Batted Ball Differences in Colorado and Texas-Off the Radar

Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Elsewhere, I’ve looked at batted ball data to see if we could quantify a Marine Air effect at Safeco Field. There didn’t seem to enough evidence to posit that average battled ball distance was really that different in Seattle. With this evidence, I was interested in whether or not we can see a difference in the batted ball rates at the two most extreme offensive parks in baseball, Coors Field and the Ballpark in Arlington. So first I looked at the average batted ball distances on non-bunts according to Baseball Heat Maps for players that have played on both the Rockies and another team since 2007 (the start of the Pitch F/X era). I didn’t use a hard cutoff, but I usually didn’t include hitters that had less than 200 plate appearances as both a Rockie and a non-Rockie, and usually used about 50 innings as a minimum for pitchers. Then, I did the same for Rangers players.

Rockies:

Player As a Rockie Before Rockie After Rockie
Chris Iannetta 276.401 264.335
Clint Barmes 260.84 244.052
Matt Holliday 280.076 273.604
Willy Taveras 243.497 239.084
Brad Hawpe 278.23 272.976
Jeff Baker 283.061 258.093
Ian Stewart 247.516 257.432
Yorvit Torrealba 269.389 251.626
Omar Quintanilla 260.372 260.034
Scott Podsednik 245.55 258.939 248.442
Seth Smith 274.643 270.695
Cory Sullivan 259.87 262.215
Jason Giambi 276.598 268.831
Miguel Olivo 267.463 263.065 254.046
Carlos Gonzalez 273.472 258.03
Melvin Mora 263.693 259.799
Mark Ellis 254.06 253.245 253.905
Ty Wiggington 270.55 265.854 259.691
Marco Scutaro 254.697 252.864
Michael Cuddyer 272.935 264.774
Tyler Colvin 263.203 272.473
Average 265.53 261.79 258.02

Hitters hit the ball a few feet farther when they played for the Rockies than when they played with other teams. The difference between pitchers was even more dramatic, as pitchers were much worse (when it came to batted ball distance) when they played for the Rockies.

Just as a case study, I looked at Dexter Fowler’s 2012 and broke down his batted ball distance by series, and denoted whether or not the series was at home or the road. The method is a little crude, but it should be helpful. Fowler is interesting because while others teams have expressed interest in him, he has extremely large home/road splits. This exercise may help us see if the ball is travelling farther at home, and thus inflating up his numbers.

Date Home/Road Ball Distance
9/11-9/12 H 183.054
8/27-9/2 H 246.526
8/13-8/19 H 228.171
7/27-8/5 H 264.934
7/13-7/18 H 235.748
6/25-7/1 H 284.724
6/8-6/14 H 261.367
5/28-6-3 H 276.535
5/16-5/20 H 287.473
4/27-5/6 H 267.565
4/9-4/18 H 306.033
9/21-9/22 H 265.432
9/14-9/19 R 269.859
9/3-9/9 R 242
8/20-8/26 R 190.952
8/6-8/12 R 228.873
7/20-7/25 R 268.568
7/2-7/8 R 237.796
6/15-6/24 R 243.995
6/4-6/6 R 267.788
5/21-5/27 R 303.781
5/7-5/15 R 247.665
4/20-4/25 R 254.955
4/6-4/8 R 225.125

Fowler’s average batted ball distance is 258.96 feet at home, and 248.45 feet on the road. Of course, positive home/road splits can be explained by the hitter just feeling more comfortable at home (that is, philosophically, he could just be hitting the ball a little harder at home), but with the Coors effect seemingly real, it is hard to not take note of this and speculate that Fowler would be a much weaker hitter if he didn’t get to play 81 games at Coors field (when you compare him with other hitters, you notice that 248 feet per batted ball is not very good).

