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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Citizens: Thoughts and Reconsiderations Reconsidered 

Citizens Bank’s friendliness to team offense, and in particular home runs, has been a constant topic amongst Phillies fans. The conventional wisdom has been that Citizens Bank is one of the most extreme hitters parks in the major leagues. Naturally, being someone who loves to shatter conventional wisdom, I entered the fray with many arguments for why Citizens reputation is over-rated. (Click here for the original article. And click here.) Well, before I give my latest thoughts on the subject, here are some numbers to chew over:

Citizens Bank: 2005 Park Factors
Home Runs: 119
Runs Scored: 111
Batting Average: 109
Doubles: 108

I’ve taken these numbers from the 2006 Bill James Handbook, my favored tool for park factor information because, unlike ESPN’s numbers, Bill James subtracts inter-league games that skew numbers because of the use of the DH.

The numbers essentially mean that it was 19% easier to hit a home run at Citizens than an average park, 11% easier to score a run, 9% easier to get a hit, 8% easier to get a double. James takes what teams hit at Citizens, multiplies the numbers and compares it to what they hit elsewhere. A 100 is a neutral number. 99 and below skews to the defense, 101 and above skews to the offense.

Before I compare anything else, scope out the old 2004 numbers I got from the ’05 book:

Citizens Bank: 2004 Park Factors
Home Runs: 123
Runs Scored: 109
Batting Average: 101
Doubles: 90

The thing that got me, as I chewed over the numbers, was how consistent those numbers – especially Home Runs and Runs Scored – are from 2004 to 2005.

2004 / 2005 difference:
Home Runs: -4% in ‘05
Runs: +2% in ‘05
Batting Average: +8% in ‘05
Doubles: +18%

Aside from Home Runs, they all went up. Check out the rankings from 2004 and 2005 for Citizens as compared with other NL parks:

2004 vs. 2005 (of 16 parks)
Home Runs: 3rd / 3rd
Runs Scored: 3rd / 3rd
Batting Average: T-5th* / 2nd
Doubles: 13th / 6th

* tied with two other stadiums (PNC Park & Busch Stadium) for fifth.

Initially I had argued that Citizens wasn’t a hitters park so much as it was a home run hitters park: the BA factor was a negligible 101, Doubles were a pitching-friendly 90, and the 109 Run Scored Factor I chalked up to the formidable 123 Home Runs Factor the park had.

I’m willing to soften my position here because the year-two data reinforces the argument that Citizens is a pitcher-killing park. Home Runs and Runs Scored remained constant, but Batting Average and Doubles jumped in a big way. I had expected the numbers to remain constant, or to decline a little. I hadn’t expected them to move in the other direction.

To me the batting average data is the smoking gun: I chalk up runs scored to home runs, but the batting average is a killer because that doesn’t really rely on how close the fences are, or how favorable the wind is in centerfield. Batting average indicates that a place is favorable to get a hit, to get on base, to prolong an inning, to get a chance to score. Initially my argument had been that while Citizens was favorable to home run hitters, it wasn’t a “hitters park” like Coors Field where offense across-the-board benefits from the park. Sure, you can hit home runs, but regular hits and things like doubles were hard to come by.

I was wrong. So far. The two-year data indicates that Citizens is a nice place to be a hitter: the ball carries for home runs, and it drops enough for regular hits. I’m curious about what the 2006 data says, and then I think we can issue a definitive statement about Citizens effect on the Phillies offense. Until then let the debate rage on …

I agree with you, I have softened my stance on things as well. But one thing that does make CBP look worse than it is for pitchers is the types of parks the Phils play most of their AWAY games. Turner is neutral, but Marlins and Nationals' parks are extreme towards pitching.

In other words, it makes the home/road splits look even worse.
History shows that a park can very extremely from one year to the next in it's hitter friendlyness. That's why 3 year averages are generally used. After this season, we can safely say how hitter firendly the park is (I don't think there's any question it's a hitter's park) vs. the league norms.

As Tom pointed out, the fact that so many of our road games are in extreme pitchers parks skews perceptions.
The MLB’s unbalanced schedule plays a factor here … I considered that somewhat, Tom, when I was thinking about the increase from 2004 to 2005. Initially I was going to chalk that up to the move from Montreal / San Juan to Washington, but those parks weren’t that much different from RFK. You are right though: the Phillies really see swings in their numbers based on the extreme pitching-friendliness of Miami and Washington.

Pawnking: damn straight, which is why I was going to hold off in conceding defeat here. Maybe the 3-year #s will say something different, but I doubt it. The increase in the numbers is what caught me by surprise.

Thanks guys….
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