July 30, 2004
Park Factor Review
A Look at All Parks, Majors to A-Ball
That caveat aside, let's take a look at how pro baseball's parks--from the majors down to A-ball--are playing.
The New Parks
A lot has been made about the bandbox nature of the Phillies' new digs, named (as far too many are) for a corporate entity that has nothing to do with the team except for the "Pay to the order of" line on the checks. The power alleys are, indeed, short, and home runs are flying out about 25% more often in Phillies' home games as they are on the road. However, teams do not score on home runs alone:
Phillies and opponents, per 6100 AB+BB (approximate full-season total):
AB H DB TP HR BB R REqA Home games 5519 1437 260 28 232 581 778 .789 Away games 5531 1516 362 22 187 569 771 .804
Projecting the current numbers out to a full season, the Phillies' new ballpark would give out 45 more home runs, but at the cost of 102 doubles and 28 singles, not to mention 67 outs. On a per-out basis, there are more runs scored in Philadelphia's road games than at home. Overall, the park is currently rated 1.022. Considering that REqA (Raw Equivalent Average, click here for a glossary definition) suggests a .980 park, combined with the the runs-per-out data, I'd be a little more willing to bet on that going down than I would be on it going up.
Also ensconced in a shiny new corporate bauble, the Padres left behind nearly the most pitcher-friendly stadium in the country (a fraction behind Dodger Stadium in the 2001-2003.) The new dimensions didn't offer any hint that there was going to be any change, and indeed there hasn't been any. Again, per 6100 PA:
AB H DB TP HR BB R REqA In SD 5590 1398 280 40 121 510 630 .706 Away 5590 1536 300 20 173 510 775 .746
Big reductions in singles (-86) and home runs (-52) and a small reduction in doubles (-20) are only slightly offset by a big (+20) increase in triples. The Padres have a team park factor of .894 right now, the lowest in the majors this season, lower than any major league team has had since 1998. (Remember, the team's park factor is a combination of its home park's intrinsic factor and its mix of road stadiums.)
For the rest of the majors and minors, I'm just going to list everyone's 2004 park factor to date, with a note about those teams that are deviating the most from their established norms. For convenience, all park factors are listed to three places with an implied decimal point; "1000" is really 1.000.
Anaheim 960 Baltimore 1056 Boston 1078 Chicago 1073 Cleveland 967 Detroit 955 Kansas City 950 Minnesota 1022 New York 980 Oakland 996 Seattle 921 Tampa Bay 999 Texas 1070 Toronto 1050
In an off-season trade that caught everyone off-guard, the Orioles and Royals traded park factors. Kansas City had become the closest thing to Coors that the American League had to offer, with factors of 1086, 1124, and 1089 over the last three years. No team in baseball, majors or minors, has had a park factor so far below their history as have the Royals. What seemed like a fairly small change--the fences were moved back 10 feet--has had a seemingly huge effect.
The Orioles, meanwhile, haven't had a single-season factor above 1 since 1995. There's a certain element of luck involved here, since the Orioles and their opponents actually have a slightly higher REqA (.779) away from Camden Yards than they do in Camden Yards (.778). Between them they have outscored their Equivalent Runs (EqR) by 39 in Oriole home games and underscored by 10 in road games, changing what should have been a neutral rating into a high one.
Arizona 1038 Atlanta 979 Chicago 992 Cincinnati 906 Colorado 1140 Florida 953 Houston 1024 Los Angeles 952 Milwaukee 972 Montreal 931 New York 945 Philadelphia 1022 Pittsburgh 972 San Diego 894 San Francisco 1029 St. Louis 968
The Expos are the most unstable park in the country, in terms of year-to-year changes...excuse me, most unstable park on the continent. Their 1120 last year was certainly aided by Hiram Bithorn, but played at about 1080 even without the Puerto Rican games. This year, even the games in San Juan haven't helped (yes, I know they jiggered the fences there as well). Since 1992, the Expos have been as low as 899 (1998) and as high as 1120 (2003), and only once have they spent consecutive seasons on the same side of 1000 (in 1996-97, they scored 1035 and 1011). Roll the dice, baby.
After an almost perfectly neutral (998) first season, with unfounded suggestions that it was a bandbox following a flurry of early home runs, the Reds' new park is playing like an Astrodome.
Buffalo 989 Charlotte 999 Columbus 999 Durham 1053 Indianapolis 1059 Louisville 1063 Norfolk 905 Ottawa 1070 Pawtucket 986 Richmond 938 Rochester 982 Scranton/W-B 951 Syracuse 1044 Toledo 921
Since 2001, Toledo has gone from 1037 to 1029 to 968 to 921. Ottawa is just another part in the continuing weirdness of the Orioles system this year, where pretty much every team is outside its normal range.
