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Monday, May 31, 2004

Citizens: Fun With Statistics 

A few days ago Hardball Times posted this story about their assessment of Citizens Bank Ballpark based on the first two months or so of play. The news is a little frightening: Citizens Bank rates fairly close to Coors, although the article notes that the emerging conventional wisdom is a little off because the Phillies have played quality opponents thus far at Citizens and thus, more runs being scored shouldn't be a shock. (The author also cautions that twenty games is a poor measure of the park.) Still, it lends credence to something that I've been fearing: Citizens is a pure hitter's park. Home runs are excitin for the fans, but the Phils strength should be their pitching and defense. I worry about the impact this will have on the Phils pitching staff: the strain of worrying about serving up a big home run on every at-bat, etc. Tales of good Colorado Rockies pitchers breaking down under the strain are legendary: Mike Hampton hasn't been the same pitcher since he went there in '01 as a free agent.

Statistically, I looked it up and found a few interesting stats on the subject:

I started off by measuring the Phils isolated power (slugging percentage - batting average = isolated power), their extrabase hits at Citizens in 2004 and the Vet in 2000-2003:

Citizens: .220 ISO
Road: .150 ISO

Vet: .166 ISO
Road: .151 ISO

Vet: .161 ISO
Road: .166 ISO

Vet: .162 ISO
Road: .147 ISO

Vet: .152
Road: .144


2004: +.070
2003: +.015
2002: -.005
2001: +.015
2000: +.008

Each year for the four previous seasons the Phillies remained fairly consistent: slightly better at home than away in getting extrabase hits. This season at Citizens has been a dramatic change: the deviation has been dramatic. Consider some more:

-The Phils have hit 59 doubles in their road games and just 29 at home.
-The Phils have hit just 20 home runs in their road games, and 38 at Citizens.

... because isolated power factors doubles and triples in with home runs, the dramatic rise in the Phils ISO rating is clearly due to the fact that they are hitting a lot more home runs at home. This team is getting quite a bit of power on the road, it is just that they are scoring a lot off the long ball at home.

The effect of swinging for the fences so often is troubling on the Phillies hitting tactics. Consider the Phil's K / BB ratio:

K / BB ratio
Road: 164 / 106
Home: 137 / 76

The biggest single indicator of a player's ability (or so I've read) is their walk to strikeout ratio because it indicates how well a hitter sees the ball. Players that walk as much or more than they strikeout are terrific major leaguers. The free swingers are the guys who play on mediocre teams that finish in last place. I can see the argument: a selective hitter is a smart hitter. Does this mean that the Phils turn into mindless free swingers at home? The evidence clearly shows that they aren't as effective at getting on base: the Phils OBP is actually higher on the road (.355 vs. .330) than at Citizens.

These are worrying trends. The fact that the Phils wif at a significantly higher rate at home than on the road is surprising, and a little disturbing to us all. It's almost like the Phils are two different teams, a Dr. Jekyll of free-swinging Colorado Rockies at home and a Mr. Hyde of careful Florida Marlins on the road. The Colorado Rockies, I would point out, went to the playoffs once, in 1995, and lost three out of four games. They haven't had a winning record in five of the last six years. The Marlins are the defending champs.

Perez game-winning home run against the Braves Friday Night.

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