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2021 Fantasy Baseball Park Factors: Move to Mets a downgrade for Francisco Lindor?

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Ballpark factors are often underrated and can have a pretty noticeable impact, especially at the extreme ends. Of course, how the ball plays this year is another story altogether, considering there are lingering questions about the 2020 version.

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We start with the best pitching parks before moving to the most favorable places to hit, breaking those down further between runs scored and homers (including handedness). All data is courtesy of The Bill James Handbook and unless otherwise noted, uses the last three seasons as our sample.

The following parks are listed with the most extreme at the top, with “100” league average:

PITCHER'S PARKS (Runs Scored, 2018-2020)

New York Mets (84)

Oakland A’s (85)

Miami Marlins (89)

Seattle Mariners (90)

Los Angeles Dodgers (90)

Citi Field in New York is relatively neutral in homers (103), but no park has decreased run-scoring and batting average (90) more, while also boosting strikeouts an MLB-high 11 percent as well. Given the Mets play in the NL (with likely no DH), should have improved run support, and added Francisco Lindor’s elite glove at shortstop, New York is the most favorable place to pitch by far right now.

It will be interesting to see what career American Leaguers Carlos Carrasco (monster park upgrade) and Taijuan Walker do under improved circumstances, and it’s a tiebreaker for those deciding between Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole in Round 1. Lindor gets a big downgrade in home parks though, going from Cleveland to NY (although this almost makes up for it).

New York Mets' Francisco Lindor
Francisco Lindor is a superstar — but his offensive output could be in peril in Citi Field. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

All that extra foul territory in Oakland helps, but the Coliseum also decreased home runs an AL-high 21% over the last three years, with only Miami (26%) suppressing power more over that span. Sean Manaea and Elieser Hernandez are two pitchers who will benefit from their home parks; they're going way too late in fantasy drafts. Seattle has also boosted strikeouts by 10% while reducing walks (5%) and BA (an AL-high 6%), so James Paxton picked a smart environment to sign a one-year deal.

Dodger Stadium is about as fantasy-friendly as it gets, helping pitchers by suppressing run-scoring while also boosting homers for hitters (especially righties). LA’s pitchers can afford to give a few extra long balls given their advantages literally everywhere else, including a home park that not only helps ERA but also WHIP, as Dodger Stadium has decreased walks an MLB-high 15% over the last three seasons. Trevor Bauer is getting a significant upgrade in home parks, while volume is Walker Buehler’s only hurdle to winning the Cy Young this year.

Wrigley Field is especially fickle given how extreme the wind can be in both directions, but I’ll point out it suppressed run-scoring by an MLB-high 28% during last year’s shortened season, and it’s where Yu Darvish tossed 74% of his innings.

HITTER'S PARKS (Runs Scored, 2018-2020)

Colorado Rockies (135)

Cincinnati Reds (111)

Washington Nationals (106)

Atlanta Braves (106)

Boston Red Sox (106)

Cleveland Indians (106)

Kansas City Royals (106)

This should assist in fully illustrating just how ridiculous Coors Field is, as it’s increased run scoring by a whopping 35% over the last three seasons, with the next best 24% worse. Over that span, it’s also boosted BA an MLB-high 21% and decreased strikeouts by 11% (the second-most in MLB), while checking in second in home runs (20%). Coors Field’s Park Factor for triples over the last three years is 204 — as in, it’s increased them by 104% compared to average.

Coors Field should be treated differently and in its own tier when compared to the rest of baseball.

Sahlen Field (121) was crazy hitter-friendly last season, albeit in a short sample, and the full schedule for the Blue Jays in 2021 remains to be seen. Still, it seems pretty safe to generally project the team’s “home” games to be much friendlier to their hitters than pitchers this season.

Moreover, it should also be noted San Francisco’s Oracle Park played much more favorable to hitters in 2020. After decreasing run scoring 12% from 2017-2019 (the second-most in baseball), San Francisco increased run-scoring last season by 7%. A few caveats apply, as it was an especially short sample (60 games) that started during the summer months (SF routinely averages the coldest temperature at game time), and the archways were changed with no fans in attendance, so some characteristics may not carry over into 2021.

However, the right-field dimensions were also changed dramatically. This, along with the bullpen permanently moving makes SF’s park factors a real wild card moving forward. The best guess is to expect something around neutral. The most dramatic change seemingly directly involved those RF fences being moved, however, as SF decreased home runs for left-handed batters an MLB-high 41% over the previous three seasons before boosting them by 22% last year (third-highest in baseball).

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Oracle Park also increased walks by 21% last season, which is another way of saying Barry Bonds would’ve recorded a .700 OBP and hit approximately 90 homers if he played under the current conditions in the bay.

From 2017-2019, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was close to Coors Field, increasing runs scored by 27%. During the team’s first year playing in Globe Life Field last year, their new home park was neutral (100) in run-scoring, even decreasing homers by 14%, as fears of the jet stream disappearing came to fruition. Adjust your fantasy rankings accordingly for Rangers moving forward; I now feel quite silly for signing Joey Gallo to a long-term deal in a dynasty format a couple of years back.

