Thursday, October 18, 2007
Generally the dimensions of these ballparks were tailored to suit offense. Great American and Citizens are cozy parks that emphasize offense. Places like Safeco Field in Seattle or Petco Park in San Diego tend towards pitchers, but most new parks are designed to emphasize offense. The long ball draws the fans, they pay tickets, the team makes money.
Citizens Bank in particular has gotten a rap for being a hitters ballpark. It’s something Phillies fans have heard ad naseum for quite some time now and it has more than some basis in fact. It is undeniable that Citizens is very friendly towards home runs hitters, but it isn’t like Coors Field or Chase Field, where all levels of offense are improved. Citizens and Great American Ballpark in Cincy are more alike with each other than they are with Coors Field, the usual gold standard of hitters park. Cozy dimensions, but Cincinnati and Philadelphia have humid air (both sit on rivers) and sit near sea level.
In contrast, Coors, with its thin, dry air and spacious dimensions, is a real hitters park. Not only can you hit a lot of home runs, but when the ball is put into play it is more likely to fall in for a hit. A shot hit to the gap will travel 300 feet 0.3 seconds faster than at sea level, cutting down the effective range of a fielder by 8 or 9 feet, according to Baseball Between the Numbers. I suspect that the dry air of Phoenix helps make the Diamondbacks stadium Chase Field a similar type park, just a little closer to sea level.
I looked at the 2006 numbers from The 2007 Bill James Handbook – I am curious to see what the 2008 Handbook has to say – and saw the following for Citizens:
Batting Average: 103
Runs Scored: 106
Home Runs: 122
Basically, Park Factor takes what the phillies and their foes do at home and multiply it by what they did on the road. A factor above 100 favors the hitter, below favors the pitcher. In the case of the Phillies, for example, the Phillies hit 112 home runs at home and their foes hit 121 at Citizens. Total: 233. On the road, the Phillies hit 104 home runs and their foes hit 90. Total: 194. 233 / 194 = 122.
Citizens 122 Home Runs factor ranks it behind the Reds Great American Ballpark (129) and the D-Backs Chase Field (133).
The numbers for batting average and runs scored aren’t bad and are partially explained by the high home run numbers. I checked out Great American and noticed something similar: the Reds and their foes hit a lot of home runs at Great American and that partially drove their other numbers higher artificially. Like Citizens, Great American’s batting average was a 103. Runs were 115. Doubles were 94. Those aren’t tremendous edges for hitters.
Coors, in contrast, is a hitter paradise. Its 114 Home Run factor isn’t dramatic – humidor, anyone? – but batting average is very high (111), as are runs scored (115). Doubles, are, to my surprise, low: 98. Check out Chase Field, deep in the Arizona desert:
Home Runs: 133
Batting Average: 109
Runs Scored: 114
That’s a hitters park and that is a place where environmental factors rather than park design, which can be changed, are decisive. The preliminary numbers I got on Park Factors from ESPN’s website indicate that while Citizens was the home run hitters dream park in 2007 (an astonishing 142 park factor), its other numbers were pretty ordinary: 103 run factor, and a 91 doubles factor.
For completeness, because you cannot just look at one season, here is how Citizens has done for the first three seasons of its life:
2004 / 2005 / 2006 / Cum.
HR: 123 / 119 / 122 / 120
BA: 101 / 109 / 103 / 103
2B: 90 / 108 / 105 / 99
R: 109 / 111 / 106 / 108
I think the picture of Citizens Bank Ballpark as a hitters park is incomplete without noting that while it emphasizes home run-hitting, its effect on other aspects of the game is less-than-spectacular. Home run hitters park, yes. Friendly to offense, yes. But I think that a more nuanced look at the numbers needs to be taken. You never hear anyone talking about how Chase Field is a hitters paradise and arguing that the Diamondbacks will never secure free-agent pitching while playing there. Yet the numbers clearly show that Chase Field is lethal to a pitchers ERA, and nobody assails Chase Field with the vigor that people snipe at Citizens with. A little perspective is all I am arguing for here.
Labels: Odds 'n Ends
Great post nonetheless. Love the blog, and please keep up the good work (and consistent off-season posting!!).
How about a completely subjective "analysis" of the new ballfields from the perspective of a fan just sitting around in a park watching a game with no team allegiance factors present?
PNC Park, Pittsburgh
Citizens Bank Park, Philly
Camden Yards, Baltimore
Great American Ballpark, Cincy
Turner Field, Atlanta
Having been at all of the above, PNC Park wins hands down. Day games. Night games. A better place than the other 4 listed. Just a shame the Pirates aren't a better team.