Ranking MLB's Most Pitcher-Friendly Ballparks, by the Numbers
Spoiler alert: there are more hitter-friendly ballparks than pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball.
OK, that's not really a spoiler if you checked out our rankings of MLB's most hitter-friendly ballparks last week, but for those who missed it, take my word for it. Or you can click on the link to see for yourself, read through this slideshow...or do both.
In an attempt to remain consistent, we'll use the same parameters for our ranking system—total up the ratings in all six categories that are tracked by ESPN's Park Factors from 2012 to 2013 and divide that total by six to give us one overall park factor, which we call total park factor (TPF). Any ballpark with a TPF of 1.000 or above is classified as hitter-friendly, while any ballpark with a TPF below 1.000 sides with the pitcher.
Why are we only focusing on 2012 and 2013? With Miami moving into new digs in 2012, using data from 2011 and earlier simply wasn't possible. Additionally, using partial-season data in addition to full-season numbers would only skew the results.
That said, we'll still look at the 2014 numbers in order to see how parks are currently playing and also to determine if we should expect more of the same as the season rolls along.
But wait, there's more!
At the very end of this slideshow, you'll find a completely different set of rankings, one that uses a completely different ranking system.
Why, you ask?
Because there's no perfect method of figuring out whether a park is hitter-friendly or pitcher-friendly, and it's interesting to compare the results. Take a look at both and let us know which you think is the more effective ranking system—and why—in the comments below.
Enough talk, though; let's take a look at what the numbers tell us.
*All non-ESPN Park Factor statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.
Most Unfriendly Pitcher's Parks
Before we get to the ballparks that pitchers (should) love to pitch in, let's take a look at those that they should try and avoid at all costs:
|30.||Coors Field||Colorado Rockies||1.338|
|29.||Miller Park||Milwaukee Brewers||1.159|
|28.||Comerica Park||Detroit Tigers||1.133|
|27.||Fenway Park||Boston Red Sox||1.131|
|26..||Great American Ballpark||Cincinnati Reds||1.082|
|25.||Chase Field||Arizona Diamondbacks||1.081|
|T24.||Kauffman Stadium||Kansas City Royals||1.078|
|T24.||Target Field||Minnesota Twins||1.078|
|22.||Rogers Centre||Toronto Blue Jays||1.072|
|21.||Wrigley Field||Chicago Cubs||1.048|
|20.||Citizens Bank Park||Philadelphia Phillies||1.046|
|19.||Minute Maid Park||Houston Astros||1.042|
|18.||U.S. Cellular Field||Chicago White Sox||1.032|
|T17.||Oriole Park at Camden Yards||Baltimore Orioles||1.016|
|T17.||Globe Life Park in Arlington||Texas Rangers||1.016|
|T15.||Turner Field||Atlanta Braves||1.015|
|T15.||Tropicana Field||Tampa Bay Rays||1.015|
|13.||Marlins Park||Miami Marlins||1.010|
That Citizens Bank Park, Coors Field and Great American Ballpark rank among the most hostile venues for pitchers comes as no surprise, but there's a glaring omission from this list that should jump out at you.
Do you see what's missing? Read on to find out where this world-famous venue landed in our rankings.
T12. O.co Coliseum (Oakland Athletics)
Average ERA: 3.66 (10th in MLB from 2012-13)
Average WHIP: 1.25 (tied for fifth)
When it's not flooding with sewage, O.co Coliseum is home to the most expansive foul territory in all of baseball—a quirk that lends itself to limiting offense, as current Athletics third base coach and former infielder Mike Gallego explained to USA Today's Seth Livingstone in 2010:
You kind of look forward to it (the foul territory) defensively. Offensively, you can't stand it. It definitely takes points off your batting average.
In most ballparks, those tough pitches you battle are foul balls — souvenirs in the stands. Here, in Oakland, they're outs.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Oakland's ERA (3.19) and WHIP (1.17) at home in 2012 and 2013 were significantly lower than they were on the road (3.95 and 1.30, respectively)—or that the Coliseum is playing as even more of a pitcher's park than usual this season.
T12. Nationals Park (Washington Nationals)
Average ERA: 3.74 (11th)
Average WHIP: 1.30 (Tied for 13th)
While Nationals Park grades out as slightly hitter-friendly when it comes to scoring runs, collecting hits and legging out two-baggers, it only ranks in the top 10 in one of those categories—doubles (564)—and just makes the cut as a pitcher-friendly venue over the past two years.
This season, it's not even close—Nationals Park has been one of the more extreme pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. As the season progresses and the weather gets warmer and the air more humid, the park figures to continue to be a place where pitchers enjoy toeing the rubber.
10. AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants)
Average ERA: 3.48 (fifth)
Average WHIP: 1.25 (12th)
Despite being a breeding ground for triples—many of them courtesy of the multiple arches and odd angles along the right field wall that lend themselves to creating more than a few bad bounces—AT&T Park is one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in baseball.