Rangers:

Name As a Ranger Before Texas After Texas
Vicente Padilla 256.031 261.621
Kevin Millwood 258.189 254.553
C.J. Wilson 255.22 255.019
Jamey Wright 249.141 248.827
Frank Francisco 262.89 248.564
Dustin Nippert 261.185 262.765
Luis Mendoza 257.626 257.983
Joaquin Benoit 265.438 258.233
Kameron Loe 262.45 263.042
Jason Jennings 262.51 262.587
Brandon McCarthy 259.592 256.535
Tommy Hunter 267.344 264.314
Rob Tejada 262.637 252.904
Darren O’Day 256.274 245.778 266.295
Cliff Lee 259.952 257.201 257.123
Rich Harden 256.208 258.893 259.327
Darren Oliver 248.129 253.911 240.931
Mark Lowe 255.926 259.393
Mike Adams 245.184 265.398
Koji Uehara 258.447 270.503
Ryan Dempster 262.105 259.985
Joe Nathan 253.394 262.242
Roy Oswalt 242.72 255.997
Averages 257.33 259.55 256.35

The Case Study for the Ballpark in Arlington I used was Derek Holland’s 2012. Holland has extremely large home/road splits, and is much worse at home than he is on the road.

Date Park FIP xFIP Average Batted Ball Distance
5/10/12 Baltimore 2.43 4.39 250.769
4/18/12 Boston 4.24 4.27 260.818
5/5/12 Cleveland 2.69 3.29 187.703
9/2/12 Cleveland 4.09 3.08 273.377
5/19/12 Houston 9.69 3.66 282.314
8/5/12 Kansas City 6.09 3.47 279.039
7/20/12 LA 7.44 5.53 261.378
9/19/12 LA 4.24 4.48 290.91
8/16/12 New York 4.33 3.85 263.735
6/5/12 Oakland 8.34 5.67 249.573
10/3/12 Oakland 5.34 7.55 215.557
7/13/12 Seattle 2.83 4.75 251.524
9/7/12 Tampa 2.72 2.56 259.32
4/7/12 Texas 2.93 4.64 272.254
4/12/12 Texas 2.69 2.51 296.329
4/23/12 Texas 6.93 6.96 277.271
4/29/12 Texas 1.67 4.18 281.919
5/14/12 Texas 3.09 4.56 225.702
5/25/12 Texas 2.82 2.65 230.037
5/30/12 Texas 19.89 8.7 226.236
7/7/12 Texas 4.93 4.72 253.104
7/25/12 Texas 5.44 3.2 307.583
7/31/12 Texas 9.24 5.6 269.424
8/11/12 Texas 2.83 2.29 275.762
8/22/12 Texas 2.52 4.2 283.765
8/27/12 Texas 4.59 5.12 263.949
9/13/12 Texas 3.81 2.79 224.756
9/24/12 Texas 11.09 4.39 292.398
9/30/12 Texas 6.39 4.7 259.513

We see that Holland’s average batted ball distance at home in Texas is 265 feet, and on the road it is 255.85, which is about as dramatic as we saw with Dexter Fowler. This explains why his FIP (which weights home runs) has a bigger difference between home and road than his xFIP (which does not weight home runs literally, but only on fly-ball rates). It seems that this evidence makes it clear that while dimensions may play a role in Texas, the “jet stream affect” is real, and does help hitters. However, when we looked at all the players without breaking it down into Home/Road splits, we didn’t see the effect we expected. This seems to be because of the success of Joe Nathan, Koji Uehara, and Mike Adams with Texas. When we look at hitters, we see more of what we would expect, with a relatively (2 to 6 feet per batted ball) large difference in the average amount of feet per batted ball.

Conclusion

So we kind of saw what I expected. Coors Field seemed to show a legitimate difference in batted ball difference, something that we could probably attribute to the altitude allowing the ball to fly more (just like football kickers are usually better in Denver). The difference was real, especially when we broke down Fowler’s season. Derek Holland’s difference was just as real, but the overall data was less conclusive than Colorado’s. Since Denver is a more extreme environment, this was to be expected.

Topics: Ballpark At Arlington, Coors Field, Fantasy Baseball, Off The Radar, Park Effects

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