The team a pitcher plays for has a major role in how well the pitcher performs, especially on a fantasy baseball level. There are many examples of pitchers who thrived on one team; however, a switch to the American League exposed their weakness or their offense did not provide any support which limited the pitcher's win total.
Javier Vazquez, for example, had a Cy Young-caliber year in Atlanta in 2009; however, in 2010, when he moved to New York, he was shelled by the much more dangerous American League East lineups.
The park a pitcher plays in is the first, and arguably most influential way in which the team a pitcher plays for can affect one's stats. In a hitters park such as the Padres' Petco Park, a pitcher has a huge advantage over somebody pitching in the Rockies' Coors Field.
Another way that a pitcher's team can influence his stats is the team's offense. Pitching for the Red Sox or the Yankees is much more conducive to winning than pitching for the Mariners or Pirates.
Finally, the team a pitcher is on affects the stats he puts up, because the team a pitcher plays on affects the offenses he has to pitch against. A classic example of this is the switch from the American League to the National League. Pitching against National League teams historically has led to more impressive statistics than pitching against American League teams.
Let's take a look at three pitchers who switched teams this offseason and examine how it is going to affect their production in 2011.
Zack Greinke, 2010 Statistics: 10-14, 4.17 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 181 Strikeouts, 0 Saves
The 2009 American League Cy Young winner struggled in a big way in 2010. A losing record and an ERA above four were not characteristics fantasy baseball owners were looking for when they drafted him 25.7 overall in ESPN standard leagues in 2010. Motivational issues and a poor surrounding cast were major issues for Greinke in 2010.
Will a change in scenery help Greinke restore his Cy Young potential?
In terms of ballparks, Greinke is actually moving to a more difficult park to pitch in. Miller Park (Brewers) is ranked sixth in ease of home run hitting, whereas Kaufman Stadium (Royals) ranks 19th. The two rank similarly in overall runs scored, though the difference in proneness of home runs could become a problem for Greinke.
On the bright side, the switch to the National League Central should help Greinke's production greatly. The average number of runs scored by American League Central teams in 2010 excluding the Royals was 732.5. That number for National League Central teams excluding the Brewers was 681.8. That's a difference of .313 runs per game. Keep in mind though, these are not all the teams Greinke will be facing, they are just the teams in his division whom he will face most frequently.
As for the offense Greinke will be playing with versus the one he left, he will again improve. While the Royals ranked 20th in runs scored with 676, the Brewers ranked 12th with 750, a difference of .457 runs per game. It's not going to immediately turn Greinke into a win machine, but it will help his record a good deal.
Overall, Greinke switch to the National League Central should be viewed as a good move, but it does not make him a Cy Young threat; to return to that level, he will have to improve his own pitching.
2011 Zack Greinke Projections: 15-8, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 186 Strikeouts, 0 Saves
Aaron Harang, 2010 Statistics: 6-7, 5.32 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 82 Strikeouts, 0 Saves
Harang could be a huge sleeper in 2010. He signed a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres this winter, and this subtle switch should have a huge impact on his production. In Cincinnatti, Harang had two elite seasons, 2006 and 2007, which he looks to reproduce in 2011.
Let's again begin with the switch in ballparks. Harang will be going from a relatively difficult pitchers' park in the Great American Ball Park to one of the easiest in Petco Park. The Great American Ball Park ranked 12th in runs scored against and eighth in home runs against (where the lower the rank, the more difficult for pitchers). On the contrary, Petco Park ranked 26th in runs scored against and 22nd in home runs against. This is not a small difference, but it will certainly help Harang get his career back on track.
As for the difference in difficulty the teams he will be facing, he will face more difficult opponents, as National League West Teams excluding the Padres average .19 more runs per game than National League Central teams excluding the Padres.
Another factor against Harang is that his team's offense is significantly worse than it was in 2010. The Reds score .77 more runs per game than the Padres.
However, on the defensive side of the game, the Padres were actually better than the Reds in 2010. The Padres' UZR was 50.0, while the Reds was 44.8. Both were good for top four in the majors, however every bit helps in the MLB.
A final note about Harang is that his numbers were partially affected by the fact that he was injured during part of 2010, thus his win total and strikeout total are not reflective of his efficiency.
Overall, Harang should see a much more productive season in 2011 than 2010. While his win percentage may not increase, the transition to Petco Park combined with the fact that Harang should come into 2011 more prepared after his down 2010 should boost Harang's overall numbers.
2011 Aaron Harang Projections: 10-10, 4.34 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 152 Strikeouts, 0 Saves
Matt Garza, 2010 Statistics: 15-10, 3.91 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 150 Strikeouts, 0 Saves
Garza had a relatively productive 2010, especially if you take into account the difficulty in pitching against for an American League East team.
Garza's ERA against American League East teams in 2010 was 4.81, which is not surprising given that the Yankees and Red Sox were 1-2 in runs scored in 2010, with the Jays trailing not far behind. Moving to one of the weaker hitting divisions in the MLB should be a huge boost for Garza as the difference in runs scored by American League East teams versus National League Central teams per game was .41.
Of course, the Rays were a much better hitting team than the Cubs, as they scored .73 more runs per game in 2010. Though, Rays power hitter Carlos Pena will be moving with Garza to the Cubs, which may boost the Cubs' offense.
The only really significant downside of Garza's move is the switch from the easiest pitchers' park in the game to one of the hardest. Tropicana Field ranked 30th in runs scored against and 17th in home runs allowed, whereas Wrigley Field ranked third in runs scored against and ninth in home runs allowed.
While this transition of ballparks in significant, it does not make up for the relief Garza will receive in leaving the American League East.
2011 Matt Garza Projections: 14-11, 3.77 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 172 Strikeouts, 0 Saves