Cincinnati has also increased homers for righties an MLB-high 30% over this span, so sign me up for Nick Senzel’s breakout and big bounce backs from Eugenio Suarez and Nick Castellanos.

From 2017-2019, only Coors Field and Texas increased run scoring more than Nationals Park, and only one of those still exists. Oddly, only Wrigley Field and Minute Maid decreased run scoring more than Washington (20%) last season, going from a top-three hitter’s park to bottom three. I’m chalking it up as small-sample noise, and aggressively targeting Starlin Castro, Josh Bell, and Kyle Schwarber in fantasy leagues.

Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, and Kansas City round out baseball’s top-tier hitting parks. Not all arrive there equally, as Kansas City and Boston are two of the toughest parks to hit home runs in all of baseball. Hitters in Fenway can expect a big boost in batting average but a drain in homers regardless of handedness, so it was no surprise when Mookie Betts finished with his best power numbers after joining LA last season. Finally, no pitchers in baseball rely on their defense more than those throwing in Kauffman Stadium.

HOME RUNS (separated by handedness)

Righties

Cincinnati Reds (130)

Los Angeles Dodgers (123)

Philadelphia Phillies (121)

Colorado Rockies (118)

Milwaukee Brewers (114)

Eugenio Suarez is one season removed from hitting 49 homers and is currently in "the best shape of his life” after a down 2020 following surgery. I have Suarez ranked ahead of Nolan Arenado, whose ADP is 60 spots higher. Arenado goes from a hitter’s paradise in Coors to Busch Stadium, which has decreased homers by 15% for RHB over the last three seasons. He’s likely to see an even bigger decline in batting average.

A.J. Pollock hit .280/.324/.624 with nine homers over 93 ABs in Dodger Stadium last year, and he has top-20 fantasy OF upside if his health should somehow cooperate. Don’t worry about Chris Taylor not having a defined defensive role, as he’ll ultimately be close to an everyday player and is another righty who’ll benefit from Dodger Stadium.

Citizens Bank Park is another reason to be in on J.T. Realmuto, and I’m actively targeting both Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery. Meanwhile, Alec Bohm will need to start hitting more fly balls (his GB% would’ve ranked 12th-highest last year had he qualified) if he’s going to take advantage of his home park.

Coors Field really is unfair, as German Marquez would immediately become an elite fantasy starter if traded, but instead he’s barely rosterable. Marquez had a 2.98 FIP at home last season to go along with his 5.68 ERA and 1.50 WHIP (an MLB-high .371 BABIP will do that). Meanwhile, C.J. Cron should suddenly be drafted ahead of Luke Voit. Brendan Rodgers is a sleeper, and Kyle Freeland once finishing fourth in Cy Young voting seems like a dream.

In Milwaukee, I’d take Keston Hiura over DJ LeMahieu, which is a hot take according to ADP, while Avisail Garcia is my favorite outfield sleeper. And despite Miller Park’s homer-happy tendencies, it’s neutral in run-scoring, decreases batting average, and is one of the best parks in boosting strikeouts. That means draft Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burns, and Freddy Peralta with confidence.

Lefties

Cincinnati Reds (132)

Los Angeles Angels (128)

Colorado Rockies (121)

Philadelphia Phillies (119)

Chicago White Sox (116)

Only Coors Field has increased run scoring more than Great American Ballpark over the last three years. GAB has also boosted homers more than any park both for lefties and righties during that span. Cincinnati has also increased Ks by 11%, but it’s undoubtedly one of the tougher parks to pitch in all of baseball. A healthy Mike Moustakas could absolutely hit 45 homers here.

Ever since the Angels moved in their right field-fences three seasons ago, Anaheim has essentially played as the best HR park for lefties, so I’m buying Shohei Ohtani as a long-shot MVP candidate and considering Jared Walsh a sleeper worth targeting.

San Francisco may not be quite as hitter-friendly this season compared to last, but the new RF dimensions remain; Oracle Park (122) suddenly looks very different for lefty batters. Brandon Belt isn’t going to threaten Cal Ripken’s Iron Man streak but remains curiously free at draft tables for someone who posted a higher OPS and wRC+ than last season’s AL MVP winner.

Didi Gregorius could be a sneaky 30-homer source at middle infield, while Bryce Harper has a 50-HR season still somewhere in him.

Adam Eaton is a sleeper hitting toward the top of Chicago’s lineup, while Yoan Moncada is almost certain to outperform his projections, which don’t know how much his season was compromised by COVID last year. The switch-hitter plays in a home park that’s favorable for power to both sides, and Moncada posted a 140 wRC+ and finished in the top 2% in exit velocity as a 24-year-old during MLB's last full season. His ADP is a gift as the 10th third baseman off Yahoo draft boards.

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