The 2004 Phillies and Fly Balls

Batted balls are a funny thing. I previously looked at the 2009 Yankees‘ propensity to hit fly balls and came to the conclusion that it must have something to do with the New Yankee Stadium being characterized as a huge hitter’s park. I figured that the Yankees players thought they could get more bang for their buck by hitting balls in the air at home, prompting them to attempt to lift the ball more in New York. However, this was before we had Home/Road batted ball data here at Fangraphs. I went over my analysis after the introduction of the splits and came to the following conclusion:

The short moral of the story? More data is always a good thing. While a few players saw leaps in their overall Fly Ball %, this was ironically due mostly to their road numbers as opposed to an air-driven frenzy at the new Yankee Stadium. The only real guys you can say were trying to get under the ball were Teixeira, Matsui, and Molina. Considering Teixeira’s 2008 was not with the Yankees and Jose Molina didn’t have that many at-bats, the conclusion has to be changed. It would appear that the 2009 Yankees did not have a conscious effort to hit more fly balls, apart from Hideki Matsui, who saw a staggering 14.3% increase in his fly balls at home from 2008 to 2009.

However, shortly after the original Yankees piece I looked at the 2004 Phillies, who similarly were opening up at a new ballpark that was well-known to be hitter-friendly, and found similar results. Almost all of the Phillies players had increased their fly ball percentage from 2003. I’ve gone back and looked at the Home and Road fly ball numbers from the team.

Player 2003 Home FB% 2004 Home FB% 2003 Road FB%
Jimmy Rollins 32.9% 33.8% 36.1%
Bobby Abreu 25.6% 32.6% 36.1%
David Bell 42.2% 42% 29.1%
Jim Thome 42.3% 46.5% 42.4%
Placido Polanco 24.4% 25.1% 31.7%
Mike Lieberthal 31.8% 42.8% 45.2%
Pat Burrell 41.9% 43.1% 46.3%
Marlon Byrd 23.2% 26.7% 26.5%
Jason Michaels 35.1% 38.3% 41.0%
Chase Utley 34.5% 44.2% 22.8%
Tomas Perez 31.1% 42.9% 50.8%

Some interesting results. With the exception of David Bell, every Phillies player listed saw an increase in their Home Fly Ball% from 2003 to 2004. Bell, meanwhile, basically stayed the same with a -.2 decrease. The biggest jumps were by Abreu, Lieberthal, Utley, and Tomas Perez.

Maybe the most interesting take-away were the fly ball rates at Citizens Bank Park in 2004 compared with on the road. The Phillies players were, acording to the data, hitting fly balls on the road at a slightly higher percent than at home, despite CBP playing as a freshly opened banbox.

Another explanation is that a lot of the classification for these batted balls are subjective, and considering the system was new in general, and that the Phillies were moving to a new ballpark (which means the scorer was probably at a different angle than before), you may have some reasons for the discrepency. Like I said, batted balls are a funny thing (so get here soon Hitf/x).




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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


3 Responses to “The 2004 Phillies and Fly Balls”

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  1. eitheror says:

    Wyers bait! or maybe Wyers porn…

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  2. baty says:

    Yeah, what exactly are the classifications for each batted ball category… Is there a documented standard that is followed? Also who ultimately makes these decisions? For example HR/FB percentage… Are all home runs assumed to be fly balls? And when does a hard hit short hopper become a line drive… It’s hard to figure these thresholds…

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  3. Matt Swartz says:

    There is a good chance that some of this is pitchers responding to CBP by throwing pitches that are harder to hit out of the park, focusing more on throwing it low in the strike zone. The team as a whole was probably trying to hit more home runs after moving to a hitter’s park, and probably were working on hitting more fly balls in general, but pitch selection by opponents was different in the two parks.

    Or, maybe it’s just a statistical anomaly? Just a thought anyway. Interesting article.

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