Park Factors On The Road For The 2013 Red Sox

Nick Laham

The effects of Fenway Park are well known and we love to muse about them here at Over the Monster, but what effects do the away parks have on the team?

One thing that has been discussed quite regularly here at Over the Monster is the impact that playing at Fenway Park can have on players. I looked at Fenway’s impact on Cody Ross and Felix Doubront in the 2012 season and I already speculated about the benefits the Cathedral of Boston could hold for Shane Victorino this offeason. Marc Normandin wrote about how Jonny Gomes may be a perfect match for the place, and you don’t have to Bill James to connect the presence of the Green Monster to Mike Napoli’s pull heavy stroke. With 81 games played at home, nothing has a greater potential impact than a player’s home park, but what about those other 81 games?

It is pretty common to hear comments about how tough it is for a pitcher to succeed in the AL East or how the division might benefit a hitter like Stephen Drew, who is looking to rebuild his value on a one-year deal. At the same time, we tend to think of road numbers as being neutral where environment is concerned. With numbers for RH/LH splits care of Fangraphs, I took a detailed look at this issue recently and discovered that while the unbalanced does produce some slight differences in road environments, those differences are small and they are schedule specific, since a few games in interleague play and outside of the division are not consistent year to year, but they are there, and the Red Sox actually have some of the more noticeable effects going on.

As we intuit, the Red Sox, playing in the AL East typically gives the Red Sox a fairly friendly road environment. By my calculations, Boston’s typical park factors on the Road look like this*:

Red Sox Park Factors Away

Singles

Doubles

Home Runs

LH

100

100

103

RH

100

99

102

That is based on a neutral environment for interleague games and an even distribution of games against the other non-divisional American League teams and not the specific 2013. It is basically what we expect. Playing extra games in New York, Toronto and Baltimore boosts home runs, especially for lefties (thanks New Yankee Stadium) and everything else is pretty neutral. When calculated for the actual 2013 schedule, the results are the same. An extra game at Yankee stadium and an extra game at Camden Yards, balance out the extra away games in both Seattle and in Detroit, leaving the Red Sox road schedule favorable to hitters overall, with lefties getting the bigger boost.

Inter-league play has the Red Sox traveling to a few extreme environments in 2013. They will play in the offensive wonderland that is Coors Field and in Philly’s lefty-friendly Citizen Bank Park for two games each, but they will also visit San Francisco and L.A. which would appear to even things out. All together this year’s interleague schedule has Boston playing in slightly pro-hitter’s environments on the road, even with the NL West teams on the schedule.

Red Sox Park Factors Interleague Play

Singles

Doubles

Home Runs

LH

101

101

101

RH

101

102

100

Combined with the extremes of Fenway Park, the total environmental impact on the 2013 Red Sox looks like this:

Red Sox Combined

Home and Road Park Factors

Singles

Doubles

Home Runs

LH

100

109

98

RH

101

105

100

The effects of park factors on the road pale in comparison the impact that Fenway has on the game, but like Fenway, they tend favor offense for the Red Sox. As it turns out, there is some truth to the notion that the AL East is a more difficult place to pitch than other divisions because of the parks on the road as well, but it is easy to exaggerate those effects. The differences in park factor effects in road games is understandably small, but Boston has some of the more significant variations in road games park factors and the pro-offense inter-league schedule adds to that this year, if just a small amount. At other times, the road factors could be even closer to neutral. These numbers also exclude any compensation for the change in fences at Safeco, which could lead to even more offense if they achieve their goal out in Seattle.

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