Pay little attention to the team's hitter-friendly TPF in 2014, which has been caused largely by an abnormally high number of triples so far in 2014 (seven in nine games). As the season wears on, that number figures to fall back in line with its previously established norms.
Location matters, as the humid summers and the winds that blow in off of the bay help to keep the ball in the park. In fact, San Francisco was home to one of only two ballparks (the other being Marlins Stadium in Miami) that didn't bear witness to at least 200 home runs over the past two seasons.
9. Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees)
Average ERA: 4.24 (22nd)
Average WHIP: 1.32 (tied for 17th)
Yankee Stadium continues to buck its public image as a big-time hitter's park by posting pitcher-friendly numbers for the third consecutive season.
Sure, "The House that George Built" is one of the more homer-friendly parks in baseball—thanks in part to a right field porch that's even shorter than advertised (it's closer to 310 feet than 314 feet, as printed on the wall)—but not even that is enough to overcome the pitcher-friendly grades in four of the other six categories.
8. Petco Park (San Diego Padres)
Average ERA: 3.33 (third)
Average WHIP: 1.32 (tied for fifth)
There's no way around it: the outfield reconfiguration that Petco Park underwent before the 2013 season, with the walls being brought in by approximately 10 feet and lowered by two feet, has resulted in an uptick in home runs, which is exactly what former team president and CEO Tom Garfinkel envisioned. He explained his goals to MLB.com's Corey Brock when the changes were officially announced:
This was driven from a baseball standpoint -- in terms of the right way to make it work for players. Players know what's fair and what's not.
Baseball fans want to see the game the way it's intended to be played. When a hitter gets hold of a ball, it should go out.
While a reconfigured outfield may have knocked Petco out of the running to be one of the two or three most extreme pitcher's parks in baseball, it hasn't been enough to push it out of the top 10, as the home of the Padres continues to frustrate hitters and help pitchers atone for their mistakes.
7. Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Los Angeles Angels)
Average ERA: 3.97 (18th)
Average WHIP: 1.31 (tied for 15th)
So far in 2014, Angel Stadium has been one of baseball's most explosive venues for offense, with no fewer than nine runs being scored in eight of the nine games that it has hosted along with an average of more than three home runs per contest.
It's a trend that's unlikely to continue, as the "The Big A" has traditionally favored pitchers. From 2012 to 2013, Angel Stadium ranked 15th in runs scored (1,380), 16th in slugging percentage (.402) and 17th in home runs (318).
Enjoy the high-octane offense while you can, for the park is likely to regress back toward its norms the deeper we get into the season.
6. Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals)
Average ERA: 3.95 (tied for 15th)
Average WHIP: 1.31 (tied for 15th)
As is the case with some of the other parks on this list, Busch Stadium is a pitcher's park that is playing like a hitter's paradise in 2014.
Typically one of the more difficult places for a player to pick up an extra-base hit—evidenced by a .388 slugging percentage that ranks 20th out of the 30 ballparks in baseball—the 2014 figures for the home of the defending National League champions are skewed by a small sample size of only six games.
With more foul territory available to defenders than you typically find elsewhere, and with the home team boasting one of the more talented pitching staffs in baseball, it won't be long before offense at Busch Stadium falls back in line with its normal numbers.
5. Citi Field (New York Mets)
Average ERA: 3.51 (sixth)
Average WHIP: 1.22 (tied for third)
When the Mets decided to reconfigure Citi Field's outfield dimensions after the 2011 season, the goal was to create a ballpark that was fair to both hitters and pitchers, as GM Sandy Alderson explained to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo:
We didn't want to completely alter the ballpark and make it a proverbial bandbox. That required looking at various dimensions and coming up with something that, based on home run rates and park factors and so forth, was more or less neutral as between pitching and hitting.
What they got was a park that, while more hitter-friendly than it had been since its opening in 2009, still plays as one of the most pitcher-friendly venues in baseball.
Over the past two seasons, Citi Field has seen the seventh-fewest runs scored (1,239), the 12th-fewest home runs hit (304) and a slugging percentage (.372) that is the eighth-lowest in the game.
It comes as no surprise, then, to see Citi Field's TPF in 2014 nearly identical to its mark from the two previous seasons.
4. Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians)
Average ERA: 3.94 (14th)
Average WHIP: 1.33 (tied for 19th)
Due to an open-air park being next to Lake Erie, balls hit into the air at Progressive Field are often at the mercy of the winds that blow in off of the lake, which can either keep a ball in the field of play or push it well beyond the reach of an outfielder's outstretched glove.
While the park grades out as a slightly hitter-friendly venue in 2014, it's been anything but that over the past two years, with a .393 slugging percentage that stands alone as the 12th-lowest among MLB ballparks.
3. Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Average ERA: 3.23 (first)
Average WHIP: 1.25 (tied for fifth)
The hardest place in baseball to put a run on the board, Dodger Stadium is, without question, a pitcher's paradise.
