Triples in Texas

When you get waist deep into park factors you can discover some really odd quirks that you never expected. Lately I have been looking at the frequency of events at certain parks compared to when that park’s home team played on the road and one of the ratios – triples in Texas — stuck out to me.

Intrigued, I investigated the home and away splits for the Texas Rangers since 2007 and found that indeed there seems to be something going on with the Ballpark in Arlington that promotes triples. Starting from 2007 and going through 2010 to date, the Texas Rangers hitters have hit 25, 24, 18 and 2 triples while at home. Contrast that to 11, 11, 9 and just one triple while on the road. All told, that is 69 triples while at home and 32 while on the road.

That’s not a small or insignificant split, that’s gigantic. I’m also not sure what’s causing it. Generally, you expect parks that are favorable to triples to have gigantic outfields and weather patterns that inhibit home runs to keep more balls in the park, but deep toward far away walls. Arlington certainly does not fit that model given it’s notoriety for allowing home runs and it’s roughly average depth to the walls.

I’m curious to hear people’s theories. Is it because the ground gets dried out in the summer heat, making balls run faster like if they were on Astroturf? Maybe there is something with the outfield dimensions in Texas that invites triples? Or maybe there is something with the road parks the Rangers play in that suppresses them?

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

16 Responses to “Triples in Texas”

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  1. OTerry says:

    Are visiting teams hitting a comparable amount of triples?

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  2. philkid3 says:

    I’d like to see visiting splits.

    One guess would be the odd dimensions in center.

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  3. LeeTro says:

    Rangers’ pitchers don’t seem to have as much disparity.

    2009- 14 H, 13 R
    2008- 25 H, 11 R
    2007- 13 H, 12 R

    All those crazy angles in right-center are probably the cause for many of the triples, though left-center is fairly expansive.

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  4. Nate says:

    I’m with LeeTro, I think it’s probably the odd angles in right-center around the bullpen.

    Is there any way to get an idea of where on the field the triples were hit? I think that might shed some light on the answer.

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  5. Nate says:

    So using B-R’s play index I was able to find this:

    Rangers @ Home


    # of triples = 25
    # in ’89′ zone = 10
    # in ’8′ zone = 5


    # of triples = 24
    # in ’89′ zone = 8
    # in ’9′ zone = 6


    # of triples = 18
    # in ’89′ zone = 10

    All teams at Arlington:

    Triples hit to ’89′ spot
    2007: 11 of 38
    2008: 17 of 49
    2009: 14 of 32

    Not definitive, but I think that odd jutting angle does have some effect on the amount of triples at the park.

    That being said, I’d guess that right-center is probably the most common spot for triples at any field.

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  6. t ball says:

    It’s the outfield. I remember when Doug Melvin arrived as GM in 1994 in an interview he said he noticed two things about the OF right away — that he needed rangy CFer and LFer, and that there were going to be a lot of triples in the park. He was right on both counts.

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  7. Boxkutter says:

    I think this is one thing where you need to see a quick video of each triple, stats alone don’t tell the story. How many of these triples are caused by the smaller OF? Think about it:

    If you have a smaller OF, you have a chance to be in range or more balls. Meaning, you may take more dives trying to get to more balls. And if you miss, there is a much better chance for a triple.

    I think I have seen more triples hit because of a missed diving catch that the score keeper scores as a triple and not a single and two-base error than I have triples that were just legged out real well.

    Is there a way to find out the splits on triples before this sample size? Also, has there been a change in the scorekeeper lately? Maybe the score keeper likes to credit the Rangers with the triples instead of giving the other team an error?

    Just one possibility.

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  8. Preston says:

    Another possible explanation having to do with angles – the angles in the corners look like they might be a bit more obtuse than is usual, which would tend to make the ball hug the wall more, which in turn is harder to field quickly and would lead to more triples. That’s just a guess, though.

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  9. King Louis XIV says:

    Actually, I play as the Rangers in MLB 2K9, and I’ve noticed I record an obscene amount of triples as well.

    I concluded it was because the gap between the centerfielder and rightfielder tends to have an odd shape, putting the ball in no-man’s-land and creating odd, irretrievable bounces, both of which are key components of triples.

    I’ve only seen one triple hit at that ball park, Ian Kinsler’s during his six hit cycle, but I believe he hit the ball to precisely this location, so I think the game may have been on to something.

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  10. vivaelpujols says:

    The ratio is large but the actual numbers involved are very small. I doubt that the difference has much to do with the attributes of Arlington, especially because the pitchers don’t have a large split. So I would just chalk that up to a statistical anomaly.

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    • t ball says:

      A statistical anomaly that occurs nearly every year since the park opened? ESPN has park numbers going back to 2000, and in only one of those years was Arlington not among the tops for triples. That year seems like the anomaly.

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      • Bill says:

        2006 was the only year that Rangers Ballpark was below average in terms of triples, otherwise it was top 10 every year and usually top 3. Pretty clear something is going on that is making triples more likely to occur, even given the small sample size of triples, 10 years of trend is plenty.

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  11. aweb says:

    Since quite a few triples depend on the hitter knowing the park well enough to judge that he has enough time to make it to third base, I would expect most teams to have a small Home/Away triple split. I think of Arizona as a similar park – they had a 29/16 ratio in 2009, and a 34/13 ratio in 2008. Their pitchers had about even splits.

    What’s the “everyone” split – in 2009, it was 528 triples at home, 421 on the road, in 2008 it was 482 vs. 404. So about 55% of triples are hit at home in general in recent years. This number actually understates the effect for the “triples parks” though, as teams that play on the road in a disproportionate number of them (maybe NL west teams going to Colorado and Arizona?) would be expected to have more even, or road-biased splits.

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    • Andross says:

      It was commented above that there might be more triples in Texas because fielders might tend to dive more. With that data, it might be more correct to say that away outfielders tend to dive more. Perhaps they aren’t as familiar with the park or something, and make poor decisions. Perhaps this is related to the persistent split between home and road BABIP. I don’t know, theories for someone with a bigger spreadsheet than mine to resolve.

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  12. drew says:

    Just a guess…

    The outfield grass in Texas is hard which makes the ball carry at a higher speed when going in to the walls. The higher speed results in a larger than normal bounce off the wall and visiting outfielders can be caught of guard (resulting in the triples for the home town Rangers). The Ranger outfielders are more familar the speed in which the ball bounces off the walls and are less likely to misplay the ball thus limiting the opposition to fewer triples.

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