Projecting Park Effects: The Marlins’ New Stadium

To everyone’s surprise, the newly christened Miami Marlins have been one of the hottest teams on the free agent market so far. They’re interested in nearly every high profile free agent, and it seems likely that they’ll increase their payroll significantly this offseason and bring in at least one big name. Recent rumors have suggested that they aren’t actually considered likely suitors for Albert Pujols, and they may not have offered Jose Reyes $90 million…but still, they are going to land someone this offseason. After this start to the offseason, they need to or else risk their fanbase turning fickle on them again.

When evaluating new acquisitions, one of the most important — yet often overlooked — parts of projecting performance is park effects. Every ballpark plays slightly differently, and players can see big changes in their year-to-year performance based on where they play their home games. Is a player spending half his games in hitter friendly Arlington, or are they in the pitchers haven of PETCO Park? To the vast majority of you out there, this is old news.

But here’s where things get interesting: the Marlins are opening their new stadium next season, and we have no idea how it will perform. It could be a pitcher’s park, could be a hitter’s park — who knows? This added uncertainty makes evaluating their (potential) free agent acquisitions even more difficult. Why bother paying large money for a right-handed slugger if your stadium suppresses right-handed power considerably? It’s tough to tailor your team to your park if you don’t know how your park will perform.

Even if we don’t know exactly how the Marlins’ new stadium will perform, though, we can make some educated guesses. To the Bat Cave!

There are a large number of variables that effect if a ballpark is a pitcher’s or hitter’s park: wind direction and speed, wall size, park dimensions, ballpark elevation, local climate, etc. Some of these variables are easy enough to determine beforehand, while others are impossible to predict without a highly sophisticated modeling program (e.g. average wind direction/speed). Right now, let’s focus on the variables we do know something about.

The climate and elevation for the new Miami Ballpark are straightforward enough: hot, humid, and close to sea level. One degree in temperature is worth around 0.033 runs (according to MGL), so the hotter it is on average, the more runs a team will score. This makes intuitive sense, as offense is difficult to come by in both early and late in the season when temperatures are cold. Remember how the bat stung on cold days in Little League? In Miami, players rarely (if ever) have to worry about that.

As for humidity, the research on that is mixed. From what I’ve found, humidity doesn’t have any noticeable impact on run scoring or hit distance. If this is outdated, though, please feel free to correct me in the comments. However, the other variable works against the Marlins: height above sea level. Balls travel farther the higher you get above sea level (think Colorado), and Miami abuts the Atlantic Ocean. This probably helps keeps Miami from being a hitter’s park like Arizona, which is both hot and at a high elevation.

Since the Marlins are merely moving a few miles away, all these variables will remain essentially the same. The Marlins will have a retractable roof now, so that may cool the game-time temperature by a few degrees now, but that’s the only main difference from the Marlins’ current park. Here are the recent park effects for Sun Life Stadium:

From Stat Corner.

The stadium as a whole grades out near average, but I find it interesting that the park boosts triples for righties and doubles for lefties, while slightly suppressing home run power for right-handed hitters. These effects are likely due to the park’s dimensions, since it has a deep alley in right-centerfield and a high left field fence that’s only 330 feet from home:

Gameday BIP Location (HRs, 3Bs, and 2Bs)

 The new Miami stadium will have similar dimension with a few key differences. Left field will be slightly deeper (340 ft.), but the wall will be the same height all the way around the stadium. Right field will be slightly shallower (335 ft.), but the park is still expected to have similar dimensions across the outfield. Right-center will still be a deep power alley (392 ft.), and centerfield will be 420 feet away from home (same as it is now, despite the label). Here’s an estimated rendering of the dimensions:

This picture is likely not 100% accurate in the details, but it gives you a general idea of the dimensions: deep to center and right-center, and deeper in left field than Sun Life.

Based on these dimensions, it seems likely that the new Miami stadium will still favor doubles for lefties; that deep right-centerfield alley is impressive. Also, bringing the right field wall in closer should increase lefty home run production slightly. As for right-handed hitters, I’d expect their home run rate to remain below average; despite the fact that the wall has been lowered, the deeper dimensions will still make it challenging to hit home runs out to left.

The triple rate for right-handed hitters will depend in part on the “Bermuda Triangle” out in center field. There’s still expected to be some sort of Triangle out there, but I’m not exactly sure what it will look like.

So the Marlins’ new stadium is generally expected to be as deep or deeper than their old park, and they will play some of their games under a temperature-controlled dome. While we have no idea what the new stadium design will mean for air currents — just look at how different the New Yankee Stadium is from the old one, even with the exact same dimensions — it seems likely that this new stadium will perform as more of a pitcher’s park than its predecessor. It may only be a small difference, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one.

If that’s the case, it will make the Marlins’ offseason even more interesting. In the end, will they get a speedster like Jose Reyes who could take advantage of the Triangle and deep right-center field, or will they go with a slugger like Albert Pujols now that they have lowered the high left field wall? Or will they bank on the fact that their park will slightly suppress offense and acquire Mark Buehrle instead? Depending which player the Marlins end up signing, it might tell us something about how they expect their park to act.

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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.

37 Responses to “Projecting Park Effects: The Marlins’ New Stadium”

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  1. Ixcila says:

    Minor correction: the MGL article linked says the proper value is 0.033 runs/degree, which is way more believable, since 0.33 would mean dozens of runs scored, on average, for midsummer games.

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  2. futurecfo says:

    Gotta check them decimal places…

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  3. Giancarlo Cruz says:

    What are park factors?

