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Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Has pitcher friendly Busch Stadium become a competitive disadvantage for offense? Cardinals are wondering

The Cardinals are exploring internally how their downtown ballpark has become detrimental to their offense and what changes to its dimensions or their approach could correct a competitive disadvantage, an official confirmed Saturday.

“The numbers don’t lie,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations. “What we’re trying to understand is what’s changed at Busch. We’re taking a look at this, we’re studying this, and we’re looking for what we can do to perhaps improve the offense in the future.”

A ballpark that favored pitchers since it opened in 2006 and still could house the NL’s top scoring team in 2013, Busch III has become increasingly hampering to hitters in recent years. The Cardinals entered Saturday’s game with home runs in nine consecutive games — eight of them on the road. That’s no coincidence. With six homers Friday night at the Brewers’ hitter-friendly confines, the Cardinals have 96 on the road compared to 57 at home in only three fewer games, 68 to 65. Three of the six homers hit Friday would not have been out of Busch, including Molina’s grand slam, which would have been a homer in three parks, two of them in the NL Central.

One of Nolan Arenado’s two homers could have been a flyout at Busch.

“Arguably, I go from one of the top three greatest hitters ballparks to the top three worst, numbers-wise, ballparks for hitters,” said Arenado, who the Cardinals acquired from Colorado on Feb. 1. “I think the biggest adjustment as far as that, where I’ve failed in a sense, is focusing on the end result. When you hit the ball well you don’t always get rewarded, not necessarily. Where at Coors Filed or here (Milwaukee) you get rewarded.”


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 08, 2021 at 10:53 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cardinals, park effects

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   1. salvomania Posted: September 08, 2021 at 11:12 AM (#6038662)
Cardinals' pitchers are much more even home/road: 0.90 hr/game allowed at home, 0.97 hr/game allowed on the road.
   2. Scott Ross Posted: September 08, 2021 at 12:02 PM (#6038677)
It's gotta be climate change.
   3. Tom Nawrocki Posted: September 08, 2021 at 12:03 PM (#6038678)
Arenado's splits are really dramatic: He's hitting .279/.329/.558 on the road, with 18 homers, but just .235/.295/.432 at Busch, with 11 homers. The road numbers are significantly better than his career road splits (.265/.323/.481), lending credence to the Coors Hangover theory.
   4. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: September 08, 2021 at 01:28 PM (#6038697)
Dramatic park factor shifts are one of the great mysteries of baseball to me. How is it that Busch went from a 101 multi-year PF in 2015 to a 93 this year? Cincinnati has gone in the opposite direction, starting at a 100 in 2015 and to a now Coorsian 113.

[2] jokes about climate change but local weather patterns play some role in PF variance. Still, hard to believe it would make anywhere near that level of difference.

Link is busted; not sure if TFA offers any theories.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: September 08, 2021 at 01:34 PM (#6038698)
Link is busted; not sure if TFA offers any theories.

It does, the Cardinals organization thinks that current construction on the second phase of ballpark village is causing a shift in the local climate.
   6. The Duke Posted: September 08, 2021 at 01:44 PM (#6038701)
The cardinals need to make a strategic change in player development. They’ve been focusing on pitchers who K a lot of guys but that leads to lots of walks. They need to get rid of these guys and go get more guys like Lester and wainwright who let people hit the ball. They’ve already made a huge change in the second half with wade Leblanc, JA Happ, Lester and letting go Gant. They just need better versions.

They’ve already got a fast and a defensive team. They have a couple areas that could be upgraded at SS and catcher (when Molina retires).

Finally they need more line drive hitters and focus less on HRs. If they want a HR guy, you need a Tyler O’Neill who doesn’t need no stinkin’ park factors. A guy like Joey Gallo who also hits no doubters.

They should move back the CF fence and really go all-in on rabbit ball.
   7. Tin Angel Posted: September 08, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#6038743)
Bring back Whitey ball. And Whitey.
   8. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: September 08, 2021 at 05:06 PM (#6038751)
And Whitey.

Whitey's on the moon.

Anyway, my understanding of the conventional wisdom for a long time was that a pitcher's park was basically an advantage to the home team. I'm realizing now that I never applied any critical thought to that idea, though it did seem to hold up for the Dodgers and a few other teams for a long time. Though Dodger Stadium is now more or less neutral, and this is the Dodgers' most successful era, depending on how one defines it.
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: September 08, 2021 at 05:38 PM (#6038764)
I'm realizing now that I never applied any critical thought to that idea,

I think the reason a pitcher's park is better for team building is that pitches break. The fewer pitches you have to throw, the fewer chances for them to do so.

I don't see what advantage having a bandbox confers to the home team (other than possibly, indirectly, if it helps generate more revenues).
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 08, 2021 at 05:41 PM (#6038767)
I think the reason a pitcher's park is better for team building is that pitches break. The fewer pitches you have to throw, the fewer chances for them to do so.

