Is Each MLB Team Built for Success or Failure in Its Home Ballpark?

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IFebruary 16, 2013

Is Each MLB Team Built for Success or Failure in Its Home Ballpark?

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    The business of building rosters for the upcoming 2013 MLB season is now almost complete. With spring training now in progress, many teams will now begin the work of putting the best product on the field.

    The question is, has each team constructed a roster that can take advantage of its home ballpark?

    Baseball is unlike any other major sport in that its playing fields are not symmetrical. Parks are generally defined as either pitcher-friendly or hitter-friendly.

    Most teams play much better at home regardless, but it's a matter of how they construct their teams in order to take advantage of quirks and dimensions in their home parks.

    A park like Coliseum in Oakland, with its vast expanse in foul territory, is completely different from Fenway Park in Boston, which features very little foul territory and an inviting left-field wall.

    Here is a look at each team's current roster with analysis on whether or not it is set up for success for failure in its own home park.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Failure

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    The Arizona Diamondbacks made a bevy of moves to bolster their roster for the 2013 season. However, they'll have a tough time taking advantage of the friendly confines of Chase Field.

    The pitching staff last year was far better on the road, posting a respectable 3.63 ERA away from home. At Chase Field, Diamondbacks pitchers posted a 4.24 ERA.

    The addition of Brandon McCarthy may not help—McCarthy posted a 2.88 ERA at expansive Coliseum for the Oakland A's last year, but a 3.66 ERA on the road.

    By comparison, McCarthy's former teammate with Oakland, Trevor Cahill, struggled in his first season at Chase Field.

    Cahill posted a 4.68 ERA at home, but just a 2.91 ERA away from Chase Field.

    Arizona's offense won't supply tremendous firepower at home, but it will likely still be a plus at home. However, the changes made by general manager Kevin Towers this offseason simply didn't do enough to give the Diamondbacks a major advantage at home.

Atlanta Braves: Success

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    In 2012, the Atlanta Braves were nearly as good on the road as they were in Turner Field. Consistency was the theme—the Braves offense posted a slightly higher OPS at home (.724/.694), and the team ERA was almost a wash (3.39 at home, 3.44 on road).

    The addition of the Upton brothers—B.J. and Justin—should help in aiding the offense at home. For his career, Justin has hit .293 with an .871 OPS at Turner Field.

    Defensively, the Braves are aided at home as well. Both Upton brothers provide tremendous speed in the outfield alongside Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder Jason Heyward. Their combined defensive abilities should be helpful in preventing runs at Turner Field.

    The Braves had the seventh-best home ERA in the National League last season. They did nothing to suggest regression in 2013 at home, either.

Baltimore Orioles: Failure

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    The Baltimore Orioles were one of the surprise teams in the 2012 season, but it wasn't because they took advantage of their home surroundings.

    The O's won only one more game at home in Camden Yards than they did on the road last year. Offensively, the O's hit more home runs at home than any team in the American League except the New York Yankees.

    Losing Mark Reynolds and making no significant upgrades offensively will take a bite out of that total in 2013.

    The O's pitching staff gave up a half-run more at home than on the road last year. Again, with no major additions to the pitching staff, the Orioles won't have a decided advantage playing at home on either side of the ball.

Boston Red Sox: Success

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    The Boston Red Sox are almost always challenged to provide quality pitching at hitter-friendly Fenway Park each season. Its confines demand a level of pitching and defense that leaves little room for error.

    The addition of Ryan Dempster may help in that regard.

    Dempster's American League debut wasn't exactly stellar last season, as he posted a 5.09 ERA in 10 starts after joining the Texas Rangers, giving up 10 home runs in 69 innings. However, throughout his career Dempster has been a better-than-average ground-ball pitcher with a 1.37 GB/FB ration. That will certainly serve him well at Fenway.

    Adding the right-handed bats of Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli will help as well. Napoli sports a career 1.107 OPS at Fenway, while Gomes' decided advantage against left-handed pitching will also help at Fenway.

    Injuries took a major toll on the Red Sox last season, and it clearly took away a major advantage at Fenway. A health Jacoby Ellsbury, Will Middlebrooks and David Ortiz, along with the additions of Gomes, Napoli and Dempster, should play into the Red Sox's hands in giving them back an edge at home.