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Not sure if this is a serious question or not, but…

      Park factors are numbers that show how much a park’s dimensions/environment alter the scoring environment. A number over 100 indicates it is more hitter-friendly; a number below 100 is more pitcher-friendly. An example: a HR park factor of 105 would mean that the park is 5% more likely to produce homeruns than the average park in the league. For a given stadium, park factors will vary by the handedness of the batter and the type of hit we’re discussing (single, double, triple).

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  4. Dave says:

    Umm, one other slight correction, Jose Reyes is a switch-hitter, not RH…I believe you confused him with RH power hitter Pujols…

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  5. Paul says:

    If you are worried about your fanbase “turning fickle again,” aren’t they just fickle?

    The entire first paragraph is now a running joke. Can we start a rule for the type of column that is awesome in the abstract, but needs a real-world situation to address? Maybe get Alex Remington to write a completely over-the-top stock paragraph on metaphysics and just use it in every one of these instances. Then we can save authors from trying to avoid unintentional humor leading into a serious analysis. And we’ll all know what it is. I’m not joking.

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  6. tdotsports1 says:

    The Marlins have a fanbase?


    Rays fans.

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  7. ray says:

    I think the new dimensions will have a hard time holding back Mike Stanton.

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    • reillocity says:

      That’s a good reason why the Marlins should NOT decrease the new LF and CF dimensions vs the current ones. There was a definite trend post-McGwire and -Sosa’s big season to shorten outfield wall depths of the in-design stadiums of that era in anticipation of increased attendance related to more HRs. When you have an elite slugger like Stanton under control for several years, you actually limit your advantage over the opposition by shortening the fences in his most likely HR directions (which for him are LF and CF). In essence, you make your opponents’ slugger(s) more like him. In a strange way, the Marlins are better off suppressing the number of HRs hit by Stanton at home in order to retain their relative plus-minus number in terms of HRs hit-surrendered. Personally, I think that all future stadiums, besides having a fixed or retractable roof over them, should be designed in order to allow adjustments in the OF wall depths (or home plate position) over time in response to changes in the game and roster composition.

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      • sheath1976 says:

        Exactly what I was thinking. I also think they see Reyes as a good fit because of all the open pasture out their. My guess is they end up with Jose.

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  8. Ed says:

    Just a note on the Yankee Stadium comment. The new stadium has the same distances at key points like down the lines and dead center, but the shape of the wall in between them is different.

    In the old stadium, the walls were close down the lines, but curved out as they went toward center, making the gaps deeper. In the new stadium, the walls are mostly straight to accommodate the old manually operated scoreboards on the walls. I believe the news walls are around 10 feet closer in some spots.

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  9. Mitch says:

    How come no one refers to Pittsburgh as “high elevation”, but Phoenix gets that designation?

    Phoenix: 1,100 feet
    Pittsburgh: 1,200 feet

    And even Kansas City is 1,000 feet.

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  10. Mike Flamer says:

    At Arizona’s Chase Field, the air conditioning keeps the temp at about 75 degrees, so heat is not a factor. However, the elevation makes Chase a hitter friendly park.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      See the above post. Phoenix is no higher than Kansas City, and is lower than Pittsburgh.

      So, if it’s not the temp and it’s not the elevation, what is it?

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      • Ken says:

        It seems pretty obvious that humidity plays a huge factor. Look at the pre and post-humidor numbers from Colorado. While I haven’t looked at the numbers, one would have to assume that the desert environment in Phoenix would have to dry balls out somewhat like old Coors.

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  11. Shawn says:

    I have to say, this in-depth analysis of their new stadium is overlooking the BIGGEST factor.

    Methinks HRs will go down as batters try their hardest to stop that thing from going off.

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  12. hk says:

    “Why bother paying large money for a right-handed slugger if your stadium suppresses right-handed power considerably? It’s tough to tailor your team to your park if you don’t know how your park will perform.”

    First of all, they will play half of their games on the road and, even if the new stadium plays like Petco, something tells me that adding right-handed power (if it comes with the name Albert Pujols attached to it) would not be a bad move. Secondly, if the Marlins are going to try to buy back some fans with a shiny new park and some big name free agents, they really don’t have a chance to see how the new park plays for a season.

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  13. Peter Jensen says:

    From what I’ve found, humidity doesn’t have any noticeable impact on run scoring or hit distance.

    Humidity doesn’t have much of an effect on how a ball travels throught the air once it has left the bat, but it does have a large effect on the coefficient of restitution (COR) which determines the speed it leaves the bat. All you have to do is look at Rockies pre and post humidor.

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    • Joe says:

      Exactly right. Dry air vs humid air can have a fairly large impact. I don’t remember the figures, but I believe it can be comparable to the difference in travel that elevation can affect.

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    • evo34 says:

      No, the effects tend to offset. The ball gets heavier and spongier in high humidity, so it does leave the bat with lower velocity, but…wet air is less dense and so the ball will travel farther in high humidity for a given launch speed.

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  14. Greg Rybarczyk says:

    PNC Park’s playing surface is at an elevation of around 725 feet. Maybe some other part of the city is at 1,200 feet, but the ballpark is not.

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  15. DodgersKings323 says:

    Hats off to the Miami Marlins! You may be thieves with ugly uniforms but those are some dimensions i can respect!

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  16. Brian Raue says:

    I have done a calculation that includes the effect of having the roof closed (assuming a comfy 72 deg. F and 50% relative humidity) compared to August outdoors conditions for a night game (82 deg. F and 72% RH). A ball hit 404 feet outdoors goes 400 feet indoors. This is due to the fact that dry, cool air about 4% more dense than warm, moist air.

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  17. evo34 says:

    The main issue is whether or not the roof (even when open) shields/redirects the predominantly out-blowing wind a lot more than the old stadium did. If it does, it will play significantly more pitcher-friendly.

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