As Albert Pujols fields contract offers from the Cardinals, Marlins and what will surely be other teams, he will no doubt make his decision based primarily on (in no particular order) money, length of contract, the talent of the team and the quality of the organization.
One additional factor that he would be wise to consider is the design of the stadium that he will call home. While Pujols, one of the greatest hitters ever, can produce at the highest level at any stadium, the design of the stadium where a player spends 81 games per year can dramatically affect his output. Some stadiums favor pitchers, others favor left-handed batters and some have climate issues, each of which could harm Pujols' productivity.
Pujols can hit the ball to all sides, but like practically all batters, is best when pulling the ball, though he is also strong up the middle. Pujols's lifetime batting average when pulling the ball is .477, drops to .322 when hitting it up the middle and is a healthy .308 when hit to the opposite field.
It is clear that Pujols would most benefit from playing in a stadium with a short left-field fence and a fence that does not increase in distance too dramatically in left-center and center field, and where the climate does not negatively affect power hitters.
Here is a look at how each of baseball's stadiums, including the new stadium in Miami, is suited or unsuited to Pujols's needs.
With the exception of a short porch near the right field foul line, PETCO Park has a slight tendency towards right handed batters, yet Pujols has struggled when playing at PETCO. His batting average at the stadium is only .258, the worst of any National League park, and he has hit home runs in 7.2 per cent of his at bats.
Part of Pujols' difficulties at PETCO could be due to the fact that San Diego, like other coastal cities, has thicker, wetter air, which slows the ball's progress as it travels through the air. PETCO Park has been the most consistently pitcher-friendly park in baseball since it opened in 2004, so Pujols' struggles are not unique.
Pujols has yet to play at Target Field—in fact, he never played at the Metrodome either—but the stadium should prove a bit unfriendly if Pujols ever makes his way to the North Star State.
Target Field's outfield wall provides a significant advantage to left-handed hitters over right-handed hitters. The left field foul-pole is 339 feet from home, 11 feet deeper than the right field foul-pole. Similarly, left-center field is 377 feet, 12 feet deeper than right-center field.
Centerfield is also divided into two corners, with the left-hand side standing at 411 feet, while the right side stands at 403 feet. These discrepancies add up to a noticeable bonus to left-handed batters.
Yet even left-handed batters have struggled at Target Field. The stadium was dead last in home runs in its debut season, though it jumped to 20th in its second season.
It may be awhile before Pujols plays in Minnesota, but once he sees the difficulty right-handed batters face, he might not be anxious to return.
He has only played three games at Safeco Field, but Pujols has struggled to hit the ball in Seattle. In 11 career at-bats, Pujols has only two hits, both doubles, for a .182 average.
Safeco has earned a reputation as a pitchers' park, and with its challenging dimensions, it is obvious why this is the case. The stadium slightly favors left-handed batters; righties face a distance of 331 feet at the pole before increasing to 390 in left-center and 405 in centerfield.
This extremely deep left-center field fence prevents a number of would-be home runs by right-handed hitters from clearing the fence, and Pujols' tendency to hit many of his home runs to exactly that part of the field makes playing in Safeco challenging for him.
Additionally, though the roof to the stadium closes when it is raining or too cold, common occurrences in Seattle, Pujols and other right-handers still have to contend with the thick, damp air of Seattle, making it less than a desirable play for big-hitting righties.
Like most batters, Albert Pujols does not hit his best at Dodger Stadium. In 130 at-bats, Pujols has batted .277 with eight home runs and an OPS of .916, one of the worst stat lines he has at any National League stadium.
Dodger Stadium is dimensionally better suited to Pujols than many stadiums. The wall is only 330 feet at left field and stretches to 360-375 in the left-center field area, offering seemingly enticing dimensions to the big-swinging Pujols.
Whether due to the thick air from the ocean climate or the uniform design of the outfield fence, hitters have struggled to put up big power numbers in Dodger Stadium, and Pujols is no exception.
