2014 Free agent park factor winners and losers

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Home is where the heart is, especially if you are a left-handed pull hitter and your home has a short right-field fence. We look at some of the biggest shifts in home park factors for 2014 free agents.

Environment is a key factor in every aspect of our lives. From the gigantic social and economic advantages that come with being born in a free, industrialized nation like America to the subtle effects that carefully selected lighting and music have on us when we head to the store, the places we inhabit influence us throughout the course of our lives.

The influence of environment extends to baseball players and their stat lines in a major way. Playing games in the damp expanses of Safeco is very different from plying your trade in the dry, 100-degree-plus heat of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Money and contract length are typically the determining factors for most free agents when evaluating offers, but environment is also a consideration. Some of the players who landed deals this offseason have found new homes that will boost their raw numbers and others have moved to environments that could hurt them significantly. Using the park factor calculations from Fangraphs.com, here are the environmental winners and losers from the 2014 free agent class.

Winners

Justin Morneau

Previous Home Park: Target Field/ PNC Park

New Home Park: Coors Field

Key Differences: +26% LH home runs from Target Field, +22% LH home runs from PNC park

Justin Morneau split the 2013 season between the Twins and the Pirates, two teams that play in parks that suppress left-handed home runs. He moves to the notorious hitter's haven of Coors Field for 2014 and he should benefit from his new home more than any other free agent on the market. Prior to the move from the Metrodome to Target Field, the former Twin averaged 27 home runs per 600 plate appearances. With the move to Target Field, that average dropped to 20, a 26 percent drop. Injuries and age contributed to the decline as well, but hitting in a park five percent less favorable for left-handed home runs didn't help. With the move to Coors Field, Morneau may have found a fountain of youth that can return him to the days when he regularly hit 30+ home runs. His troubling walk and strikeout rates are probably immune to the healing powers of the high altitudes, but more power will help his value a great deal.

Phil Hughes

Previous Home Park: Yankee Stadium

New Home Park: Target Field

Key Differences: -25% LH Home runs, -10% RH home runs

For a righty with a 33.6% career ground ball rate like Hughes, Yankee Stadium is one of the worst possible environments he could play home games in. He will be heading to the North Country to see how his stuff plays in a home park that should work considerably more to his advantage. When he isn't giving up too many dingers, Hughes is more than a serviceable starter. On the road over his career, he has allowed less than one homer per nine innings, but when pitching in the Bronx he has posted a 1.69 HR/9 rate. The result of this has been a 0.86 difference in ERA and more than a run difference in FIP. If Target Field can move the his home run totals even beyond his road numbers, he could be on the verge of career renaissance, at least as far as the non-park-adjusted numbers go.

Carlos Beltran

Previous Home Park: Busch Stadium

New Home Park: Yankee Stadium

Key Differences: +19% LH home runs, +16% RH home runs

All of the Yankees' new position players land firmly in the winner's category, but Beltran is a good bet to get the biggest benefits from his new hitter-friendly home. The switch-hitter's new casa will help him clear the fences from both sides of the plate and provide a smaller boost in his doubles numbers as well. He also benefits on defense, since the right field area in Yankee Stadium is smaller and should be easier for the 36-year-old veteran to patrol. Beltran is in the twilight of his brilliant career and heading to one of the best offensive environments in the game can only help his Hall-of-Fame credentials. Milestones that could mean a great deal to his case in the future, like 400 home runs and 500 doubles, are well within his reach and his new home park will do all it can to support his candidacy.

Honorable Mentions: Kelly Johnson, Michael Morse, Scott Feldman

Losers

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Previous Home Park: Fenway Park

New Home Park: Marlins Park

Key Differences: -17% LH doubles, -11 RH doubles, -6% LH home runs, -13% RH Home runs

With a 29.4 percent career strikeout rate and an 8.3 percent walk rate, Saltalamacchia can't be expected to hit the ball too often. With the Red Sox, however, when he did make contact, good things happened. Salty launched 25 home runs in 448 plate appearance in 2012, and while his home run total dropped to 14 in 2013, he managed 41 doubles and a better average to more than offset it. Fenway is a doubles paradise that no other park can match, but many other parks would have boosted the switch-hitting catcher's home runs from the left side (his dominant side). Not Marlins Park. Not only will Salty find is considerable harder to hit doubles, he also faces a tougher time clearing the fences.

