Fielder Headed to Homer Haven (Right?)

It seems like it was just yesterday that Eno Sarris was discussing the fantasy fallout of Prince Fielder‘s move from Milwaukee to Detroit. As part of that piece, we took a look at the park factors not only of Prince’s new and old home stadiums, but of his new road destinations, as well.

So why not go at it again? This time the move isn’t as drastic – what with the not changing leagues and all – but the reputations of the parks involved has led to some speculation that Fielder should be flying up draft boards this Spring. But the data doesn’t always agree with the reputation.

Comerica Park in Detroit has a reputation as a pitchers park, but that probably is not fair. It plays pretty close to neutral, according to the Park Factors on FanGraphs, and actually saw it as favoring hitters, in terms of runs scored. The Ballpark in Arlington, meanwhile, has been known to be quite friendly to the Rangers and their guests, and this reputation is definitely backed up by the numbers.

But the thing is, Prince is not just trading 81 games at Comerica for 81 at the Ballpark – he is trading 40 more games at the other AL Central parks for 40 in the AL West. And he still has to play a handful each year in the Central and the East. In fact, the table below represents 151 of the 162 games the Tigers and Rangers would each play in a typical year (the 11 missing games? Nine road interleague games and two road games within the league that rotate among non-divisional foes), along with left-handed HR park factors for each park.

Location LH HR PF Ranger Games Tiger Games
Texas 110 81 3
Detroit 100 3 81
Chicago 107 3 10
Cleveland 105 3 10
Minnesota 89 3 10
Kansas City 90 3 10
New York 114 3 3
Boston 92 3 3
Tampa Bay 98 3 3
Baltimore 114 3 3
Toronto 103 3 3
Los Angeles 95 10 3
Oakland 89 10 3
Houston 103 10 3
Seattle 96 10 3
Avg LH HR PF   104 100

So the weighted average HR park factor that Fielder will deal with as a Ranger is 104, compared to 100 with the Tigers. In other words, instead of hitting 25 HR, Prince would have hit…26. And had I used for park factors, the result would have actually been reversed – Texas would have a weighted average LF HR Park Factor of 103 vs. 106 for Detroit.

Of course park factors are not the only thing that will impact Prince Fielder moving forward. The burly first bagger has seen his HR/FB% drop each of the last two seasons, and that has come along with a three-year trend of decreasing average HR and fly ball distance. If you look at the HR/9 allowed by opposing pitchers, the Rangers actually face slightly easier competition (1.05 vs. 1.03) than the Tigers, but the difference is not huge.

All in all, this deal, at least as far as power is concerned, shouldn’t greatly impact your projections for Prince Fielder. If you look at the declining FB distance and see a guy whose power is in decline, the trip south won’t do a ton to stem the tide. If you saw a power hitter still on the right side of 30 (until May) who was bound to bounce back, this trade shouldn’t make you any more confident.

Prince is what he is and his value is what it is and the move to Arlington is not going to change that.

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Chad Young is a product manager at Amazon by day and a baseball writer (RotoGraphs, Let's Go Tribe), sports fan and digital enthusiast at all times. Follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

6 Responses to “Fielder Headed to Homer Haven (Right?)”

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  1. jim says:

    I also have his xHR/FB calc’d at 0.125838264 for last year, meaning he got slightly lucky with that metric. I’d have to agree that his power seems to be declining steadily, and unless he makes an adjustment, could be a somewhat risky pick next yr.

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    • TheNewGuy says:

      Also he doesn’t hit nearly the fly balls he once did in Milwaukee. He was in the mid 40s% back then, last few years mid 30s. Now maybe he purposely altered his swing to hit more line drives, but id still be sceptical the power will return.

      Plus he looked disastrous in the postseason, his abject performance really halted the Tigers going further.

      Also, could Miggy experience a drop in numbers now, with the lack of protection?

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  2. Baseball Splits (Twitter) says:

    Few have pointed out that The Ballpark at Arlington was a pitcher’s park in 2013 (according to ESPN park factors; I haven’t looked it up elsewhere) and very well could remain one moving forward. Construction behind the home plate area prior to the season drastically reduced the effect of the jet stream.

    Might sound crazy now, but you won’t think it’s crazy when Prince has 25 HR or fewer in 2014.

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  3. Charlie says:

    Nice piece, Chad.

    It’s true: Most forget the trade-off of playing in more pitcher-friendly parks in the AL West.

    The 311 FB distance 3 years ago, compared to now, which is 291, is a huge drop-off.

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  4. David says:

    what was arlingtons rating in 2012 before Hamilton and Napoli left? and what was detroit’s in 2011 before prince joined? one year sample is pretty small, especially when the parks haven’t changed in what, 10 years?

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    • TheNewGuy says:

      Thats a good point, I mean surely the PF’s are calculated due to the hitters playing there?

      I’d rather see dimensions too, as they mean as much as anything. For example, I fail to believe that Cleveland is better than Arizona for left handed power (it is if you check the fangraphs park factors page).

      And how is Texas not worth more than 10 vs Detroit for LH power? Detroit is a graveyard for power hitters not named Miggy, whereas Texas is a launching pad in left (check out how Hamilton has done since leaving there). In fact Detroit is better than Boston for LH power according to those factors… total garbage.

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