It remains to be seen how the new Marlins Ballpark will cater to Pujols' hitting style. If the reports that Miami is the leading contender to sign him are accurate, we will get plenty of opportunities to see that in the coming years.
Early indications are not terribly promising. Though Pujols has generally hit well in stadiums with retractable roofs (with the exception of Safeco Field), the outfield wall will not likely be favorable to right-handed power hitters who aren't pure pull hitters. Though the wall is a normal 340 feet in left field, it increases to 384 feet in left-center and then 420 feet in the "Bermuda Triangle" of deep left-center, before coming back in a bit to 416 feet in centerfield.
Pujols' power numbers have lagged a bit in stadiums such as Wrigley and Coors, where the walls are deeper, though he has hit well in the cavernous Minute Maid Park. Pujols will likely see his power numbers drop a bit when playing in Marlins Ballpark, but it may provide him the opportunity to rack up extra base hits, thus hitting for a higher average.
AT&T Park was dead last in home runs in 2011, but this was far more of a reflection on the bats of the Giants that season than on the stadium itself. The stadium's uneven outfield wall, due to the stadium's position on the San Francisco Bay, can serve either as a benefit or detriment to hitters, depending on where they tend to hit the ball.
The left-field foul pole is 339 feet from home, a respectable distance, but significantly further than the right-field pole, which stands at 309 feet from home. Left-center and right-center are at 364 and 365 feet respectively. These distances give pull hitters a great advantage, as was seen when Barry Bonds hit dozens of balls into the bay.
For hitters who often hit the ball up the middle, such as Pujols, the stadium is much more difficult. The wall stands at 404 feet in left-centerfield, and is a cavernous 421 feet in right-centerfield before coming into 399 feet in center. This distances makes it difficult for batters like Pujols to hit home runs up the middle, though it is far more difficult for left-handed batters.
Additionally, because of the cold and windy weather coming off the bay, the air is often moist and chilly, depressing the home run figures even further.
Pujols hits home runs at a slightly lesser clip in San Francisco than at other stadiums, hitting home runs in 4.9 percent of his at bats. He also hasn't been able to take advantage of the deep, crooked fences to get extra base hits, as his slugging percentage is lower at AT&T than at most other stadiums.
AT&T Park is not terrible for Pujols, but it poses difficulties if he doesn't pull the ball.
Albert Pujols used to thrive when playing in Queens. In 25 games at Shea, he batted .365 with nine home runs, one of his best stat lines at any stadium.
Citi Field has gained a reputation as a pitchers park, and Pujols' decrease in production lends credence to that notion. He's only played 12 games at the stadium, but in that time, he has batted .277 with three home runs in 47 at bats.
With the exception of a short fence in right field, which does not much benefit the right-handed Pujols, the fence at Citi Field is entirely equal to or further than the distance from home plate at Shea Stadium. The wall is deeper for the entirety of left-center field, Pujols' sweet spot.
Additionally, the stadium is not far from the water, and thus the air is cool and thick, the opposite of a stadium like Coors Field. This depresses the distance a fly ball can travel, and Pujols' soaring fly balls could lose just enough distance to fall to the warning track.
Pujols has played in more games at Minute Maid Park (92) than he as at any other stadium besides Busch. In that time, he has batted .311 with 24 home runs and 16 doubles in 357 at bats, not terrible by any means, but below his normal performance on the road.
Minute Maid Park can be challenging for power hitters. Though the left field fence is very close at 315 feet, the wall is much higher than usual. Deep left-center field jumps out to 404 feet, and center field reaches a distant 436 feet from home plate.
These dimensions give batted balls plenty of room to rattle around, but also causes a number of hits that would be home runs elsewhere to fall for extra-base hits or outs. The stadium's saving grace for batters is that the air is warm and dry, allowing balls to carry further through the air.
While the last incarnation of Yankee Stadium was significantly favorable to left-handed batters, the new stadium shows even greater favoritism to lefties. Right-handed batters, meanwhile, though benefitting from a foul pole only 318 feet from home, also must contend with a left-center field wall that ranges from 379 to 399 feet deep.
