as well because the Angels will probably have signed a new television deal bringing in a lot more cash to keep him.

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      • Kirkwood says:

        @Kevin: parks play differently to different parts of the field (left, center, right). Therefore, parks are typically discussed (in my experience) as being especially friendly (or harmful) to right handed hitters or left handed hitters specifically. For right handed hitters, one would discuss how the ball plays to left field and, likewise, right field to lefties. However, moreso than hitters, pitchers are affected by all areas and dimensions of a park, whereas a right handed hitter would have to worry less about right field than left. This creates a more tangible effect on hitters than pitchers and, therefore, a more commonly discussed and understood effect. Owing to the volatility of pitchers and repetition of past results going forward, it is also more difficult to pinpoint just how much a park is affecting a pitcher as opposed to a hitter, as well.

        At least, that is how I view it. I could be completely wrong.

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      • ineedanap says:

        Wouldn’t Boras want him to get MORE money?

        Sure, he may get a better deal in 5 years. But, 5 years from now, he probably won’t be the same pitcher. Even if he is still good, he probably won’t be as dominate as he is now and might even get injured to the point where he can’t even pitch in the majors.

        So why wouldn’t Boras try to make his client (and himself) the most money possible now, rather than take a chance on sustained success?

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  5. Buzzy says:

    In 2010 Pedroia was better on the road than in Fenway. This year he is exactly the same on the road as in Fenway. Not so cut an dried as a hitting comparison.

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  6. Kirsh says:

    If Weaver would have gone to free agency and signed in San Diego, (59 LHB HR park factor), I think his ERA would be somewhere in the negatives.

    I know it never would have happened anyway, but it’s fun to think about.

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  7. Weaver sends a special thanks to the Angels for playing Peter Bourjos in CF all year, moving Abreu to DH and Hunter to RF.

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  8. DD says:

    Dave, could you have included the fact that since 09 (the period you sighted) Weaver has the second highest IFFB% in baseball (14.2%, second to Kiroda at 14.5%) and has a ridiculous 17.1% this year? That would help normalize his HR/FB rate pretty well wouldn’t it?

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    • jsolid says:

      that sounded so reasonable to me, i had to check it out. you would think that a higher IFFB% would lower HR/FB in general. but for starters in 2011, there is little correlation (r=-0.20). That surprised me too.

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      • DD says:

        Not saying there is a direct correlation. It looks like the more talented pitchers who are FB prone, but have low HR/FB rates, also have high IFFB%. Those who are less talented (Ted Lilly) have higher HR/FB rates despite high IFFB%. I’m just saying there is a difference between looking at HR/FB and HR/OFFB.

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      • James says:

        I believe the metric of interest would be HR/non-IFFB percentage (which could possibly indicate a park factor), not a correlation between HR/FB and IFFB (which should have no correlation to park factors since IFFB is ostensibly park independent)….

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  9. Jamie says:

    I’m not quite as convinced as everybody else that Weaver is leaving money on the table (has Scott Boras ever left money on the table?).

    This seems more like a case of cashing in on the strength of a career year. Imagine how much more Zack Greinke would have made if he had been offered a contract at the end of the 2009 season.

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    • RC says:

      “has Scott Boras ever left money on the table?)”

      He most asuredly has. He’s a very good agent, but the idea that he’s always going for the most money, whether thats in the best interest of his client is a bit silly.

      He’s actually had quite a few clients who have signed early extensions, preferring the safety/convenience/whatever.

      Not having to worry about a career ending injury certainly has value.

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      • chuckb says:

        and, ultimately, it’s Weaver’s decision. Even if Boras’ advice was to wait and go for free agency, Weaver could have decided not to on his own. He wouldn’t be the first Boras client to turn down free agency and take more stability.

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  10. Boomer says:

    Are you implying the money he would get on his next contract (in 2016 at age 34) now has a higher PV because he’ll be staying in Anaheim’s park? And does that higher PV offset what he could have gotten on his current contract if he’d tested the FA waters?

    I’m not buying it. I don’t see how staying in Anaheim is best for his “long term interests.”

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    • joser says:

      You may not see it, but evidently Jared Weaver does.