Pacific Coast League
Albuquerque 1095 Colorado Springs 1109 Edmonton 890 Fresno 1005 Iowa 956 Las Vegas 1133 Memphis 960 Nashville 966 New Orleans 906 Oklahoma 881 Omaha 916 Portland 915 Sacramento 941 Salt Lake City 1080 Tacoma 948 Tucson 1102
The league of extremes, where the so-called "Coast" teams that are really high up in the mountains and plateaus have really high park factors and most everyone else has a really low one. Edmonton used to be one of the reliably middle-of-the-pack teams, but they've been trending downwards since 2000. The team that is farthest above its established level is actually Nashville; since they spent the last two years below 900, 966 is a big step up.
Akron 1110 Altoona 1043 Binghamton 990 Bowie 884 Erie 1021 Harrisburg 1018 New Britain 1018 New Hampshire 978 Norwich 929 Portland 1034 Reading 1059 Trenton 902
Bowie was normally around 1000 (there's that Oriole weirdness again), but this is two years now that it has been a strong pitcher's park. Trenton was at 1054 last year, but that appears to be as aberrant as this year's 902. New Britain always used to be a pitching haven, but they have been consistently average since 1999. Altoona has never played as a hitter's park before. Akron's never been anywhere near this high.
Birmingham 919 Carolina 1006 Chattanooga 1011 Greenville 1031 Huntsville 962 Jacksonville 1021 Mobile 1004 Montgomery 927 Tennessee 980 West Tennessee 1024
Jacksonville opened a new stadium last year, rating a 934, but is scoring on the high side of average this season. Montgomery looks like a pitcher's park, but take another look at what I just said about Jacksonville. There aren't any real surprises here.
Arkansas 969 El Paso 1121 Frisco 1034 Midland 994 Round Rock 1029 San Antonio 878 Tulsa 959 Wichita 934
No real surprises here either. San Antonio ranks as the best pitcher's park in baseball; they've been there before.
Frederick 1040 Kinston 986 Lynchburg 999 Myrtle Beach 898 Potomac 978 Salem 986 Wilmington 973 Winston-Salem 1078
Frederick hasn't had a Park Factor as high as 1040 in 15 years, so that ranks as a mild Oriole surprise (they have had a couple of 1030s, though). Potomac's attempt to be a pitcher's park is surprising, since 1060-1080 has been closer to normal territory in recent years.
Bakersfield 956 High Desert 1074 Lancaster 1072 Lake Elsinore 948 Modesto 982 Rancho Cucamonga 975 *San Bernardino 962 San Jose 894 Stockton 985 Visalia 1016 *("Inland Empire" sounds like something from a Conan movie)
San Jose is usually low, but not quite this low. Stockton's usually about as low as San Jose. Other than that, everybody else is pretty near normal.
Florida State League
Brevard County 966 Clearwater 995 Daytona 1086 Dunedin 1049 Ft. Myers 945 Jupiter 1006 Lakeland 994 Palm Beach 919 Sarasota 998 St. Lucie 1037 Tampa 989 Vero Beach 1008
When Daytona first came into the league 11 years ago, they put up numbers like this for four of their first five years, then settled into a consistent 1025 pace. Palm Beach was average a year ago, in their first season, and now looks like a pitcher's park. That's strange, because Palm Beach (991) and Jupiter (1006) play in the same park, which goes to show you just how variable 100-game park factors can be. Pooling the data with last year's results, the real factor for these teams should be around 970. Vero Beach is a lot lower than usual.
Battle Creek 971 Beloit 1032 Burlington 917 Cedar Rapids 1098 Clinton 1027 Dayton 1101 Ft. Wayne 932 Kane County 1028 Lansing 1017 Peoria 1001 Quad Cities 989 South Bend 967 West Michigan 956 Wisconsin 950
In the mid-to-late 90s, Burlington was the top hitter's park in the league; 2004 is almost certain to be their third straight year below 1000. Coincidentally enough, three years ago they replaced their field--not their stadium, just the playing surface. Cedar Rapids is much higher than usual, as is Dayton (normally high, just not this high).
South Atlantic League
Asheville 1100 Augusta 948 Charleston (SC) 939 Charleston (WV) 1036 Capital City 1002 Columbus 961 Delmarva 1046 Greensboro 966 Hagerstown 994 Hickory 1022 Kannapolis 1042 Lake County 1020 Lakewood 916 Lexington 1080 Rome 959 Savannah 899
Asheville is always outrageously high; this would actually be their lowest single-season park factor since 1995 if it holds up. Naturally, they are affiliated with the Rockies. Delmarva has been under 920 three of the last four years, so a 1046 from them just ices the weird Oriole farm system cake. Kannapolis and Lexington are on their high end. Savannah is low, but not spectacularly so.