The Yankees great right-handed power hitter, Alex Rodriguez, has seen his power numbers decline significantly since moving to the new Yankee Stadium. There is a reported wind tunnel in the stadium that helps carry balls over the fence, but this only affects balls hit to right-center field.
Every big-name free agent at least considers the idea of playing in pinstripes (and, perhaps more importantly, cashing paychecks with the name Steinbrenner on the signature line), but Pujols would quite possibly see a reduction in his power numbers if he moved his residence to the Bronx.
In the seven games he has played at Comerica Park, Pujols has batted a ridiculous .630 and earned an OPS of 1.632. Though Comerica Park's dimensions are not the worst in baseball for batters, these numbers are entirely due to a small sample size.
Comerica favors left-handed batters, especially lefties who pull the ball, but all batters must contend with a 420 foot deep centerfield fence. The fences in left field were even further back when the stadium first opened, but were moved in due to the lack of home runs hit in the park.
Pure pull hitters do not find Comerica Park terribly difficult to deal with, but as the wall gets deeper as it approaches centerfield, pitchers benefit more and more. Because of this, if Pujols plays more games in Detroit, increasing the sample size, his numbers will almost certainly drop significantly.
PNC Park is one of the gems of the recent boom in construction of new stadiums, and like many of the new stadiums, the outfield fence has several angles. The left-field foul pole is only 325 feet from home plate—five feet longer than the right-field pole, and increases to 383 in left-center, 410 in deep left-center and 399 in centerfield. These dimensions make it more likely that a perfectly pulled ball will clear the fence, but the wall quickly becomes deeper than average as it approaches centerfield.
Pujols has more at-bats at PNC Park than in any stadium other than the two Busch Stadiums. In that time, he has played some of the best baseball of his career. He has a career batting average of .376 in Pittsburgh, coupled with a 1.170 OPS. He has hit 29 home runs, a home run in 8.2 percent of his at-bats. He has also hit 32 doubles, 13 more than at any away stadium.
Pujols's success in Pittsburgh is partially due to the less-than-stellar pitching he has faced in much of his career, but is also due to his ability to pull the ball down the left-field line. Though the wall is deeper in left-centerfield than is normal in other stadiums, Pujols has used this to his advantage to rack up the doubles, and the short left field fence allows him to collect home runs when he pulls the ball.
Despite its many renovations, Angel Stadium is still very much of its time—it was opened in 1966—and thus fits the cookie cutter mold. Renovations changed parts of the right field fence, but the left field fence is still a uniform 330 feet at the pole, 387 feet in left-center and 400 feet at center field.
Left-handed batters have a much shorter fence to contend with, though it reaches 19 feet in height. Still, right-handed batters, though dealing with a longer fence, can hit the ball to any part of the left side of the outfield fence and be assured the ball won't fall in front of a strangely angled portion of the wall.
Phoenix has dry, hot desert air, and even when the roof is closed at Chase Field and the temperature is dropped, hitters can still feel the advantage of playing in the desert.
Pujols has played relatively well at Chase Field, batting .309 with a .998 OPS. His power numbers have been on the low side, however, as he has hit a home run in only six percent of his at bats at Chase Field. Chase Field offers a short fence for pure pull hitters, standing only 330 feet from home at the left field foul pole.
The fence remains a friendly distance of 374 feet in left-center before jumping to 413 feet in deep left-center field. This deep area is closer to center field than Pujols normally hits the ball, however, so it does not affect him greatly.
One possible reason that his average at Chase Field is 15 points lower than his road batting average is that the foul territory is larger than at most stadiums, giving fielders more opportunities to make a play for an out on a foul ball.
Chase Field is by no means tailor made for Pujols, but is far from the worst stadium he must play at when on the road.
Rogers Centre is one of the last of the cookie-cutter stadiums, favoring neither right-handed or left-handed batters. The fence increases evenly from 328 feet at the flag poles to 400 feet in centerfield, providing a reasonable target for Pujols as he swings for the fences.
The air in Toronto can get cold and wet due to its location on the lake, but the roof of Rogers Centre helps reduce the effect of this. Rogers Centre typically is a neutral stadium, though in the past few years, its home run total has increased dramatically, thanks in no small part to Jose Bautista.
Rogers Centre is a fine stadium for Pujols, neither dramatically helpful nor unhelpful to his hitting.
Miller Park is a relatively neutral stadium, though it's tough to imagine that batters don't suffer from the distraction of the mammoth video screen straight ahead over center field.
Pujols has played very well at Miller, batting .331 with 19 home runs in 293 at bats. The fences are slightly shallow, though not severely so by any means, and the retractable roof prevents the air from getting too cold, though it can remain moist.
The stadium is by no means tailored to Pujols-like batters, but it is definitely conducive to his needs, and he has succeeded when playing in southeast Wisconsin.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards is generally thought of as one of the best stadiums of the era, a postmodern jewel near Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
The stadium, beloved by fans, is less appreciated by right-handed batters who aren't pure pull hitters. Though the wall is 333 feet from home along the line and only 364 feet in left-center, it jumps out to 412 feet as it gets closer to center field. This is a common feature in modern stadiums, and it has not greatly affected Pujols when he has played at similar stadiums.
Pujols, a hitter who can pull the ball as well as any other batter in recent decades, would likely have little trouble playing in Baltimore.
Coors Field has earned a reputation for being the most hitter-friendly park in baseball due to the thin, dry air of Denver. Despite this, Pujols has not been at his best when playing in Colorado. He has batted .285 with nine home runs, both numbers worse than when he has faced Colorado in St. Louis.
Colorado's outfield wall is quite deep: 347 in left field, 390 in left-center and 415 in center. Pujols puts a ton of balls in play at Coors Field, and has only struck out 14 times in 158 plate appearances. Yet the deep walls have stymied Pujols, and he's one of the few players in the game who would rather play the Rockies at their home park than at Coors Field.
Pujols has only played in 12 games at Nationals Park, logging 37 at-bats, so the sample size is a bit small to judge his performance. Based on those 12 games, however, there is no National League stadium where Pujols has better exhibited his power than Nationals Park.
Pujols has hit seven home runs in his 37 at-bats, an astounding 19 percent of his at-bats. Pujols has also ripped three doubles, batted .378—his highest batting average of any current National League stadium—and earned a 1.527 OPS.
Nationals Park is 337 feet in left field and 377 feet in left-center, nearly identical to Busch Stadium. ESPN rated it ninth in home runs in 2011, and since its opening, the stadium has fallen roughly in the middle of the pack in Major League stadiums in home runs allowed. Thus, it seems that Pujols' success at the stadium has been a bit of an anomaly, and will likely level out as he plays more games in the future at Nationals Park.
Pujols has only played six games in Cleveland, stepping to the plate 25 times. Though his average in those games is only .250, he has hit three home runs and two doubles, earning a .708 slugging percentage.
Progressive Field's outfield wall is closer in left-field, but the wall is also higher. The left-field foul pole stands 325 feet from home, and the wall is only 370 feet in left-center before reaching 405 in centerfield. However, the left-field wall is 19-feet high in left field, while it is only nine feet high in the rest of the stadium.
For batters who get under the ball like Pujols does, this is still a favorable scenario, and Pujols' power numbers in Cleveland are no accident.
Pujols has played 36 games at Turner Field, one of the stadiums outside of the National League Central that he has played at the most. In those games, he has batted .331 with 13 home runs, hitting a home run in 10 percent of his at bats.
Pujols's success at Turner is not easily explained. The dimensions of the field are hardly cavernous, but are larger than most recently built stadiums, and there is a good amount of foul territory as well. Perhaps Pujols is inspired to aim for the Chik-fil-A cow, or maybe he wants to shatter the giant Coca-Cola bottle, but for whatever reason, Pujols has found great success playing in Atlanta.
