D.J. Short

Draft Strategy

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Park Factors

Sunday, February 03, 2013


With the Hot Stove comes a bunch of players in new places, so before you consider adding them to your fantasy team, it's a good idea to think about how they'll be affected by their new home parks. Fortunately, park factors aim to account for that.

In a nutshell, a stadium with a park factor above 100 means that is regarded as a hitter-friendly environment while a park factor below 100 indicates a pitcher-friendly environment. It's dangerous to put too much stock in one year of data for a park, since we're only talking about 81 games, so I'm using Baseball Reference's multi-year park factors for the purposes of this column.

While it's true that dimensions play a large in whether a stadium is pitcher-friendly or hitter-friendly, there are other things to consider, such as the playing surface, weather, wind patterns, humidity and the amount of foul territory. These rankings are mostly intended as a rough guide, as things can change depending on something like a player's handedness, so I recommend checking out a website like Stat Corner or picking up the newest Bill James Handbook for more detailed information. But hopefully this will put you on the right track.

 

If you like what you see here, I'd recommend giving the 2013 Rotoworld Draft Guide a try. We have lots more stuff in there to help you prepare for draft day.

Coors Field (Rockies) - 120
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Rangers) - 112
Great American Ballpark (Reds) - 107

Not surprisingly, Coors Field is far and away the most-hitter friendly ballpark in the majors. After trending downward following the introduction of the humidor in 2002, offense has steadily moved back in the other direction in recent seasons. Check out these single-season park factors since 2007: 109, 105, 113, 118, 116, 124.

The Rockies and their opponents combined to score an eye-popping average of 12.5 runs per game at Coors Field last season. Yes, the Rockies' pitching staff was simply dreadful, but consider that they had a 5.97 ERA at home compared to a 4.41 ERA on the road. While that's still not very impressive, it at least shines a light on what can happen with the high altitude, thin air, lack of foul territory and spacious outfield gaps at Coors Field. It's no surprise that Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler hit so much better there than on the road.

Since I last did this column, Rangers Ballpark has surpassed Fenway Park as the American League's most-hitter-friendly venue. Thanks to the dry Texas heat, there's every reason to believe it will continue to favor offense in a big way. I don't think A.J. Pierzynski is a good bet to repeat the 27 homers he hit last year with the White Sox, but he has landed in a pretty good situation from a fantasy perspective.

For the most part, Great American Ballpark has been hitter-friendly since opening its doors in 2003. While lefty sluggers like Jay Bruce have typically thrived there, the Bill James Handbook notes that GAB has been the most favorable ballpark in the majors for right-handed power since 2010. Ryan Ludwick's resurgent 2012 makes more sense through this prism. By the way, with all this offense, Johnny Cueto's 2.78 ERA from last season is all the more impressive.

Chase Field (Diamondbacks) - 106
Fenway Park (Red Sox) - 106
U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox) - 106

It wasn't too long ago that the Diamondbacks discussed ways to make Chase Field more neutral, including installing a humidor like at Coors Field, but any such plans were put on the backburner after Kevin Towers took over as general manager. Meanwhile, the park has continued to be a haven for hitters, especially from the right side of the plate. With that in mind, I like Cody Ross' chances of coming close to the power production he showed with the Red Sox last season. However, I'm expecting an uptick in ERA for Brandon McCarthy now that he'll no longer be making half of his starts in the spacious O.co Coliseum.

While Fenway Park usually skews hitter-friendly, the 37-foot tall Green Monster prevents many would-be home runs. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as they often result in plenty of doubles and triples. The narrow foul territory also gives a distinct advantage to hitters. It's reasonable to expect bounce-back seasons this year from the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew if their health cooperates, but Ryan Dempster is going to have a tough time coming close to his 3.38 ERA from last season.

U.S. Cellular Field doesn't provide as big of an advantage offensively as Coors Field, but the Bill James Handbook notes that the two stadiums have been the best environment for home runs over the past three seasons. This is especially true for right-handed batters. Speaking of righty bats, Tyler Flowers is enough of a power threat to be relevant in two-catcher mixed formats this season, even though he's a batting average risk.

Comerica Park (Tigers) - 104
Miller Park (Brewers) - 104
Yankee Stadium (Yankees) - 103

Comerica Park was known as an extreme pitcher's park when it first opened in 2000, but it has gradually trended to favor offense since the team moved in the left field fence in 2003. While it's still in the middle of the pack from a home run perspective, the spacious outfield makes it one of the most triple-friendly ballparks in the game. Austin Jackson has 10, 11 and 10 respectively over the past three seasons and fantasy owners should expect him to be in double-digits again in 2013.

You might be surprised to learn that more home runs were hit at Miller Park last season than in any other National League park. There were 230 in all, or an average of 2.84 per game. That's a lot of souvenirs. Shaun Marcum's fly ball tendencies were a poor fit over the past two seasons, as he had a 4.69 ERA at home compared to an excellent 2.67 ERA on the road. If healthy, he could prove to be a nice value with the Mets.

Miller Park is a perfect lead-in to Yankee Stadium, which was the most homer-happy park in the majors last season. 232 were deposited over the fence, an average of 2.85 per game. There haven't been fewer than 209 homers hit in any season since the stadium first opened in 2009. Thanks to the jet stream in right field, the short porch has become a favorite target for Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, for better or worse. The newly-signed Travis Hafner should like it there, assuming he can stay off the disabled list.

Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) - 103
Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Orioles) - 102
Citizens Bank Park (Phillies) - 102

Rogers Centre had a brief run as a pitcher's park in the late-aughts, but it has trended back to hitter-friendly over the past three seasons. While it's a symmetrical ballpark, it has continued to be a more favorable environment for right-handed power. The Blue Jays made plenty of high-profile additions over the winter, but the biggest question is how R.A. Dickey will adjust to life in the American League East. The prospect of a knuckleballer making half of his starts in a climate-controlled dome is appealing, but a repeat of his 8.9 K/9 is unlikely since he's in the tougher league. He should still be plenty valuable in all formats, though.

Camden Yards started out as a hitter-friendly ballpark when it opened in 1992, then teetered between neutral to somewhat pitcher-friendly from 1996-2006, but it has favored offense again over the past few years. While it's only 318 feet down the right field line, the power alley in left-center also makes for a cozy landing spot. It would be nice if Orioles' closer Jim Johnson missed some more bats, but his ability to keep the ball on the ground and in the ballpark serves him well here.

Citizens Bank Park has the reputation of a bandbox, likely due to the power exploits in the early days of the park and the impressive Phillies' lineups during their recent run of dominant in the NL East, but it has actually played closer to neutral over the past few years. While it's still an excellent environment for left-handed power, the Bill James Handbook notes that it has been below average for right-handed batters over the past three seasons. Let's just say that I'm not expecting a bounce-back season from Michael Young in 2013.


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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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