The following article was created from the transcript of Benny’s MLB Coaching Session on 5/20/19.
Today’s discussion is going to be about ballpark factors and how to use them to your advantage; let’s start by discussing what they are and how to read the charts on them.
All ballparks are created differently. Obviously, the outfield fences are different (in size, shape, and distance from home plate) in every park, but what’s less obvious is the difference in the size and shape of each field’s foul territory. The more space out there, the higher the chance one of those “off-the-end-of-the-bat” pop flies ends up an out.
Some fields are lopsided. Yankee Stadium, for example, has a short porch in right but a deep, cavernous valley out in left center. It favors lefties but is tough on righties.
Geography is also a factor. Not just because of altitude (like in the case of the hitter’s paradise of Coors Field), but because of weather patterns: Balls travel better in warm weather than in cold; areas like the north side of Chicago (Wrigley Field) have major wind issues (we see massive scores when it’s blowing out and almost no scoring when it’s blowing in).
note from Jesse: When dealing with Wrigley, here are some good rules of thumb: The wind is almost always SWIRLING in April, May, and the first part of June. It then begins prevailing OUT until around September 1st, and prevailing IN through the end of the year. Do not trust the “wind” sections of weather reports in that early part of the year, as people will get different readings depending on where their sensors are around the city. Once you hit September, you’ll see the wind start trending toward the “IN” direction, but that’s when you should begin weighing the wind direction less and the temperature more, as even moderately cool Chicago days will kill the ball and warm ones will turn it into a rocket ship. Go Cubs.
All these things can give us an edge in DFS. Some by pointing us to players and games we should be targeting, and others by telling us the spots to avoid.
A few years ago I did a study and wrote an article that was in the strategy section. We tracked the highest scoring games, looking for patterns, and one of the things that popped up is that certain ballparks were more likely to produce high-scoring games than others: It wasn’t random. Parks we classified as “good” were more than twice as likely to produce high-scoring games than those we classified as “poor” or “average”.
What parks do we consider “good”?
For the study, we ended up labeling just under half the stadiums in the league as “good” based on one criterion: The stadium had to be ranked in the top eight for runs scored, hits allowed, or home runs (the things that score us fantasy points).
A lot of the parks you would instinctively think of are on the list: Coors (Colorado), Rogers Centre (Toronto), Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati), Miller (Milwaukee), Camden (Baltimore), and Yankee Stadium.
So, how do we use this information?
Over a month, tracked in two separate seasons, we had between 40 – 60 games with over nine runs scored, and more than 66% of those came from one of the top 12 ballparks. Sure, any team can explode for 10 runs in a place like SF, but it’s not likely to happen. For DFS purposes, targeting the bats and stacks in those top ballparks was more than twice as likely to work out than targeting stacks and bats in the others.
This works the same way for pitchers. Starting a guy in one of these parks is not an ideal thing to do. If you have a stud pitcher starting in Coors and another in SF, the guy in SF should get bumped up a bit in your rankings, and the guy in Coors should get a bump down.
There’s a good example on tonight’s slate: ATL profiles really well against Andrew Suarez and SF. They are going to be a decently-chalky option, but SF is one of the worst parks for hitters. So, how do we quantify that situation? Let’s take a look at Oracle Park (San Francisco).
When you look at the park factors page, what those numbers do is compare that park’s singles, doubles, triples, etc. to the average of the league’s as a whole. If the park yields more HRs than the league average, its “HR” number will be above one. If it yields fewer than the average number of HRs, its number will be below one. This continues for each type of result on the page (singles, doubles, triples, etc.).
The HR Factor for lefties in Oracle is .75, and for righties it is even worse, at .5. That means righties hit 1/2 as many homers as league average and lefties hit 3/4 as many as league average in that park. That’s not a good thing for an ATL stack. However, Andrew Suarez wasn’t great last year, and he was especially weak to right-handed bats. This is going to have people all over the ATL righties tonight.
But, according to our numbers, it’s unlikely righties are going to flash much power in Oracle, it’s really tough for them to homer there, and it’s not much better for lefties. So, a guy like Freddie Freeman is not really in a good spot, facing a pitcher who is tough on lefties in a field that is not conducive to lefties crushing. That’s why I said leave him off stacks today.
note from Jesse: Freeman went 1 for 3, with a walk, for a total of 6 FD points.
Now, on the flip side, if this game was in Atlanta, that’s a park that favors lefties. The HR Factor is slightly above league average for them there, as is the Runs Factor. It’s still not the best HR park, but it’s way better than Oracle.
Some fields play much better to one side of the plate than the other. Check out Progressive Field in Cleveland. It’s a great spot for lefties, who have a Runs Factor of 1.2 (20% above league average), and around a minimum of a 1.1 (10% above league average) in every other stat being tracked (average, wOBA, HRs, etc.).
If you switch to righties, though, it’s a whole different story. They’re basically the complete opposite, with every category having a factor between .8 and 1, so from average all the way down to 20% below average. You want to play those lefties in Progressive but avoid the righties as much as you can.
This is something to keep in mind when you break down Cleveland pitchers, as well, since many of them have struggles with lefties. However, it’s possible those “struggles” are simply the result of having half their starts in Progressive. Ever wonder why Carlos Carrasco was so much worse at home than on the road? It’s likely this has something to do with it.