If you read my Daily Grind column, you should be familiar with what I call the Factor Grid. It’s a simplification of the freely available information over at FanGraphs Guts! There is an obvious reason we should care about park factors – they affect a player’s performance. In particular, the home run park factors can really benefit fantasy owners. After all, a home run helps in four categories. After games played, it might be the best predictor of fantasy success. Let’s take a look at some relevant factors.
The “Basic” column refers to overall run scoring. A park factor of 100 is considered league average or neutral. The 126 HR factor in Denver means hitters bash 26 percent more home runs at Coors Field than a neutral stadium. Similarly, home run production is reduced 22 percent in San Francisco. I’m told the “marine layer” is to blame.
Numbers are numbers, but thanks to ESPN’s park overlay tool, we can visualize why certain parks perform as they do. Detroit’s Comerica Park is possibly the most neutral in baseball (Nationals Park is similarly neutral), so we’ll use the Tigers’ home base as our overlay park.
No power hitter complains when he visits Yankee Stadium, but lefties really benefit from the short porch. How short is the porch? Well take a look. The corner isn’t outlandish compared to Detroit, but the gap is definitely a lot closer to home plate.
The friendliest park in baseball is pretty huge. Detroit’s park only exceeds its dimensions from center to right-center. Remember back when Colorado wasn’t storing their baseballs in a humidor?
The homeland of the Cleveland Indians has a reputation as being extremely stingy to right-handed bats while allowing more than its share of long balls to lefties. The overlay surprises me. I can see why lefties would enjoy the friendly right-center gap, but doesn’t it look like righties are scarcely disadvantaged? The answer is actually quite simple, left field has a 19 foot fence compared to a nine foot fence in right field.
What looks like a short porch in right field is offset by a very large wall. It was no impediment to Barry Bonds, but most other hitters probably curse its existence. The so-called marine layer does the rest of the work.
Here’s our other “neutral” park. As you can see, using a neutral park as the overlay can be a bit misleading. Nationals Park has some funky dimensions. It’s deeper in the corners and shallower in the gaps than Comerica. The wall is fairly normal, but it’s 12 feet high from right field to center.
Fenway is a fun place to conclude today’s exercise. Everybody knows about the Green Monster which helps its share of right-handed hitters. The wall prevents left field from playing like a bandbox, although righties do hit 12 percent more doubles than a neutral stadium (tied first with Coors Field). If lefties don’t hit the ball right on Pesky’s Pole, they’ll find the wall gets deep fast. Most casual baseball fans don’t realize lefties lose about 16 percent of their home run hitting capacity in Boston.
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