by Dave De Wit
Park factors play a significant role in setting values for fantasy players. Whether it’s hitters at Coors Field or pitchers at Petco Park, decent players become good and good players become great when they play at a field with an extreme park factor. However, park factors don’t tell the whole story. For example, if a park is really bad against left-handed hitters while it is neutral to right-handed hitters, it still looks like a pitcher’s park even though it only hurts one side of the platoon.
This is where platoon park factors come into play. The website StatCorner.com shows a breakdown of how each park affects both left-handed and right-handed hitters and a lot of their data will surprise you. Below are a few examples of hidden platoon park factors that can help you assess various players’ value in 2013.
Cleveland Kills Right-Handed Hitters, Helps Lefties
Progressive Field diminishes right-handed home runs by 26% below league average and drops runs 20% below the league average. Meanwhile left-handed power plays 21% better in Cleveland. Given that information, it makes sense that all the recent fantasy-relevant Indians are either left handed or switch hitters. This platoon park factor does not bode well for righty Drew Stubbs, who leaves a hitter’s oasis in Cincinnati for the right-handed desert in Cleveland. It adds promise to lefty Jason Kipnis’ power numbers, since he only hit 5 of his 14 home runs at home in 2012. Also, it acts as a consolation prize for switch-hitting Nick Swisher, who says goodbye to the ultra-friendly short porch in right field of Yankee Stadium, giving him hope that a drop in production won’t be too drastic.
Progressive Field makes left handers Lonnie Chisenhall and possible DH Chris McGuiness intriguing options. Chisenhall, a two time Baseball America Top 100 prospect, has the power potential to do some damage in his home ballpark, but it is unknown how much playing time the Indians will give him next year. Playing time risks are even more prevalent for McGuiness. After showing good pop in Double-A last year for the Rangers’ organization, the 24-year old could earn himself some time at DH in 2013.
Lefties Can Hit for Power in Seattle
We all know Safeco Field is a very pitcher-friendly park, but leaving it at that doesn’t paint the whole picture. Left-handed power plays pretty close to neutral in Seattle, just 9% below average. Add in the fact that they’re moving in the center and left field walls (it can’t hurt), and there is clear offensive potential for lefties at Safeco.
The worthwhile fantasy hitters who see the biggest benefit from this power platoon park factor are lefties Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley, as well as newly acquired switch hitter Kendrys Morales. I would include switch-hitting Justin Smoak, but given his struggles against right-handed pitching, it looks like Morales will eat up a lot of his lefty at bats.
Seager and Ackley were only able to hit 5 and 2 homers, respectively, at Safeco Field last year compared to 15 and 10 dingers on the road. It’s unclear if this is due to a change in approach when hitting at home or just dumb luck. Regardless, their power should be playing better at home so it would make sense that their home run totals at Safeco would rise this coming year.
Kendrys Morales is a switch hitter, but will see most of his at bats from the left side in 2013, as he did in 2012. He is moving from Anaheim which, believe it or not, actually plays worse for left-handed power than Safeco Field does. There’s a good chance he will actually hit more home runs at Safeco than the 8 he hit for the Angels.
San Diego Doesn’t Affect Righties
Like Safeco Field, Petco Park is infamous for destroying hitters and, also like Safeco Field, it got so bad that the Padres decided to move in the fences, prominently the right field wall. Why not move the left field wall in as well? Because Petco has only suppressed right-handed runs by 8% and home runs by 7% below the league average. Essentially, right handers hitting at Petco are equal to right handers hitting at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia (only a 1% difference) despite the vast difference in their reputations. Righties can hit in San Diego, and it might be baseball’s best-kept secret.
Even though right-handed hitting at Petco is basically neutral, all Padres hitters are being equally devalued by fantasy owners regardless of handedness because of the extreme pitching advantage in their home park. This means that right handers, and to a lesser extent switch hitters, are being undervalued as fantasy players.
The primary benefactors of this misevaluation are Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin. Imagine how much higher these outfielders fantasy stock would be if either was traded to Philadelphia where, as I explained above, the park treats right handers the same as Petco does. All you would hear about is how they’re moving to a hitter’s park and that they’re going to improve. Maybin and Quentin’s fantasy value is being punished for their home park, but their production isn’t, which is why they would be wise late-round pick-ups in 2013.
Pittsburgh Dismantles Right-Handed Power
No stadium in the major leagues suppresses home runs to right handed hitters more than PNC Park. The spacious left field smothers righty power by an astonishing 32% below the average park. In theory, this platoon park factor will hurt right-handed hitters’ home run totals and help left-handed pitchers’ keep the ball in the park when facing a platoon disadvantage. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Wandy Rodriguez and Russell Martin fit these criteria.
Don’t worry about McCutchen. He’s entering his fifth year of calling PNC Park home, and his home run totals have grown each of the last 4 years thanks to him muscling more balls out to center and right field. We know what he is at PNC Park and have nothing to be concerned about.
Starling Marte and Russell Martin, however, are pretty new to PNC Park. In just 22 home games last year Marte was able to put three balls in the seats with an incredible home HR/FB rate of 23.1%. The young outfielder has pop, but will almost certainly see some hard regression at home in 2013. Russell Martin will also see a significant drop in power once he’s out of the homer-happy Yankee Stadium. According to Hit Tracker Online, he hit 10 home runs out to that short porch in right field in New York, almost all of which would have been long outs in Pittsburgh.
Wandy Rodriguez has pitched 102 career innings at PNC Park and has only allowed 6 total home runs there, good for a 0.53 HR/9 compared to his career 1.01 HR/9. Pair that with his career 0.76 HR/9 against left-handed hitters, and Wandy can keep the ball in the park in Pittsburgh. This will definitely help his ERA in 2013; how much it helps will depend on how many home starts he can get.
What are your thoughts on these ballpark factors? Where do you see places to cash in? Who are you avoiding based on this news?
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