An interesting piece on SB Nation’s stats blog “Beyond the Box Score” the other day goes in-depth into park factors; attempting to determine the style of park most conducive to winning.
Using numbers available on ESPN.com, Bill Petti labels parks as hitter friendly, pitcher friendly, or neutral. He then relates those factors to the winning percentage of the clubs who play in these parks. It is an interesting study and leads to some interesting points of discussion. Most notably: how important is exploiting the traits of the local ballyard?
That park factors even exist is one of the greatest gifts baseball has to give. That the essential details remain the same but the size and style of baseball stadia vary wildly from city to city is fascinating. That environmental aspects come into play only add to the intrigue.
Understanding and capitalizing on the home stadium tendencies is the business of every team in baseball. While acquiring inferior players with specific skills best suited to the local park isn’t a good idea, if all else is equal.
A lot of us like to look down our noses at the kind of pitchers brought in by the Padres and A’s of the world but matching your talent to the place they ply their trade 50% of the time just makes sense. The Rockies recently made a concerted effort to bring in more ground ball pitchers in a last ditch effort to end the string of pitching coach-related suicides.
Would Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano — two of the very best second basemen in baseball — be considered this way in if they called different ballparks home? Pedroia’s line drive swing produces a inordinate amount of doubles off the Green Monster while Robinson Cano is notches double after double by going the other way into Yankee Stadium’s vast left-field power alley (while depositing cheap little home runs into the short right field porch.)
The original post tries to determine if a given park style is more conducive to winning. The real question is which teams do a better job of suiting their team to the ballpark. Tailoring the style of team on the field to the style of park in which they play is a pretty Extra 2% thing to do, which is why the Rays (and their fly ball pitchers and speedy outfielders) are so good at doing it. That is the truest measure of home field advantage: how well you’re able to exploit it.