Tuesday, November 22, 2005

RFK Is A Monster

News Flash: RFK is an extreme pitcher's park. Shocking, I know. Using a little-known (at least to me) tool at MLB.com, I tried to get a feeling for how much of a factor it was.

I started by looking at each player's hitting chart (linked below). I looked at each batter's fly-outs, doubles and triples, to get an idea of how the park affected their stats. For each, I looked at where the ball landed. If it landed on the warning track in the power alleys, it's got a good chance of being a home run in a more neutral park. Dead center and down the lines are pretty fair in this park, so balls to the warning track there don't count.

A bit of caution, though. Not all doubles and triples are created equally. Some are high fly balls that skip off the wall. Some are low lasers that hit and bounce. Without going in ball by ball, there's no way of knowing which is which. It's a rough estimate, but could be interesting. I also checked foul outs. RFK had a lot of foul territory, and I noted foul outs to the warning track near the dugouts -- where the distance is deepest.

Sorted by most home ABs:

Brad Wilkerson: He hit four fly ball outs to the warning track in right, hit four doubles that could've been homers, and one triple, for a max total of 9 home runs lost. He had one close foul out.

Jose Guillen: We might owe Jose an apology. Three fly-outs to right, two to left, and four (maybe five) doubles, for a total potential of 9 lost homers. He fouled out twelve (12!!) times, but only one was close.

Vinny Castilla: (His flyouts show that he's really not a pull hitter, despite his reputation). He has one flyout to right, one to left, and conservatively six doubles lost, for a total of 8 potential homers. He only fouled out 5 times, and three of those were close. (I must've seen every one then!)

Cristian Guzman: (Heed the warning in my preface about the way the balls were hit!) He had one fly-out to left and two to right, and picks up two doubles and two triples, for a total of 7 potential homers. I know that one of the triples and doubles are legit (I was at both games and thought he had them) but his atrociousness really makes me wonder about the validity of the rest. Still, there were a few times when he did destroy balls.

Nick Johnson: He lost one to right (close call) and two to left. Conservatively, two of his doubles could've been out, but as many as five, giving him a total of five homers lost. He also had one close foul-out.

Brian Schneider: He had one long out to right, and one to left. He chipped in one triple and two doubles, for a grand total of five potential losses.

Ryan Church: The park wasn't his problem this season, with just two close doubles, but three close foul-outs.

Jamey Carroll: Ha! If you want to see something depressing, look at his fly-ball chart. He wishes he had Dave Magadan's power.

Jose Vidro: He wouldn't gain any homers from fly-outs, but two doubles and one triple were close.

Preston Wilson: He'd pick up a fly to right, one triple, and one double. Chip in one foul-out, if you're feeling realllly generous.

Marlon Byrd: He'd pick up two, maybe three fly-outs to left, and two doubles, and a triple. Five isn't a bad total for a part-time player!
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That's by no means definitive, but it is a starting point, and should be factored in when evaluating our hitters. The Nationals hit just 46 homers at RFK. There are 56 potential homers just on this list. Even if only 1/3 of them are valid, that's tacking on 50% more homers, and God knows how many runs.

Of course, it'd also be important to play the same game with the hits and outs allowed by our pitchers. Flyballers like Chad Cordero, John Patterson, and Luis Ayala were saved multiple times by catches at the track.

Just moving the fences in to the intended dimensions (which would be about where the warning track begins now) would have a pretty dramatic effect on the team's batters. I'm not smart enough to know whether the team would be helped or hurt by that, but I really hope that someone in the Nats front office is looking at that issue. Tony Tavares has said that they're not planning on moving the fences, even to the intended dimensions. I hope that that's out of a plan, and not because of thriftiness.

As always, I'm not holding my breath.