2013 Fantasy Baseball: What’s in a Park?

There’s been a certain fantasy buzz this offseason around two teams that haven’t produced a lot of fantasy studs over the last few years: The Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.

Although the Mariners’ acquisitions of Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse have been partially responsible for that buzz, most of it seems to be coming from Safeco Field and Petco Park, the home stadiums of each team, deciding to move their fences in. It makes sense, as both parks are cavernous and don’t surrender many long balls. So, moving the fences in would naturally produce a few more.

My theory all offseason has been pretty simple. I wouldn’t overrate how important moving the fences in is when valuing a single player. The reason for this is that I believe that the size of parks is only a slight factor in how hitter or pitcher friendly it is. A prime example is Coors Field, the best hitter’s park in the league by far despite being one of the biggest stadiums in baseball. Toronto’s Rogers Centre and Arizona’s Chase Field provide similar examples. On the other end of the equation is San Francisco’s AT&T Park, which has one of the shortest right-field porches in all of baseball, but is a consistent power killer for lefties not named Barry Bonds.

But I have to admit that this was all just a theory. So, I decided to look up some recent history. In between the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the Tigers moved the fences in at Comerica Park, while the Mets did the same at Citi Field between the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Comerica Park:

Team HR at Comerica Park
2002 Tigers 61
2002 Opponents 61
2003 Tigers 67
2003 Opponents 95

Citi Field:

Team HR at Citi Field
2011 Mets 50
2011 Opponents 58
2012 Mets 67
2012 Opponents 88

It’s actually interesting that in both cases, the greater boost was given to the opponents.

Still, it is telling that the Mets hit 17 more home runs at home in 2011 than 2012, especially when you consider that they had Carlos Beltran for most of 2011, and Jose Reyes for all of it, while both were gone in 2012.

But focusing on the home team’s home runs, how significant are the jumps? It goes a little deeper than just six or 17 home runs. Those are team totals and we’re focusing on individual players.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that both the Padres and Mariners will experience a boost of 15-20 long balls at home, indicating that what happened to the Mets is more the norm than what happened to the Tigers.

Now let’s say that you’re evaluating Chase Headley, and you’re already assuming that 2012′s 31 HR/115 RBI campaign is more along the lines of what you can expect than his 11 HR/58 RBI 2010 season gave in similar at-bats. The question is really simple: How many of those 15 extra homers are going to go to Headley? A few, probably, but don’t go too overboard here.

In the case of Headley, the fences being moved in aren’t going to bump him from 31 to 45. If he makes that kind of leap, it will be more because of his improvement than any fences.

I’ll admit that looking back at those numbers, I was a little surprised that the numbers were as bolstered as they ended up being once the fences were moved in. Still, I don’t see it having much of an impact on an individual fantasy player. Even if you assume a big boost in team home runs, remember that those are split between 10-12 (if not more) regular or semi-regular players. When you break it down, the power boost to the individual isn’t that immense. Plan accordingly!

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