Robinson Cano

Previous Home Park: Yankee Stadium

New Home Park: Safeco Field

Key Differences: -18% LH home runs, +5% LH doubles

The easy and obvious loser from this offseason is former Yankee Robinson Cano, who is moving from one of the most home-run friendly parks for lefty hitters to an environment that depresses home runs from the left side. Hittrackeronline.com shows Cano's average true home run distance (the distance adjusting for wind and other factors) as 403.9 feet, a respectable distance, but just 30th among hitters with more than 18 home runs. Cano's power might be good enough to overcome the cold, damp Pacific Northwest, but some impact from the new home environment is inevitable. It isn't all bad news for Cano, however. He managed 41 doubles last season and he is moving to a park that should actually help him in that area. It will take plenty of extra doubles to compensate for any lost home runs, but the outlook is not quite as grim as many fans might believe.

Bartolo Colon

Previous Home Park: Oakland Coliseum

New Home Park: CitiField

Key Differences: +12% LH home runs, +9% RH home runs

CitiField and Oakland Coliseum are both pitcher-friendly parks and both are fine environments for a guy who likes to attack the zone like Bartolo Colon. CitiField actually suppresses runs a bit more overall, but for Colon, it could be very difficult to match his success from 2013 in a place that is significantly more favorable to home runs. Colon has elite control but he doesn't miss too many bats and he posted his lowest ground ball rate since 2011 return last season along with the lowest FB/HR ratio of his career. Regression would be likely in any environment, but with Colon's skills, the jump in home run rates could exaggerate the issue.

Honorable Mention: Corey Hart, Nate McLouth, Curtis Granderson

Wild Cards

Jacoby Ellsbury

Previous Home Park: Fenway Park

New Home Park: Yankee Stadium

Key Difference: +21% LH home runs, -18% LH doubles

Ellsbury gets an even bigger boost in home runs from the move to the Bronx from Fenway and its expansive right field area than Beltran does coming from St. Louis, but it is tempered by a drop in doubles rates that is almost as extreme. While Beltran moved from a slightly pitcher-friendly environment in St. Louis, Ellbury is going from one hitter's park to another. It will be interesting to see how Yankee Stadium affects his production. Ellsbury uses the whole field well and Yankee stadium doesn't have a large green wall out in left turning outs into singles and doubles. Conversely, Fenway's right field fence is more than 50 feet deeper at points. The lure of easier home runs could tempt him to a more pull-heavy approach and that could work out well if it doesn't hurt his ability to get on-base. However, his speed remains his best tool and the cozier dimensions in right could also mean far fewer chances to take extra bases when the ball stays in the park.

Scott Kazmir

Previous Home Park: Progressive Field

New Home Park: Oakland Coliseum

Key Differences: +7% RH home runs, -8% IFFB rate

While Oakland has the reputation as one of the most pitcher-friendly environments, Progressive Field is actually one percent more favorable for pitchers. The key difference between the two comes from the Indians' home's ability to suppress right-handed home runs and triples, something that probably helped Kazmir come back to earth from the 9.5 percent HR/FB he posted between 2010-2011, his last significant time in the majors. However, Kazmir could benefit from his new digs thanks to an increased infield fly ball rate. Oakland's expansive foul ground could help him return to the double-digit IFFB rates of his Tampa Bay years and that would be boon from the veteran lefty.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join MLB Daily Dish

You must be a member of MLB Daily Dish to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at MLB Daily Dish. You should read them.

Join MLB Daily Dish

You must be a member of MLB Daily Dish to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at MLB Daily Dish. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker