Ranking MLB's Most Hitter-Friendly Ballparks, by the Numbers

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2014

Ranking MLB's Most Hitter-Friendly Ballparks, by the Numbers

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    When we think of "hitter-friendly" ballparks, Coors Field and Yankee Stadium are often the first two that come to mind due to the tendency for fly balls to travel beyond the outfield walls and into the hands of a lucky fan.

    But just as we know that home runs aren't the only thing that matters when a batter steps to the plate, they aren't the only thing that matters when figuring out whether a ballpark is a hitter-friendly venue—though, like it or not, they do play a major role.

    ESPN's Park Factors grades ballparks around baseball in six different categories—runs scored, home runs, hits, doubles, triples and walks—and the grading system is pretty straightforward: Any grade higher than 1.000 favors the hitter, while anything below 1.000 favors the pitcher.

    But there are no cumulative totals for ballparks across all six categories, which struck me as odd. Totaling up the ratings in all six categories, then dividing that total by six would give us one, overall park factor—which we'll call total park factor (TPF)—allowing us to see which ballparks truly are "hitter-friendly."

    Originally, I wanted to incorporate three years’ worth of park-factor data into these rankings, as three years would give us a better idea as to whether a number in a particular category was an aberration or a trend for the park in question. However, with Miami moving into new digs in 2012, that simply wasn't possible.

    So, these rankings are based on data from the 2012 and 2013 seasons. But what about 2014, you ask?

    Partial-season park factors, while useful to see how a ballpark is currently playing, as we have with the 2014 figures, are simply too flawed to use in our calculations. The weather has yet to warm up, and comparing cold-weather numbers against those compiled across an entire season does us no good.

    That doesn't mean that there's nothing to learn from the 2014 numbers, though, and we'll examine whether the offense that we've seen so far this year is likely to continue—or regress—as the regular season continues to unfold.

    Let's take a look at what the numbers tell us as we rank the 15 most hitter-friendly ballparks in baseball.

    The results might surprise you.

    *All non-ESPN Park Factor statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

Most Unfriendly Hitter's Parks in Baseball

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    Gene J. Puskar

    Before we get to the most hospitable ballparks in the game for hitters, we might as well take a look at those that didn't make the cut—a list that has more than one or two surprises on it.

    RankBallparkHome TeamTPF
    30.PNC ParkPittsburgh Pirates0.818
    29.Safeco FieldSeattle Mariners0.827
    28.Dodger StadiumLos Angeles Dodgers0.855
    T27.Progressive FieldCleveland Indians0.888
    T27.Citi FieldNew York Mets0.890
    25.Busch StadiumSt. Louis Cardinals0.919
    24.Angel Stadium of AnaheimLos Angeles Angels0.923
    23.Petco ParkSan Diego Padres0.937
    22.Yankee StadiumNew York Yankees0.950
    21.AT&T ParkSan Francisco Giants0.963
    T20.Nationals ParkWashington Nationals0.981
    T20.O.co ColiseumOakland Athletics0.981
    18.Marlins ParkMiami Marlins1.010
    T17.Tropicana FieldTampa Bay Rays1.015
    T17.Turner FieldAtlanta Braves1.015

    Without question, the biggest surprise on this list is the inclusion of Yankee Stadium.

    While "The House that George Built" grades out as a hitter's park in home runs (1.135), runs scored (1.036) and walks (1.045), it falls well short of the mark elsewhere. That PNC Park, Safeco Field and Citi Field are among the five most pitcher-friendly venues in baseball comes as no surprise to anyone.

T15. Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

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    Patrick Semansky

    Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Oriole Park at Camden Yards ranks among the five best places for hitters when it comes to recording hits, smacking home runs and crossing home plate, but not even a top-five finish in three categories is enough to crack the overall top 10.

    With its inviting short porches down the lines and a power alley in left field that makes right-handed sluggers drool (both of Nelson Cruz's home runs in 2014 have come at home), no other ballpark in baseball saw more balls fly over the outfield walls from 2012 to 2013 than Camden Yards, which holds a commanding 40-home-run lead over Toronto's Rogers Centre (458-418).

    It should come as no surprise, then, that the Orioles have hit more combined home runs (426) than any other team over that two-year span, with more than 65 percent of those coming at home.

    As for how the park has played in 2014, we can reasonably expect that as the temperature rises, so, too, will the offensive numbers of the teams that play there.