Chicago Cubs: Success

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    The Chicago Cubs were markedly better at home than on the road last season in virtually every phase of the game.

    This winter, they made strides in attempting to upgrade their starting rotation. Matt Garza hopes to return healthy after posting an outstanding 2.12 ERA at Wrigley Field last season. Jeff Samardzija was comfortable at home as well, posting a 3.22 ERA at home in 12 starts.

    They'll be joined by Edwin Jackson, who has morphed into much more of a ground-ball pitcher in recent years. Over the past two seasons, Jackson posted a FIP of 3.69 or better, along with a ground-ball rate of at least 45 percent. Only 24 pitchers in all of baseball accomplished that feat.

    In addition, Scott Feldman brings an excellent 1.42 GB/FB ratio—definitely a plus at Wrigley.

    Carlos Villanueva may not fare quite as well, though, as his 0.94 GB/FB ratio could cause problems at home.

    All in all, the Cubs didn't hurt themselves with their offseason acquisitions. While the offense isn't exactly explosive at home—a .701 OPS at home, good for just 11th in the NL last year—a full season with Anthony Rizzo, the added production of Scott Hairston and a healthy, productive year from Ian Stewart could make a huge difference.

Chicago White Sox: Success

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    The Chicago White Sox offense clearly took advantage of U.S. Cellular Field during the 2012 season. The team finished in the top five in many major offensive statistical categories at home last year.

    The addition of Jeff Keppinger is a plus. Keppinger's .367 on-base percentage last season was 71 points higher than the White Sox's No. 2 hitters.

    The White Sox don't pitch nearly as well at home, but a healthy John Danks will help. As long as they can continue taking advantage of a decided offensive edge at home, they have a team built for continued success at U.S. Cellular Field.

Cincinnati Reds: Success

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    For years now, Great American Ball Park has been one of the least forgiving home run parks in the majors.

    Reds hitters took advantage last year, clubbing 103 homers at home—the second-highest mark in the National League.

    A full season with a healthy Joey Votto will help in improving home production as well.

    Reds pitchers gave up 40 more home runs at home than on the road (96/56), so it obviously works both ways. However, the Reds return a staff largely intact. Given the fact that they were 50-31 at home with a 3.51 ERA, they did nothing to indicate a regression is in order at home.

Cleveland Indians: Success

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    Cleveland Indians general manager Chris Antonetti did an outstanding job this offseason in reshaping a roster that lost 94 games in 2012.

    The Tribe plays in a home park—Progressive Field—that's been in the middle of the pack in terms of park factor in recent years, meaning no decided advantage for pitchers or hitters.

    Atonetti's wheeling and dealing ways this offseason, however, could be of great benefit to the Indians at home.

    The addition of Michael Bourn gives the Indians a true leadoff hitter with solid on-base capabilities and tremendous speed. Bourn will add great defense to the mix at home as well.

    The additions of Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Drew Stubbs also should also help the Tribe in the power department. They finished third-to-last in home runs at home last season.

    Brett Myers and his 1.46 GB/FB career ratio will be a plus at Progressive Field. Trevor Bauer posted a 1.54 GB/FB rate as well, albeit a much smaller sample size.

    This is an Indians team that should see marked improvement in the 2013 season, including at home.

Colorado Rockies: Failure

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    One thing about Coors Field that's about as obvious as any fact in baseball: Runs will come in bunches.

    Unfortunately, the Colorado Rockies did absolutely nothing to prevent those runs from scoring.

    Pitching to a 5.97 ERA at home last season, virtually no changes were made to the Rockies' pitching staff. They will attempt to go back to a more conventional five-man rotation in 2013 after Project 5,183 yielded disastrous results.

    However, doing so with relatively the same pitching staff that vastly under-performed last year doesn't bode well for the Rockies' chances of preventing runs at Coors Field.

Detroit Tigers: Success

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    Comerica Park in general favors pitchers, but it's not nearly the pitcher-friendly environment that Petco Park and AT&T Park are.

    The Detroit Tigers, however, do take advantage at home.

