2024 Fantasy Baseball: How Park Factors Affect Player Value

by Josh Stevens
2024 Fantasy Baseball: How Park Factors Affect Player Value

Welcome to our 2024 Fantasy Baseball deep dive into How Park Factors Affect Player Value!

For the last 15 years or so, we hear the same argument every time a Rockies player is on the Hall of Fame ballot.

“He’s not that good, his numbers were inflated by playing in Colorado”.

If this was a podcast, you’d hear the whiny and unpleasant inflection I’d put into that imitation. This level of thinking almost cost two surefire Hall of Fame members, Larry Walker and Todd Helton, their spots in Cooperstown. (Seriously, go take a look at Todd Helton’s Baseball Reference page. You’ll be forgiven if you mistake him for an All-Time Great).

However, as with any argument I disagree with, I do have to acknowledge that it has some sort of validity. Being a mile above sea level, it’s no secret that the ball travels further in Colorado than say, Miami.

However, we aren’t people who vote on the Hall of Fame, or the MVP. (Maybe you are, I mainly just analyze the potential impact of guys who haven’t played in the MLB yet). In Fantasy Baseball, it doesn’t matter what stadium you produce in, just that you produce.

2024 Fantasy Baseball: How Park Factors Affect Players’ Value

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Before we analyze different park factors, we first have to understand what park factor exactly is.

Baseball Savant defines it as “Statcast park effects show the observed effect of each displayed stat based on the events in the selected park. Each number is set so that “100” is the average for that metric, and the park-specific number is generated by looking at each batter and pitcher, controlled by handedness, and comparing the frequency of that metric in the selected park compared to the performance of those players in other parks.

For example, the 135 HR mark for 2018-2020 at Great American Ball Park does not mean the Reds hit 35% more home runs at their home park. It means for batters and pitchers who played both at GABP and elsewhere, 35% more home runs were observed at GABP.”

An extra 35% is a huge deal. So, how do we get numbers like that?

How Dimensions Affect the Performance of Players

The first, and arguably most important Park Factor in evaluating a player’s Fantasy Potential has to be the dimensions of their home ballpark.

The different dimensions in each stadium are what makes baseball stand out from other sports. Imagine fading Justin Jefferson out of the top three because Minnesota’s end zone is only seven yards deep instead of 10, making it harder to score. While this sounds ridiculous, fantasy baseball has problems like these.

For example, if the Giants were to ever spend money on a free-agent hitter, I would advise you to fade him a little bit in your rankings, as the Giants park factor is 23rd. This is largely due to the tall right-field wall limiting homers, and a deep right-center field that’s 415 feet from home, limiting homers.

However, park dimensions mean different things for different hitters, as right field can be really deep, but left field is close to home plate (think 310 to left at Fenway but 380 to right). This is why it’s important to look at the handedness park factor on Baseball Savant

The Same Park Can Have Different Effects on Righties vs. Lefties

As we can see, none of the stadiums in the top five for right-handed hitters have a left field wall that’s farther than 330 feet from home plate. This allows for more homers, and fewer long fly balls resulting in outs.

However, there’s a common misconception that Fenway Park is tough on right-handers. Fortunately, Baseball Savant covers that too (they’re really doing my job for me aren’t they)?  While Fenway does limit homers, the Green Monster inflates doubles by 23%, making it the third-best park for righties.

Fortunately, the Red Sox, in their wisdom, have stacked their lineup with lefties. What a relief for the recipients of the inaugural MLB “hard knocks” (seriously MLB, you couldn’t come up with a better option)!

These dimensions also help/hurt left-handed hitters. Great American Ballpark, with a short porch in right, inflates homers by 39%, the most out of any MLB Park. London Park seriously inflates homers, target those guys in the London series today.

The common equation here is shorter dimensions=better park factor. However, this isn’t always the case.

Wait...Yankee Stadium Doesn't Help Lefties?

The foot right field fence in the Bronx is so close that hitters can practically touch it from home plate. As a result, you’d be forgiven if you think that it helps left-handed hitters a lot. I even partly made Alex Verdugo a sleeper candidate because of that.

However, this isn’t the case. Yankee Stadium actually hurts lefties, coming in as the fourth-worst park factor. Although they inflate home runs by 23%, right center, and center field are where balls go to die. This restricts doubles by 15 percent, and triples by 55 percent.

This should change your drafting strategy. If you’re looking for power, go straight to the home runs section on Baseball Savant. However, if you’re in an average league or need an influx in that category, stay away from parks such as Yankee Stadium.

How Elevation Affects the Performance of Players

However, most MLB parks don’t differ that much. How can some parks help out hitters way more than others?

Elevation. Elevation does more than keep Larry Walker out of the Hall of Fame until his final year. It has a gigantic impact on extra-base hits.

What do the top 20 stadiums in the park factor index have in common? Most of them, 17/20 to be exact, are played outdoors. Three domed stadiums are in the bottom five of the park factor index, matching the total from the top 20.

How does this happen? Most places in the U.S. have some elevation. At higher altitudes, the ball carries more, leading to extra-base hits. When in an indoor stadium, there is no altitude to carry the ball.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the stadiums with the highest altitudes (as you can see here, via my friend puppybl00pers, because who doesn’t want to see those?) generally have higher park factors.

The main outlier is Citizens Bank Park in Philly, which makes up for being at sea level with smaller dimensions. Coors Field tries to limit homers with longer dimensions, but this leads to more doubles and triples falling in.

The elevation chart is what answers our pressing Yankees question from earlier. While their corners are short, the lack of elevation makes it almost impossible to hit homers to center.

What does this mean for drafting players?

Knowing the park value will help shape your draft. Want an all-power team? Pick players who play in ballparks that increase homers, although this may come at a batting average cost (Yankee Stadium is a perfect example of this).

Park elevation can also help explain the hype behind some players. Is Nolan Jones one of the 15 best outfielders in baseball? Not yet, but he can put up huge numbers in Colorado. The opposite goes for teams like the Mariners, who have a park that limits about everything.

However, park factors aren’t the be-all-end-all either. Even though T-Mobile Park restricts hitters, Julio Rodriguez is good enough to completely overcome that. Similarly, don’t go chasing after any random Rockies player because they play in Coors, pitching still isn’t the only reason the Rockies miss the playoffs routinely.

That wraps it up for the 2024 Fantasy Baseball: How Park Factors Affect Player Value! What players in hitter-friendly ballparks are rising up your ranks? Let us know below!


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