Thursday, May 24, 2007

Size Matters

With the preface that I'm not trying to piss on anyone's parade...

Yesterday's homer outburst was fun to watch (at least when we weren't pitching!), but much of it comes down to a difference in parks, not so much the quality of the team's offense. As I said in a post a day or two ago, GAB's ballpark yields about 40% more homers than RFK does. The main reason for this is the size of the park.

I stole some diagrams from our good friends at Diamond-Mind baseball, and overlaid the two parks so you can get an idea of what kind of size differences we're talking about.

RFK, you can hopefully guess, is in blue. GAB was in Red, but the pretty purple color (damn color blending!) seems appropriate too.

You can see the huge difference in territory in the two gaps. If you hit it in the first 5-10 rows to right at GAB, it's on the warning track at RFK. Same thing, to a lesser extent, in left. It also shows one of the reasons that batting averages are so much lower at RFK: there's a ton of foul territory there. I haven't seen the stats on it lately, but in '05, RFK had more foulouts than almost every other park, roughly 2 a game.

The Nats hit four homers last night, and I'd guess from watching them, that only two of them would've been out at RFK.

--Ryan Church's first-inning homer landed 3 rows or so just to the left of the gap in right. That's probably a warning-track shot at RFK.

--Brian Schneider's fourth-inning homer went a few rows back in right-center, and likely would've stayed in the park at RFK.

--Ryan Zimmerman's is probably out at RFK, especially because he pulled it, but it's a lot closer than the monster shot it looks like here.

--Ryan Church's second homer would've hit off the Wall of Stars.

--Ryan Freel definitely wouldn't have had a homer either.

The Nats did a good job of taking advantage of their surroundings. And I'm not trying to denigrate the offense. I'm just saying that you need to consider the context of events.

RFK has a strong negative effect on the team's batters, so looking at their raw stats doesn't really do them justice. At the same time, our pitchers would perform worse in a different environment.

But this also means that you can't look at an offensive explosion in a bandbox of a park against crappy pitchers and think that the team has finally figured out how to hit. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The next question, then, is how will this affect the team next year?

Here's an overhead of the new park: I haven't seen much on the dimensions, but what I can dig up:
332 to left, 377 left-center, 409 center, 370 right-center, 335 to right.

The picture makes those dimensions look pretty generous, but the gaps are 10-20 feet closer in the new place than they are at RFK (where they're about 390). They're much closer to GAB's dimensions (379 to the gap in left, 370 to the gap in right), than they are to RFK.

That's not to say that it's going to play the same way. Atmospheric conditions -- humidity, wind, air pressure, etc -- play a large role.

But it certainly seems like we'll be due for more offense next year, even before they run out and sign Andruw Jones. (HA!)


  • Why HA?

    Is it because you think the Lerner's won't shell out the cash?

    Is it because Andruw won't be worth what he will command on the open market?

    If the ownership group decides they have to overpay to get a star for the new ballpark, please let it be Andruw. He's got relative youth, a track record, and plays a premium defensive position.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/24/2007 11:19 AM  

  • I wish they would.

    But we're looking at the Soriano contract as an opening bid.

    Do you really think they'd shell that out?

    Likely, we're going to get someone lesser, like Torii Hunter, God help us.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/24/2007 11:21 AM  

  • Church actually told Byron Kerr last night after the game that he felt his first homer would not have most likely gone out of RFK. But, he liked the fact that you could "just flip the bat" at GABP and hit it out. Church would hit 40 homers there if it was his home field.

    By Blogger Screech's Best Friend, at 5/24/2007 11:21 AM  

  • FWIW, the current ballpark with the most similar dimensions to the Nats' new park seems to be Cleveland's Jacobs Field. 410 to deepest part of center, 375 right center, 370 left center, and 325 to the poles, with a nice hitters porch in right. For its first 8 seasons, Jacobs field played as a slight hitter's park, but the past 4 seasons its played as a slight pitcher's park. I don't know if the dimensions changed during this time.

    By Anonymous Natty Fan, at 5/24/2007 11:38 AM  

  • I've got Jacobs Field with about a 110 homer factor.

    When I saw the overhead of the new park, that's what I thought of.

    Remember, though, that Jacobs has a high wall in left. the one at the new Nats park is only half as high.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/24/2007 11:41 AM  

  • Andruw Jones? Seriously?! You want to pay $22M a year for the next six years for Adam Dunn plus good CF defense?!?!

    Andruw is next offseason's Barry Zito. There's no way he'll be worth what he commands on the open market.

    By Blogger Nate, at 5/24/2007 11:45 AM  

  • This is a great job here of putting into context just how huge RFK stadium is (especially from a 2007 relative standpoint).

    It makes one appreciate even more what a monster Frank Howard was, being able to hit those kinds of moonshots way back then. I would have loved to have been able to see that guy play live!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/24/2007 12:39 PM  

  • It's not just GAB vs. RFK. The Nats have played 33 of their games so far at either RFK, Shea, Petco or Dolphins Stadium. Even the games at Wrigley, the wind was coming in. The games this week were very important to show that our team can actually hit, and Randy St. Claire's ability to work miracles is limited.

    Summer is coming, and I predict that our hitters will move closer to average, and our pitchers will be exposed if we don't get healthy fast.

    By Anonymous Steve, at 5/24/2007 1:13 PM  

  • Excellent point, Steve.

    When I did those posts back at the time of the Soriano trade, I wrote about how looking at his splits wasn't accurate because he had a road park DISadvantage.

    I hadn't thought about that in the context of the Nats this year, but that's definitely true.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/24/2007 1:16 PM  

  • It also looks like the amount of foul ground will be much less in the new park--so as to get the (expensive) seats closer to the game. As you mentioned, that is another big factor in affecting offense.

    It's a shame the Nats really don't have a chance at Ichiro (he's unlikely to want to go to a last-place team). He'd actually be worth the price he'd command.

    By Anonymous Simon Oliver Lockwood, at 5/24/2007 3:56 PM  

  • Chris,

    What is the deal with Nook and THE Bunt? How can Acta rationalize this one away? Bunting is all Logan can do at the plate. Is Acta really going to just let it go and play him again tonight? Come on, set a tone, bench his butt, or is Jimbo making the call here in an effort to fool some poor GM into taking him off or hands?

    By Blogger JayB, at 5/24/2007 4:30 PM  

  • I didn't see THE BUNT but I did see Christian Guzman nearly non-chalant his way into an out last night. If Gonzalez had not fumbled the ball a 2nd time, Guzman would have been out because he did not hustle out of the box.

    Now, didn't Ryan Church get benched for something similar? Or does the fact that he recovered in time and eventually scored wipe away the crime?

    By Anonymous Kirk, at 5/24/2007 4:49 PM  

  • "Andruw Jones? Seriously?! You want to pay $22M a year for the next six years for Adam Dunn plus good CF defense?!?! "

    Yes. Absolutely. You Betcha.

    Remember the terms of the debate though . . . a big FA signing is a necessity, its unavoidable from a PR standpoint. If you accept this premise, then you will be forced to overpay for someone, the question becomes who?

    Over the course of whatever length contact you give, Andruw is likely to retain the highest level of his skills (patience, power) than anyone else in the FA class. His defense will decline over time but he's starting at such a high point that a decline goes only to mediocre.

    Guys that start their careers as teenagers generally last a long time and some have even been known to have late career power surges (yes I'm looking at you Mr. Big Head in the Bay).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/24/2007 4:59 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Ray, at 5/24/2007 8:55 PM  

  • I hope the new place isn't going to be a joke, or an impossible cavern. Let's hope it turns out to be awesome. But, it looks like the trend in new parks is small.

    Speaking of dreaming....How about Chipper too! Just the thought would send my in-laws into a tizzzy. Which is always nice.

    By Blogger Ray, at 5/24/2007 9:03 PM  

  • Kirk wrote:
    "I didn't see THE BUNT but I did see Christian Guzman nearly non-chalant his way into an out last night. If Gonzalez had not fumbled the ball a 2nd time, Guzman would have been out because he did not hustle out of the box.

    "Now, didn't Ryan Church get benched for something similar? Or does the fact that he recovered in time and eventually scored wipe away the crime?"

    Me too. I don't get the favoritism Acta seems to show--he loves Fick and plays Logan, who reminds me of my own at-bats :-)

    By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 5/24/2007 10:28 PM  

  • By Blogger Sneakers hobbies, at 10/25/2009 8:23 PM  

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