    Tigers hitters hit 20 points better at home (.278) than on the road (.258) last season. Replacing Delmon Young with Torii Hunter in the offense won't hurt their home production.

    The Tigers hold a decided advantage in terms of pitching at home as well. Anibal Sanchez saw a dramatic rise in his ground-ball rate last season, posting a 1.44 GB/FB ratio—well up from his career 1.23 mark.

Houston Astros: Failure

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    The Houston Astros will begin life in the American League in 2013. They'll do so with a stadium that's considered more neutral now than it was when it opened with a hitter-friendly reputation in 2000.

    One of the features of Minute Maid Park is its very short left-dimensions—just 315 feet to the foul pole and 362 feet to left-center field.

    The Astros have no right-handed power to speak of. Justin Maxwell represents the most potent bat at home from the right side with 10 bombs last year at Minute Maid Park.

    The Astros will be challenged offensively in 2013. But they've done themselves no favors in building an offense that doesn't take advantage of Minute Maid Park and its dimensions.

Kansas City Royals: Failure

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    Kauffman Stadium doesn't give the Kansas City Royals a decided advantage either way. Its park factor has ranked near the middle of the pack for several years.

    The Royals haven't done anything in recent years to work on taking advantage of any home perks, either. And they didn't do much to help their cause at home this offseason.

    Ervin Santana gave up more home runs last year than anyone in baseball. And he did that pitching half his games at Angel Stadium—not exactly a hitter-friendly environment.

    James Shields joins the fray as well, in spite of the fact he's never found Kauffman Stadium to be to his liking. Shields has posted a 6.38 ERA in four starts at Kansas City. And Wade Davis has a 5.11 ERA at Kauffman Stadium.

    Both are small sample sizes, but it downplays the clear advantage that the two former Rays had pitching at Tropicana Field.

    It certainly appears that the Royals upgraded their pitching staff. However, in terms of finding players that can take advantage of a home-field edge at Kauffman Stadium, the jury is definitely still out.

Los Angeles Angels: Success

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    The Los Angeles Angels lost one of the best defensive outfielders of this generation when Torii Hunter departed and signed with the Detroit Tigers.

    Acquiring Josh Hamilton was a pretty good consolation prize.

    Hamilton will move to right field, allowing the speedy Peter Bourjos to take over in center, with Mike Trout now manning left field.

    Hamilton doesn't compare to Hunter defensively, but with Bourjos and Trout alongside him, it's an outfield designed to save runs.

    Hamilton won't find the confines of Angel Stadium quite so accommodating offensively, either. He has hit just .260 with five home runs in 38 career games there.

    However, according to ESPN, Hamilton may not be hindered at Angel Stadium:

    A look at all of Hamilton’s homers showed that only one of them would not have gone out of Angel Stadium.

    As a left-handed hitter, Hamilton naturally hits most of his home runs to right and right center field, but he has great power to center field as well.

    Hamilton hit 12 home runs to center last season, tied with Ryan Braun for the most in the majors. Angel Stadium plays well for home runs to center. There were 31 at the ballpark last season to center field, second-most in the American League.

    In addition, starter Joe Blanton should be better served pitching at home. Blanton's HR/FB rate of 15.3 percent should significantly improve at Angel Stadium.

    Jason Vargas will be well-served pitching at home as well. Vargas has a 2.65 ERA in 13 career games in Anaheim.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Success

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    Dodger Stadium has always been notoriously stingy, ranking as one of the toughest parks in the majors to score runs for many years.

    The addition of Zack Greinke certainly doesn't hurt.

    Greinke has only started one game at Dodger Stadium, winning on a one-run, six-inning effort last year. His vastly improved ground-ball rate over the past three seasons will help as well.

    Adding Greinke to a pitching staff that featured the second-best home ERA (2.85) in all of baseball last season is a bonus.

    A healthy Matt Kemp will also help. Kemp goes against the grain, hitting much better at Dodger Stadium throughout his career. Of his 151 career home runs, 58 percent of them have been hit in Chavez Ravine.

Miami Marlins: Failure

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    Marlins Park is only one year old, so historical data has yet to be established. It ranked in the middle of the pack last year with its park factor.