One of baseball's most storied and celebrated ballparks, the subterranean ballpark (fans enter in the middle of the stands, not at ground level) has been home to the sixth-fewest home runs (256) and fifth-lowest slugging percentage (.368) in the game over the past two years.
The uptick in offense this season can be at least partially attributed to mediocre home performances from pitchers like Paul Maholm (10.1 IP, 9 ER, 16 H) and the nearly season-long absence of Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on the planet.
2. Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners)
Average ERA: 3.45 (fourth)
Average WHIP: 1.21 (second)
The American League's most pitcher-friendly venue, Safeco Field consistenly ranks among the top third of parks when it comes to pitching-friendly factors—even with the changes the club made to the outfield before last season, which were intended to increase offense.
There's been an increase in home runs, with Safeco coming in with the ninth-lowest total in baseball over the past two seasons (286), but even that power surge hasn't resulted in a dramatic increase in runs scored (1,203, fourth-lowest) or slugging percentage (.366, third-lowest).
1. PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates)
Average ERA: 3.27 (second)
Average WHIP: 1.19 (first)
From the 21-foot high wall in right field (in honor of the late Roberto Clemente) to the "North Side Notch" in spacious left field—located 410 feet from home plate and a death trap for fly balls—PNC Park is the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball.
Among baseball's 30 venues, PNC boasts the game's lowest slugging percentage (.355), second-lowest run total (1,150) and third-lowest number of home runs (231). While it's played more like a hitter's park thus far in 2014, that's not going to last once the humidity and high temperatures of the summer arrive.
As mentioned on the opening slide, we've got a second set of rankings to take a look at.
Rather than use ESPN's Park Factors, these rankings are based on raw data across three statistical categories—runs scored, home runs and slugging percentage—the same three fields used by the folks over at the Sporting News' Fantasy Focus when compiling their Ballpark Power Index.
The difference is that instead of weighting each statistic as they do, we simply assign a numerical value (equal to its ranking in the category) to each ballpark for each statistic and then add them up.
Take Coors Field, for example, which was home to the highest number of runs (1,830) and the highest slugging percentage (.472) while allowing the sixth-most home runs (377).
Coors Field gets a 30 for runs scored, a 30 for slugging percentage and a 24 for home runs, giving it an overall score of 84, which we'll call BF (Ballpark Factor). The lower a park's BF, the more of a pitcher's park it is.
Let's re-rank the stadiums in baseball using this formula in order to see if anything changes:
|Rank (Official Rank)||Ballpark||R||HR||SLG||BF|
|30. (T17)||Oriole Park at Camden Yards||27||30||29||86|
|29. (22)||Rogers Centre||28||29||28||85|
|28. (30)||Coors Field||30||24||30||84|
|27. (29)||Miller Park||26||28||26||80|
|26. (27)||Fenway Park||29||20||28||77|
|25. (T17)||Globe Life Park in Arlington||25||23||25||73|
|T24. (9)||Yankee Stadium||20||26||24||70|
|T24. (18)||U.S. Cellular Field||22||27||21||70|
|22. (25)||Chase Field||21||18||23||62|
|21. (28)||Comerica Park||23||15||22||60|
|20. (T24)||Target Field||24||13||21||58|
|19. (19)||Minute Maid Park||20||21||16||57|
|18. (20)||Citizens Bank Park||16||22||18||56|
|17. (26)||Great American Ballpark||11||25||19||55|
|16. (21)||Wrigley Field||18||19||17||54|
|15. (7)||Angel Stadium of Anaheim||15||17||16||48|
|14. (4)||Progressive Field||17||16||12||45|
|13. (T24)||Kauffman Stadium||14||7||16||37|
|12. (T12)||Nationals Park||12||11||13||36|
|11. (T12)||O.co Coliseum||10||14||9||33|
|10. (6)||Busch Stadium||13||4||11||28|
|T9. (T15)||Turner Field||9||8||10||27|
|T9. (5)||Citi Field||7||12||8||27|
|7. (T15)||Tropicana Field||7||10||7||24|
|6. (2)||Safeco Field||4||9||3||16|
|5. (8)||Petco Park||5||5||5||15|
|4. (13)||Marlins Park||8||2||3||13|
|3. (3)||Dodger Stadium||1||6||5||12|
|2. (10)||AT&T Park||3||1||7||11|
|1. (1)||PNC Park||2||3||1||6|
No matter which way you look at it, PNC Park remains the unquestioned king of the pitcher-friendly parks, one of six parks that remain in the top 10 from our official rankings.
But there's plenty of movement on the list, with Marlins Park making the biggest jump, moving up nine spots to become the fourth-most pitcher-friendly venue in baseball.
Yankee Stadium takes the biggest tumble, dropping 15 spots from No. 9 to No. 24 and going from a pitcher-friendly park to a place that hitters love to play, which is more in line with the general consensus among baseball fans.
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