One of the most underrated factors in fantasy baseball year in and year out is the ballpark factor. For as many sabermetrics as we use in today’s fantasy sports, why the actual structure and thereby locations in which the players are performing go unnoticed or unmentioned is beyond me.
Over the years it has been statistically proven that certain ballparks favor pitching while others boost the performance of hitters. These factors can be even more segmented into groundball versus flyball pitchers and extra base versus homerun hitters. Let’s take a look at the major league ballparks and decide which ones provide an advantage for certain players and how to use that to your advantage this fantasy baseball season.
The study of ballparks is one that has become increasingly popular among sabermetricians and fantasy baseball stat heads over the past few years and with good reason. Even a quick glance through the numbers shows a steady increase in offensive production in certain ballparks as well as a marginal decrease in offensive production in others. The most widely regarded stat for this difference is called the park factor. A park factor is a pretty simple formula in which each teams runs scored and runs against are added, then divided by the number of games played in that ballpark. That number is then divided by the same teams run scored plus runs against divided by games played on the road. The result of this formula is called the park factor. (Formula shown below)
RunsScoredHOME + RunsAgainstHOME = TotalRunsHOME
RunsScoredAWAY + RunsAgainstAWAY = TotalRunsAWAY
TotalRunsHOME/TotalRunsAWAY = Park Factor
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The above formula is for the runs scored park factor, however you can substitute runs for pretty much any other useful stat in baseball in order to get a park factor for that statistic as well. For fantasy purposes I find the most important park factors to be runs scored and homeruns. These two park factors will pretty much tell you which parks aid the pitchers and which improve the power numbers of hitters.
Are you lost yet? I am not usually a fan of formulas and math when it comes to baseball but sometimes you encounter certain numbers that tell a story and that is exactly what the park factor does. Here is a table with each team’s park factor in runs and homeruns for 2010. To save space and your head from exploding, I have gone back over the past 3 seasons (2 seasons for the N.Y. Parks) and determined which parks regularly place toward the top for hitting (BOLD) and for pitching (ITALICS).
U.S. Cellular Field
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
Sun Life Stadium
Great American Ball Park
Citizens Bank Park
Minute Maid Park
It can be reasonably assumed now that players that play their home games in the new Yankee Stadium, U.S. Cellular Field, Coors Field, Rangers Ballpark In Arlington or the Great American Ballpark enjoy a moderate to great bump in HR’s, Runs & RBI. While players who play their home games in Safeco Field, Comercia Park, Petco Park, Busch Stadium and Citi Field enjoy an added boost in categories such as Innings, ERA & WHIP.
It should be noted that Minnesota’s new Target Field certainly played like a pitcher’s park in its first year of existence but we cannot assume an assured rise of all stats until a trend has been set. In most cases, I would go back three years to truly gauge a ballpark factor but for this article we did use the first two seasons in the new ballparks of the Yankees and Mets.
Those who are against using park factors in fantasy baseball will point to the players who perform in these ballparks and claim that they are to be blamed for many of these trends. The Yankees are loaded with power and thus Yankee Stadium will have a positive park factor for that stat. Vice versa, the Angels always seem to have a solid pitching staff and thus Angel Stadium looks like a pitcher’s park. To those of you who say this I would simply point to Johnny Damon’s 2009 power explosion in Yankee Stadium, Jon Garland’s 2010 turnaround at Petco Park or the power numbers of Matt Holliday in Colorado (’06-’08) to Oakland (’09) then St. Louis (’10).
To the naysayers out there I understand your concern and your reluctance to embrace these statistics. I must confess that I am not much of a numbers guy myself but I do believe in the circumstances that surround and therefore create the numbers.
I have debated on whether to come up with a list of players who are aided and hurt by the above stated park factors. But this list would be far too long need more explanation for each player than is reasonable in this forum. Park factors are considered in every single ranking we do here on Fantasy Alarm including in our 2011 player rankings and our printable cheat-sheets. If you have any questions on specific players or ballparks PLEASE hit me up via email at email@example.com or give me and my partner Ryan Hallam a call on The Fantasy Alarm Show. I will be happy to discuss any and all of your questions, comments and concerns on this or any other topic.
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