Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Fenway Park Effect - Fenway Park and Power Hitting

(Matt Campbell/European Pressphoto Agency)

While Fenway Park is a good park for scoring runs and hitting for average, it's affects on power hitting are a little different. Fenway ranked as the easiest park the American League in which to score a run (+18%) and the easiest park in the majors for right-handed hitter's batting averages (+13%). On the other hand, it ranked as the third hardest park in the league in which to hit home runs (-13%) and the second hardest park in the league for left-handed hitters to hit a home run in (-21%).

Even though Fenway's Pesky Pole is only 302 feet from home plate, Pesky Pole is a pretty small target. Fenway Park is the only park in the majors in which the right fielder stands behind the right field foul pole. Overall, Fenway Park's right field is rather spacious, with the majority of the right field wall being at least 380 feet away from home plate.

Right-center gets as deep as 420 feet in what is officially dubbed "the Triangle". The name may not sound all that creative, but it predates that of "the Bermuda Triangle" by about 50 years. People were much more creative in the 60's.

Fenway Park hasn't always hindered home runs. No one's quite sure why it has become so unfriendly to power hitters, but the change seems to have coincided with recent Fenway Park renovations. These renovations likely altered the wind currents in the park. At least that's one of the only explanations I can think of given the fact that the actual dimensions of the field itself haven't changed one bit.

It was in 2006 that I first realized dramatic differences in home/away home run totals. In that year, Red Sox regulars hit 66 home runs at home and 98 home runs on the road. So did the Red Sox just play better on the road? No, in fact they won 13 less games on the road.

Park effects don't necessarily affect wins, just statistics. Cause while it may be 13% harder for a Red Sox player to hit a home run at Fenway Park, it's also 13% harder for any of their opponents to hit a home run there. That's not to say that teams can't be built around their parks. For example, the Athletics and Padres both pitch in extreme pitcher's parks and so have built their teams around pitching.

As already mentioned, Fenway Park hinders left-handed power hitters the most. In 2006, David Ortiz hit 18 home runs at home and 36 home runs on the road. Trot Nixon hit one home run at home and seven on the road. So it shouldn't be all that surprising that when J.D. Drew came over to the Red Sox last offseason, his home run total went down from 20 to 11. He hit almost twice as many home runs on the road as he did at Fenway.

But the largest surprise to me was to what degree Fenway Park hindered home runs for right-handed batters. Is there such a thing as a cheap home run over the Green Monster? Sure, but in reality those home runs are rather rare. More often, the Green Monster works to prevent home runs. It was 7% harder for a right-handed hitter to hit a home run in Fenway Park, than it was for them to hit a home run in a home run neutral park.

That's not to say the Green Monster doesn't help double totals. Of all American League parks last year, Fenway was the easiest one to hit a double in. Overall, it was 34% easier to hit a home run in than a neutral park. So Fenway Park probably works to increase slugging percentages for right-handed hitters at least.

I wish the Bill James Handbook provided separate doubles ratings for both right-handed and left-handed hitters in Fenway Park. Then I'd have a better understanding of just how much the Green Monster works to create doubles. It would also help to explain the effects of Fenway Park on left-handed hitter's batting averages.


Michael said...

you know the old expression "sometimes a cigar means just a cigar"?

well i think that can be applied to your green monster dilemma. it creates doubles for righties because it is there. it's really pretty simple. in this case over analysis is probably a waste of time.

great post though.

Ethan Michaels said...

Thanks. The doubles part is pretty much what people expected. No one knew just how much the monster helped hitters hit doubles though, so I thought that was kind of cool. I thought the information on how Fenway hindered home runs was more interesting. Ortiz hit 56 home runs in 2006 which I think is incredible given how hard it is for a lefty to hit one home run in Fenway Park.

If you double his home run totals from when he was on the road, you'd get 72 home runs.

Michael said...

i was INDEED surprised to find out that the monster hindered righties from hitting homers....but hey 37 feet is 37 feet.

also interesting was the fact that homers have cut down there over the years. i love learning little facts like that. i bet you are right about your air currents theory