    However, the team that has been constructed for this season would likely have a hard time playing just about anywhere.

    Slugger Giancarlo Stanton has virtually no one to protect him in the lineup, and a young pitching staff isn't likely to match a 4.07 ERA posted at home last season.

    The Marlins brought a package of prospects back via several trades over the past several months, and it's far too early to tell whether or not those prospects are suited for Marlins Park.

Milwaukee Brewers: Success

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    Miller Park absolutely favors hitters, and few teams are constructed to take better advantage of their home stadium than the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Aside from the Colorado Rockies, no one matched the Brewers in runs, slugging percentage and OPS at home in the National League. With a lineup largely the same, that's not likely to change.

    A revamped bullpen should also help the Brewers drastically improve their home ERA (4.23) as well.

Minnesota Twins: Failure

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    Target Field's park factor took a major jump last season, moving from 21st the previous season to 10th in 2012.

    Much of that was due to an improved offense. Minnesota hit .252 with 292 runs scored in 2011. But those numbers jumped to .274 with 343 runs scored last year.

    The Twins' biggest problem was their pitching. Their 4.44 home ERA in 2011 jumped to 4.74 last year.

    The Twins attempted to upgrade their starting pitching with the acquisitions of Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Correia and Rich Harden. However, they lost out defensively and offensively with the departure of outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere.

    This is a wash for the Twins. They may have made strides in attempting to lower their home ERA, but they eliminated those strides by sacrificing both Span and Revere in the process.

New York Mets: Failure

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    The New York Mets will begin their fifth season at Citi Field this year. It has already earned a reputation for being pitcher-friendly.

    Courtesy of a porous bullpen, the Mets only managed a 4.02 ERA at home—just 11th in the National League.

    With few changes made this offseason and minus Cy Young Award-winner R.A. Dickey, the Mets will be challenged to better that mark this year.

    In addition, the Mets outfield is largely considered one of the weakest-hitting units in the league. Without additions, Citi Field will not offer the Mets much in the way of a home-field advantage.

New York Yankees: Success

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    No one in baseball has had a more decided advantage at home than the New York Yankees in recent years.

    That trend will likely continue in 2013 as well.

    The Yankees have excelled in taking advantage of the short right field dimensions. Left-handed power hitters such as Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and the switch-hitting Mark Teixeira figure to continue helping the Yankees keep that advantage next season.

    The Yankees have won at least 50 games each season since Yankee Stadium opened in 2009. No team in baseball has done the same.

Oakland Athletics: Success

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    The Oakland A's play in a park with the most expansive foul territory in all of baseball. Coliseum typically finishes in the bottom third each year with its park factor, and home runs—or lack thereof—is usually the main culprit.

    The A's managed to take advantage at home last season, posting a 50-31 record and a stingy 3.05 ERA. The A's return a team similar to last year's squad, with Chris Young adding an element of speed and power to help out both offensively and defensively.

    Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes provide plenty of speed as well to roam the spacious outfield, and Josh Reddick's arm in right field is a neutralizer.

Philadelphia Phillies: Failure

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    With the exception of last year, the Philadelphia Phillies have been one of the elite teams in the National League. However, they've really been no more elite at home than on the road.

    Home/road splits in terms of wins are only slightly weighted towards the home side over the past several years at Citizens Bank Park. Granted, the Phillies have fielded some outstanding teams, but they've actually fared better on the road in three seasons since 2004.

    The Phillies did an excellent job this offseason reloading their roster in order to keep pace with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in the NL East. However, they've not done a good job in constructing a roster that gives them a clear advantage at home.

    Having a team that plays well both home and away isn't a bad thing. But the Phillies have not yet mastered having that extra win or two at home, as the team is not necessarily designed to take advantage of its own surroundings.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Faiure

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    PNC Park throughout its existence has been brutal on right-handed hitters. And the Pirates have never enjoyed a distinct advantage at home. In fact, no one in the National League hit worse at home than Pittsburgh in 2012.

    The Pirates added catcher Russell Martin this offseason. He will help provide more power from the right side.

    But in terms of having a huge edge at home, the Pirates simply haven't done enough offensively to give themselves a decided home-field advantage.