The best situation is that of Old Yankee Stadium; an overall pitchers park, but one that favors a specific type of hitter. You get the overall benefit of less wear and tear on the arms, and can tailor your offense in a way the opponent can't.
   11. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 08, 2021 at 06:02 PM (#6038773)
Don't know why I can't get the link to work, but the article is here.
   12. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 08, 2021 at 10:50 PM (#6038859)
Busch Stadium is more than 15 years old, and lacks air conditioning. The solution is obvious, no?
   13. bfan Posted: September 09, 2021 at 07:15 AM (#6038884)
[2] jokes about climate change but local weather patterns play some role in PF variance.

I wonder if park factors were looked as maybe 3 year rolling averages instead of annually, you would capture annual oddities/anomolies and get a clearer picture of what is park related?
   14. Ron J Posted: September 09, 2021 at 10:33 AM (#6038899)
#13 BBRef (generally -- there are exceptions) doesn't use single year park factors. There's a lot of noise in single year park factors.
   15. . . . . . . Posted: September 09, 2021 at 10:44 AM (#6038901)
jokes about climate change but local weather patterns play some role in PF variance. Still, hard to believe it would make anywhere near that level of difference.

ah, we have hit an area that I studied in grad school (and yes, they do offer climatology graduate programs).

The short answer is that it absolutely makes that level of difference. Park factor is highly sensitive to temperature, humidity, prevailing wind and (because they're independent variables that affect the foregoing), time of game and date of game (date of game is random over longer time series, but season-to-season, home games can be slightly concentrated more or less in the cooler shoulder months).

With respect to climate change, this is an unusual case where greenhouse warming is not the dominant signal. Because of where ballparks are located (and the fact that most games are played in the early evening), urban heat island effects are much stronger. Probably 1degF in greenhouse warming on average, but 2-3degF in UHI effects. 8PM temperatures are much, much higher in urban environments now, compared to 50 years ago, and interestingly that might have a double-effect in increasing temp and lowering relative humidity.

Climate signals vary both annually (with surprisingly high amplitude) and on multi-year, even decadal time signals. NYC (which I know best) has whole decades with noticeably higher proportion of dry NW winds compared to humid SW winds, that are probably caused by patterns of sea surface temperatures in the global oceans.
   16. Karl from NY Posted: September 09, 2021 at 03:52 PM (#6038951)
Dramatic park factor shifts are one of the great mysteries of baseball to me.

I think one important but completely overlooked factor is the hitter's eye backdrop. This can easily vary from year to year, unnoticed and unquantifiable, with changes in anything like advertising, lighting, scoreboards, home run lines on the fences, heck maybe even a newly retired number in the visual field.

Players used to say Shea Stadium had a noticeably poor visual backdrop and that was part of it playing as a pitchers' park.
   17. bobm Posted: September 09, 2021 at 05:22 PM (#6038958)
Bill James from the 1983 Abstract, paraphrased:

Staying with the ballpark theme, James challenges a comment by Bill Buckner in the Chicago Cubs team commentary. Billy Buck had complained the previous summer that the Cubs didn't have a home field advantage because the conditions at Wrigley Field changed so much from day to day. It turns out that the Cubs actually sported a 29% improvement at home vs. on the road over the previous six years--the third highest in the National League. After performing this study (which showed that the overall won-lost percentage had been .550 at home and .450 on the road with nearly every team winning more than half its games at home and losing more than half on the road), James concluded that the home field advantage was greater than generally believed.

Although stating that the home field advantage decides one game in ten, James acknowledges "there is some evidence to suggest that the more unique or distinctive a park is, the greater the advantage." Notwithstanding a park's uniqueness, James says it is "an unavoidable fact that the teams which play in the best hitter's parks in baseball--Fenway, Wrigley, County Stadium in Atlanta, Tiger Stadium--win obviously fewer championships than their share, and that the group of teams which play in the pitcher's parks--Yankee, Memorial in Baltimore, Dodger Stadium are in the group--win more than their share." James believes "there is a connection," that it is "easier to build and maintain a starting rotation in a pitcher's park than it is in one that favors the hitter."

James studies the Mets--the team with the smallest differential between its home and road records--and concludes that the team's failure to emphasize power pitchers over control pitchers to take advantage of the poor visibility at Shea Stadium is the reason for not having a more pronounced home-park edge.

The Mets as a team have led the NL in pitchers' strikeouts six times. They have finished over .500 all six of those times. They have finished over .500 without leading the league in strikeouts only once in their history.

Although that strict record was broken a year later, the Mets led the N.L. in strikeouts in 1985 and 1988-1990, winning 87-100 games and finishing first or second each of those seasons. The Mets have not led the league in K's during the past 14 years and have only played .500 or better ball five times--all during a consecutive stretch from 1997-2001. Goodbye Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, and David Cone. Hello Steve Trachsel, Tom Glavine, and Jae Weong Seo. [Emphasis added]

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