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    • ettin says:

      Boomer, here are the facts:

      1) Jered is a native of CA, attended Long Beach State (go Dirtbags!), and has strong ties to Southern CA.
      2) Angels stadium is pitcher friendly and will help sustain his strong pitching stats moving forward.
      3) The current (Bourjos, Trout, Hunter), and future (Bourjos, Trout, Calhoun), Angels defense is triple GG-caliber and will make his stat line even more impressive.
      4) Jered was good friends with Nick Adenhart and I think he appreciates every day he is able to pitch and what the Angels organization represents and has done for him. Taking the money now secures the rest of his financial future in case a career threatening injury wipes him out.
      5) The strong likelihood of #2 and #3 puts him in excellent shape to receive a strong additional payday after 2016 that, including inflation, will probably exceed what he just signed for yesterday.
      6) The reality is that the Angels organization is a great one to play for. It is the reason that they have won a WS and 5 division titles in the last 10 years. They are a dedicated, winning organization that players love to come to and play for.

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  11. DonCoburleone says:

    Further proof that Scott Boras works for the player, and not vice-versa.. The next time some crybaby fan blames Scott Boras cuz “their guy” left town for more money just remember this signing. If a player really wants to stay where he’s at, HE DOES.

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  12. Bob says:

    The dude just signed a contract that will have him set for life, unless he decides it’s Hammer Time. So he signed for a bit less than he might have gotten on the FA market – call it a risk premium charge.

    Johan Santana’s probably pretty happy he has a huge contract in the bank.

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  13. Here’s an analysis i wrote up on the deal.. any feed back would be awesome thanks..
    http://www.yardbarker.com/blog/baseballecon

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  14. Larry Bernandez says:

    It isn’t just Angels Stadium, which is what makes it so beautiful. With an unbalanced schedule those extra starts at Seattle and Oakland provide another handful of starts in fly ball pitcher friendly environments.

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    • joe says:

      This!

      30% of his innings have come against Oakland and Seattle offenses. (both sub 1.20 ERA)

      Parks and competition (with the obvious exception of Texas) are helping him out.

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  15. gradygradychase says:

    Whether the Angels put the Abreu-Hunter-Wells line on the outfield or Trout-Bourjos-someone (who can be at least average in the corner) there going forward is the thing Weaver should really care about.

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  16. TheGrandslamwich says:

    Could the headhunting incident possibly deterred some teams prompting Boras/Weaver to accellerate this contract?

    I don’t know enough about front office politics to have any clue if incidents like that would deter some teams or not (non Pedilla division).

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  17. TheGrandslamwich says:

    Well that was horrifically worded. “Deterred some teams, prompting some teams to lose interest, have caused Weaver/Boras to accelerate the contract” may make it a bit more clear.

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  18. pft says:

    When a pitcher leaves money on the table to get an extension that guarantees money earlier, I always wonder about the pitcher having a hidden injury. Look at Beckett, weeks after he signs an extension he goes down for over 2 months with what we are told was a back injury (but for all he knew it could have been that labrum he injured with the Marlins acting up) and was awful before and after his DL stint. If Beckett was a FA after his 2010 season, how much do you think he would have got?

    Of course, Beckett has been great in 2011, despite reduced velocity from his peak, but lets see how he holds up for the rest of the year (he has not been healthy and/or effective in late August/Spetpember/October since 2007.

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  19. ineedanap says:

    “Weaver: Thanks guys. This is a very exciting day for me and my family. I’ll try not to be emotional here, but it’s hard. You know when I first got here 5 or 6 years ago the process didn’t go smoothly as I had anticipated. I didn’t know how it was really going to go and we got that part of it done. I’m not really too fond of the business side of things, I just like to go out there and play the game and let the chips fall where they may. Eventually it comes to a point where you need to make a decision and we have had talks with Angels and they were interested in getting something going and I was very interested in staying here. Obviously weigh the options and couldn’t see myself anywhere else but here. (crowd cheering).

    It’s good to know I’m going to be here as an Angel for the next 5 years and to be with my teammates and work with those guys and come to the best office on the planet is definitely an honor. I would like to say thank you obviously to mom and dad (begins to choke up) and it’s been a long road. Very excited so I love you guys.

    Obviously you can go to the East Coast and do that thing but I really don’t like to deal with that kind of stuff man. I like the 7 media guys that we have in our locker room instead of 50. It’s a more comfortable spot for me here and it really didn’t take me any time to make the ultimate decision to stay here.

    Question: Another good year and a half and you were approaching good Sabathia numbers. You might have approached his numbers money wise too. Do you worry about leaving that kind of dough on the table?

    Weaver: (laughs) How much more do you possibly need? I don’t, uh, look, I never played this game for money purposes. I played it for love and championships (crowd cheers). I think that there comes a point in time that you have to deal with the business side of things but I don’t think the money had anything to do with my options. Obviously I could’ve got more, whatever, you cares, I’m not worried about that. I’m here and that’s all I care about.”

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