Not too many players like playing at O.co Coliseum. Based on the attendance numbers, not too many fans like watching players play at O.co Coliseum either. The stadium is ugly, outdated and unsuited for baseball.
The stadium's dimensions are friendly to home run hitters:330 at the poles, 367 in left-center and right-center and 400 feet straightaway. Yet the stadium has the most square footage of foul territory of any stadium in baseball, giving the defense a significant advantage, as they are able to catch balls for outs that would be out of play in other stadiums.
Pujols has spent limited time at O.co, only playing three games at the park and taking 12 at-bats. He has four hits, three singles and a double, and it is the only stadium in baseball in which his on-base percentage is higher than his slugging percentage.
No Major Leaguer should have to play in O.co Coliseum, but Pujols likely does not mind playing there, as it neither presents him with an advantage nor a disadvantage.
The Friendly Confines can be either a batter's best friend or worst enemy, depending on the direction of the legendary wind coming off of Lake Michigan. While countless home run hitters over the past century have hit some of their deepest bombs at Wrigley, just as many have seen what seemed to be a home run fall into the outfielder's glove at the warning track.
Pujols has played in 86 games at Wrigley, the third most of any park outside of St. Louis, and has struggled a bit in some areas while finding increased success in others. Pujols' batting average at Wrigley is .298, far below his career average of .328. In terms of power, Pujols has hit home runs in 8.2 percent of his at bats at Wrigley, up from his usual rate of 7.1 percent.
Pujols has struck out at almost exactly the same rate at Wrigley as he has at other stadiums, indicating that this discrepancy is not likely due to superior pitching by the Cubs.
Whatever the reason, Pujols benefits from the left-centerfield distance of only 368 feet and the occasional wind that pushes his fly balls out of the park, but still struggles a bit at getting on base against his team's arch-rival.
Pujols has spent more time in Kauffman Stadium than any other American League park, and if he had his way, he would spend even more time in Kansas City. Pujols has batted .379 with 13 home runs in 132 at-bats at Kauffman, edging out Pittsburgh's PNC Park for the best performance of any stadium he has played a significant number of games in.
Kauffman is a cookie-cutter stadium with even walls throughout, and though the foul pole is 330 feet from home plate, left-center field is a bit deep at 387 feet. Yet whether due to the poor play of the Royals most seasons, the predictable patterns of the outfield wall or the comfort of playing in his home state, Pujols thrives when playing in Kansas City.
Whether playing at the last version of Busch Stadium or the most recent, Pujols doesn't seem to care, as long as he's playing at home. Indeed, his numbers have been eerily similar at both stadiums: .334 at Busch II and .333 at Busch III, and a home run every 6.5 percent of at-bats at Busch II and every 6.8 percent at Busch III.
Busch Stadium's outfield wall is nearly uniform, and reaches a maximum of 400 feet in center field, creating a friendly atmosphere for power hitters. Additionally, though the foul territory is rather large, it disappears in the final feet before the foul pole, giving an advantage to batters who tend to hit foul balls a long distance.
These factors add up to a positive situation for Pujols' needs, and though he is considering whether he wants to leave St. Louis, he should take into account the advantages granted to him by playing at Busch.
This year's World Series was Pujols' first opportunity to play at the Ballpark in Arlington since it was named Ameriquest Field, and though he struggled in two of the games—just as he had when he played at Ameriquest—he also turned in perhaps the best single-game performance by a batter in World Series history.
In 2011, the Ballpark saw more home runs than any other stadium in baseball, due in part to the powerful Rangers lineup, but also due to the conditions of the stadium. The high temperatures and dry air of the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metro area, coupled with the wind-tunnel like conditions of the stadium, cause the stadium's home run totals to swell.