T15. Globe Life Park in Arlington (Texas Rangers)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Year-round warm temperatures, relatively low humidity, short fences and a lack of foul territory have all contributed to make Globe Life Park in Arlington one of baseball's most notoriously hitter-friendly parks since it opened in 1994, when it was known as Ameriquest Field.

    A swirling wind lends a hand to fly balls as they near the outfield walls, a wind that would probably result in a bigger offensive explosion were it not blocked by the office building in center field. All these factors make Globe Life Park equally welcoming to hitters from both sides of the plate.

    With Texas missing two of its best starting pitchers (Matt Harrison and Derek Holland), along with the addition of players like Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to the lineup, it's no surprise that offense in Arlington is up in nearly every category so far in 2014.

    While some numbers might regress once Harrison and Holland return to the mix, Globe Life Park will remain a place where offenses thrive throughout the season.

13. U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Through games of April 12, no team in baseball has hit more home runs than the Chicago White Sox, with 62.5 percent (10 of 16) of the team's blasts coming at U.S. Cellular Field. The park lends itself to a power surge thanks to reasonable power alleys, a prevailing wind and outfield fences no higher than eight feet.

    Only one other American League park, Angel Stadium, has seen more balls clear the fences this year (16) than the 15 that have reached the seats on Chicago's South Side, while four balls have rolled around the outfield long enough for batters to reach third base.

12. Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros)

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    With the deepest center field of any park in baseball—one that features a flagpole and hill that are in play—you'd think that Minute Maid Park in Houston would be more of a pitcher's park than a hitter's park.

    But with incredibly inviting short porches down the lines and reasonable power alleys—coupled with the difficulty that center fielders have when it comes to fielding balls on Tal's HillMinute Maid Park has proved itself to be slightly more favorable to hitters than pitchers.

11. Citizens Bank Ballpark (Philadelphia Phillies)

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Only three other parks in baseball—Coors Field, Great American Ballpark and Miller Park—have been as friendly to power hitters as the bandbox known as Citizens Bank Ballpark.

    Even with the Phillies having pushed the outfield fences back in 2007, Citizens Bank Ballpark still sees more home runs fly over the walls than most other parks, thanks to inviting porches down the line and power alleys that aren't all that deep.

10. Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Perhaps the most iconic ballpark left in baseball (with Fenway Park providing the only other competition), Wrigley Field doesn't have the inviting short porches that some of the other ballparks on this list do.

    But Wrigley lends itself to extra-base hits, whether it be a ball that bounces around in the outfield corners or one that gets caught in the ivy. In addition, the winds that blow in off Lake Michigan, while unpredictable, tend to carry balls over the outstretched gloves of leaping outfielders more often than they hold balls up.

9. Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors



    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Whether the roof is open or not, wind plays less of a factor at Rogers Centre than it does elsewhere thanks to the high walls that encircle the playing field. As a result, hitting from the right or left side of the plate will not yield an advantage.

    Balls that hit the unforgiving artificial turf playing surface tend to take sharp, sometimes bizarre bounces capable of wreaking havoc on even the most gifted defensive outfielders. The turf also lends itself to an increase in extra-base hits. 

    A symmetrical ballpark with reachable porches down the lines and not-too-imposing power alleys make Rogers Centre one of the more hitter-friendly venues in baseball, consistently landing it in the top 10 in home runs and doubles when compared to its counterparts around the game.

T8. Target Field (Minnesota Twins)

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    If there is one ballpark that shocks me by its presence in the top 15, it's Target Field.

    Cold temperatures during the early part of the season (an open-air baseball stadium in Minnesota still makes me scratch my head) help to stifle offense, while warmer temperatures during the summer months help to promote offensive potency, especially doubles and triples.

    Part of that can be attributed to a mediocre defensive outfield and below-average pitching staff in Minnesota, but the Twins lineup has been more productive at Target Field (.261 BA, 443 XBH) than on the road (.241 BA, 439 XBH), lending more credence to the idea that Target Field is a hitter-friendly venue.

T8. Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    While symmetrically designed, Kauffman Stadium's expansive power alleys may limit home runs, but they lend themselves to an increase in other extra-base hits, more than making up for the lack of long balls that we normally find in a hitter's park.

    With one of baseball's premier defensive outfields in 2014, the Royals may be able to get to more balls hit in the gaps than they did in the past. However, as the season progresses, the offensive output will increase, drawing closer to its previously established levels.

6. Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    With flatter angles in the outfield (from center field to the corners) that lead to a larger swath of grass for outfielders to cover, it's no surprise that Chase Field is a breeding ground for extra-base hits.

    The dry, thin desert air in Phoenix doesn't hinder power hitters in their efforts to put the ball on the other side of the outfield walls, regardless of whether the roof is open.

    While offense at Chase Field has been down so far in 2014, that will pick up as the season progresses, once again putting the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks near the top of the list when it comes to hitter-friendly venues in baseball.

5. Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati Reds)

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    While Cincinnati may boast a losing record at home this season (1-4), don't look at Great American Ball Park as a reason why offense is down at baseball's premier destination for home-run hitters.

    Instead, look at the pitching—both by the Reds and by the two teams that have paid them a visit, the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays—as the primary culprit behind the decrease, nearly across the board, in offensive production at the bandbox known as GAB.

    As lesser pitching staffs make their way into Cincinnati, those park factors will normalize thanks to the deep, powerful lineup that the home team boasts.

4. Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    With the shortest corners in baseball—310 feet to the 37-foot-tall Green Monster in left field, 302 feet to Pesky's Pole in right—baseball's oldest stadium, Fenway Park, which opened in 1912, has been one of the game's most hitter-friendly stadiums for nearly as long.

    Sure, the Green Monster turns fly balls to left field into singles—if an outfielder knows how to play the ball off the wall—but the park's oddly designed outfield, with deep power alleys and walls of various heights, lends itself to routinely high amounts of doubles and triples being hit there.

3. Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Once hailed as a pitcher-friendly park, things changed more than a decade ago when the Tigers decided to cut down the original field dimensions, most notably reducing the distance from home plate to the fence in left-center field by 25 feet, from 395 feet to 370 feet.

    Right-handed sluggers, like Miguel Cabrera, have taken advantage of that redesign, with the two-time defending AL MVP smacking nearly 32 percent of his 366 career home runs at Comerica.

    A deep center field lends itself to an increase in doubles and triples, as balls that land in the outfield gaps will bounce and roll—and continue to roll—as the hitter rounds the bases. While doubles are down and triples are up this season, those two categories will even themselves out as the season progresses, as Comerica remains one of the premier destinations for hitters looking for an edge.

2. Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers)

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    Tom Lynn/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Despite playing like an extreme pitcher's park in 2014 and having deep corners, only the ballpark at No. 1 on our list has been a more hitter-friendly venue than this gem in Milwaukee.

    As is the case in Cincinnati, both the performances by the home team's pitching staff (1.80 ERA and .187 BAA at Miller Park) and those of the teams that have visited (Atlanta and Pittsburgh) have contributed to significantly lower offensive production than we normally see at the home of the sausage race.

    While we may not see quite as many home runs as we have in the past due to Milwaukee's improved rotation and bullpen, the offense is coming—and by season's end, Miller Park's 2014 park factors will more closely resemble those that we've become accustomed to.

1. Coors Field (Colorado Rockies)

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Average Park Factors


    Ballpark Dimensions

    LFLF Power AlleyCFRF Power AlleyRF

    Humidors or no humidors, Coors Field has been—and will continue to be—the most extreme hitter-friendly park in baseball due to its high altitude. It's something the team has embraced, as noted on the Rockies' official website:

    But the ball still travels 9 percent farther at 5,280 feet than at sea level. It is estimated that a home run hit 400 feet in sea-level Yankee Stadium would travel about 408 feet in Atlanta and as far as 440 feet in the Mile High City.

    However, it's important to note that the wind can easily play a much greater role than altitude in turning fly balls into home runs. The same 400-foot shot, with a 10-mph wind at the hitter's back, can turn into a 430-foot blast. (A 10-mph wind is close to the average prevailing wind in the United States.) So, it's easy to see how a good tailwind can beat high altitude for home-run hitting any day.

    Another important effect of altitude on baseball is the influence thinner air has on pitching. In general, curve balls will be a little less snappy, and fastballs will get about an extra six inches of giddy-up due to the decrease in resistance the thinner air provides.

    So, fasten your shoulder harnesses, keep both hands on the bar in front you at all times, and enjoy the ride.

    For fans of high-scoring games, there's no better place to watch baseball than Coors Field.