Nick Nelson

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Humidor Fallout

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Located in the middle of the desert, Chase Field has become an oasis for MLB hitters. Last year ESPN ranked the Diamondbacks home park as the second most hitter-friendly stadium in baseball, noting that "some studies have shown that when the roof is open, exposing the stadium to the scorching temperatures and lower humidity of Phoenix, run scoring can increase by as much as a half a run per game."


Arizona hitters have certainly been benefiting from the favorable setting, with their collective 2017 OPS at home checking in 136 points higher than on the road. For pitchers, the impact has been less appreciated.


Perhaps that is a driving force in the team's decision to implement a long-discussed change. D-backs general manager Mike Hazen announced this week that Chase Field will be utilizing a humidor starting in 2018, and the fantasy ramifications could be substantial.


One study from the Hardball Times -- using before-and-after data from Coors Field's 2002 humidor installation as a basis, and accounting for the lower humidity in Phoenix -- concluded that implementing this climate-controlled baseball storage method could lead to a "reduction in home run production at Chase by 25-50 percent." That number might seem shocking but if you read the article via Alan Nathan, a college physics professor, you'll see that it's well evidenced.


Even if the home run total isn't cut in half, diminishing offensive production is all but inevitable in AZ. Increased moisture leading to baseballs traveling less far is a physical reality. This might affect the output of Paul Goldschmidt, whose 1.082 OPS at home in 2017 healthily outpaced his .852 mark on the road, but it figures to be more threatening to lesser hitters like second baseman Brandon Drury, whose .764 OPS last year was buoyed by a .302/.369/.528 slash line at Chase Field.


On the flip side, pitchers ought to get a big boost from the humidor's arrival. Not only will it lead to quieter contact, but as The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro notes, the addition is "also expected to have a more anecdotal benefit for pitchers, who say dry baseballs are harder to grip."


Zack Greinke overcame the disadvantage to post a 13-1 record at home last year, but the Diamondbacks staff as a whole was not so lucky, registering a worse overall ERA at Chase than elsewhere due in large part to opponents' slugging prowess.


We'll need to wait and see just how transformational the humidor in Arizona is, but if Coors Field's precedent and scientific evaluations are any indication, the impact could be enormous. Fantasy players need to be accounting for it.


Slugger Standoff


Yu Darvish finalized his $126 million contract with the Cubs on Tuesday, after coming to terms over the weekend and settling for much less than anyone initially expected him to get.


J.D. Martinez isn't quite ready to go there yet.


The top hitter remaining in free agency reportedly has an offer in hand from Boston for five years and around $100 million. That's a far cry from the $150 million that MLB Trade Rumors reasonably projected at the outset of the offseason. Clearly, Martinez and his agent Scott Boras are not satisfied.


The slugger's camp complained publicly last week about Boston's "inflexibility" in negotiations, and this week there have been rumblings of renewed discussions with the Diamondbacks.


Although Jon Heyman reports that the two clubs' offers are believed to be very similar, Boras met with Arizona's owner Ken Kendrick recently and Heyman wrote on Tuesday that the D-backs are "looking at creative ways" to bring back the 30-year-old.


This is a messy situation, with considerable posturing taking place. Boston has a clear need for Martinez, and it's not clear why they'd be so unwilling to go the extra mile and get something done, but right now Arizona has to be viewed as a very legitimate suitor.


Given the humidor news discussed above, Boston might be a more appealing destination for Martinez if he wants to continue mashing 40 homers a year.


Hosmer in Limbo


The next most-coveted bat on the market, Eric Hosmer, also continues to engage two clubs that similarly appear reluctant to meet the demands of Mr. Boras.


The Padres, who've been connected to the first baseman throughout the offseason, are said to be maintaining a "regular dialogue" with the free agent, but haven't won him over. Meanwhile, the Royals remain interested in bringing him back. Both teams reportedly have made seven-year offers.


Heading to Petco would be a ding for Hosmer's already unspectacular fantasy value, but the Padres could really use a building block like him in their lineup.  


Quick Hits: Chase Utley is returning to LA, where he'll function in a backup role for the Dodgers ... Add the Padres, Yankees, Brewers, Angels, Twins and Orioles to the list of teams expected to be in attendance for Tim Lincecum's pitching showcase on Thursday ... The Nationals acquired utilityman Matt Reynolds from the Mets in exchange for cash considerations ... Trevor Plouffe inked a minor-league deal with Texas, where he'll compete for a job as a righty bench bat ... The Cardinals signed Bud Norris to a one-year $3 million deal, and he now figures to carve out a late-inning role in their bullpen ... The Yankees have had some contact with third baseman Mike Moustakas, but a union between the two sides is considered a longshot ... Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the Mets are considering using Todd Frazier in the leadoff spot, which makes some sense given his patience and OBP skills, but would cut down his RBI potential.



Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to Rotoworld's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.
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