The stadium does favor left-handed batters, however. The right-field foul pole is sevem feet closer than the left-field pole, and right-center is 13 feet closer than left-center. Still, the left-field pole is only 332 feet from home, and the deepest part of the left side of the wall is 404 feet, giving Pujols ample opportunities to boost his power numbers.
Albert Pujols has played a single game at U.S. Cellular Field, going 0-4 in four times at the plate. The sample is far too small to determine that the stadium is not suited to Pujols. In fact, it seems quite the opposite is true.
U.S. Cellular Field has been one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks, and it has been at or near the top of the list of home runs allowed in recent years. The stadium favors neither right-handed or left-handed hitters. It is 347 feet from home in the corners, 375 feet in left and right-center and 400 feet in dead center. The uniformity of the fence reduces the number of doubles and triples, but also makes home runs more likely.
If Pujols moves to the American League and finds himself playing at U.S. Cellular Field on a more regular basis, he will likely find himself enjoying the hitter-friendly nature of the stadium.
Whenever Pujols sees that his team will be traveling to Philadelphia, a smile should cross his face. Despite the Phillies having some of the best pitching in the league during much of Pujols's career, he has batted .340 at Citizens Bank Park and has hit 10 home runs in 106 at-bats, an improvement over his normal home run percentage.
For power-hitters who hit the ball to dead center, Citizens Bank Park can be a challenging place to play. While straightaway center is a normal 401 feet from home, the wall just to the left of centerfield juts out to 409 feet. This stadium quirk can often provide an extra base to speedy batters who hit balls to the region, but for power hitters like Pujols, it is less than desirable.
Though Pujols hits the ball up the middle far more than he does anywhere else, he is also one of the best pull hitters in the game, and Citizens Bank strongly favors pull hitters. The left field foul pole is only 329 feet from home, and the power alley is a standard 374 feet. This provides Pujols with a shorter target to aim for if he pulls the ball, something he is one of the best in the game at doing.
Great American Ballpark has become one of the friendliest parks in the game for power hitters, and Pujols has benefited. In the 68 games he has played at the stadium, Pujols has batted .316 with 20 home runs and a 1.002 OPS.
The left field fence is only 328 feet at the line, a clear advantage for a hitter like Pujols who is adept at pulling the ball. The walls reach more common distances once it hits left-center (379) and center (404), but Pujols, who has pulled the ball in 41.5 percent of his career hits, is often able to avoid these longer distances and take advantage of the short fence.
Had things worked out differently, we might have seen Pujols play 800 or 900 games at Tropicana Field—he was scouted heavily by the Devil Rays before being drafted by the Cardinals—and would thus have a large sample size to determine his effectiveness playing at the Trop.
Instead, Pujols has only played three games at the stadium, and in 15 at-bats, has batted .333 with a home run and a 1.050 OPS, giving the Rays a painful taste of what might have been.
Tropicana Field slightly favors right-handed batters, and is only 315 feet from home at the left field foul pole before reaching 370 at left-center and 404 at centerfield. The stadium generally falls a bit below the median in terms of home runs allowed, partly due to the stadium conditions and partly due to the Rays' talented pitching.
We will never know if Pujols would have been the same player he is today had he spent his career in Tampa instead of St. Louis, but we do know that he would have spent his home games playing in a stadium that is relatively conducive to his needs.
Major League Baseball rules state that foul lines must be at least 325 feet long and centerfield must be at least 400 feet from home plate. Yet because Fenway Park opened 46 years before this rule took effect, it has the shortest left-field fence in baseball, standing 310 feet from home, reaching 379 feet in left-center and only 390 feet in centerfield.
Left-handed batters faced a much tougher task, which is why it has been noted that if Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams had switched teams, each would have likely put up even more impressive numbers.
Power hitters who tend to hit line drives can end up tangling with the Green Monster, and Pujols hits line drives just over 22 percent of the time he puts the ball in play. Still, Pujols hits fly balls almost twice as often as he hits line drives, and the short fence and friendly dimensions for right-handed batters presents a perfect situation for a power hitter like Pujols.