San Diego Padres: Failure

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    For many years, Petco Park has consistently been one of the most pitcher-friendly parks.

    That could change in 2013.

    Courtesy of the fences being brought in, Petco Park will have a new look in 2013. Unfortunately, the Padres may not be well-served.

    The Padres have typically enjoyed a huge advantage pitching at home. They were first in the National League in home ERA in 2010 and third in 2011. They took a dip last year, moving down to sixth.

    Making no moves of note this offseason, that number could drop even further in 2013. In addition, the Padres are not a team built on power, as they only hit 47 home runs at Petco Park in 2012.

    While bringing in the fences will help, it will also similarly aid teams traveling to San Diego.

San Francisco Giants: Success

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    With a team that boasts a tremendous pitching staff and a well-balanced offense, the San Francisco Giants know how to take advantage of AT&T Park.

    Only Safeco Field had a lower park factor last year than AT&T Park. No park in baseball yielded fewer home runs.

    The Giants have a pitching staff that absolutely excels at home. With a stingy 3.09 ERA, Giants pitchers do a great job keeping the ball in the park, giving up only 53 home runs at AT&T Park all year.

Seattle Mariners: Success

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    Safeco Field had the lowest park factor in baseball last season. With fences being brought in, it could become much more neutral next season.

    The Seattle Mariners made changes as well, bringing in some power bats who could help in taking advantage of the shorter fences. Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales will add additional power to a Mariners offense that's finished last in the American League in runs scored for four straight seasons.

    The addition of Joe Saunders should help. Saunder features a 1.26 GB/FB ratio over his career, numbers that should aid him with the shorter dimensions at Safeco Field.

St. Louis Cardinals: Success

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    With the exception of last season, Busch Stadium has finished in the bottom third in park factor in the majors for several years.

    The Cardinals took advantage last year on both sides of the ball.

    The pitching staff was almost a full run better at home (3.27 ERA at Busch, 4.18 on road). The offense clicked much more at home as well, hitting a full 28 points better at Busch (.285/.258).

    With few changes made this offseason, general manager John Mozeliak obviously liked what he saw in his roster last season. The home advantage should be in play once again for the 2013 season, especially if young fireballers Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller can make an impact.

Tampa Bay Rays: Failure

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    Only once since 2001 has the park factor at Tropicana Field finished above the level of 1.000. Typically the park finds itself in the bottom third of the rankings in the majors.

    In 2008 and 2009, the Tampa Bay Rays took clear advantage of their home surroundings, but over the past three seasons the edge at home has been only marginally better.

    Losing James Shields will hurt. Shields enjoyed a definite advantage at Tropicana Field over the years with a 3.33 home ERA.

    Offensively, the Rays struggled mightily at home last year, finishing third-to-last in the American League in runs scored and second-to-last in batting average. Losing the production of B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena doesn't help their cause.

Texas Rangers: Failure

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    Without question a hitter-friendly environment, Rangers Ballpark will see a lot less balls flying out of the park from their home team this season.

    The Texas Rangers have always enjoyed a distinct advantage at home offensively. However, the loss of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young will take a bite out of that advantage this season.

    Suddenly, a team that has sported one of the top home offenses in the American League for several seasons doesn't look so scary.

Toronto Blue Jays: Success

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    Rogers Centre in general favors hitters. The Toronto Blue Jays aim to take advantage of that in 2013.

    The addition of Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Melky Cabrera doesn't just add more offense—they also add an element of speed to further aid them at home. Having more speed on a synthetic playing surface is a major plus.

    The addition of Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey will certainly help in terms of run prevention at home as well.

    With a balanced combination of speed and power, the Blue Jays just may have developed a huge home advantage.

Washington Nationals: Success

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    Nationals Park is fairly neutral in terms of park factor. However, the construction of the roster for the Washington Nationals is so balanced that it can succeed in just about any stadium.

    A blend of power pitching, power hitting, solid defense and an outstanding bullpen means the Nationals can be effective both home and away. Last season, the Nationals won only two more games at home than on the road.

    The Nationals enjoy an edge at home simply because general manager Mike Rizzo has assembled one of the well-balanced rosters in all of baseball.


    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.