I recently discovered that espn.com now provides stats for what it calls “park factor,” that is, the ratio between runs scored per game in each park divided by the runs scored in the home team’s away games.
Espn.com provides “park factor” for each season going back to 2001. However, individual seasons don’t mean all that much, because like individual players, ball parks are subject to wild swings from one year to the next in terms of whether more or less runs are scored at home than away. For all but the best (Coors Field) and the worst (Petco Park) parks, it’s only over a period of years that you can determine which parks are really the best and worst for offense.
I used a five-year sample (2007 through 2011), which still may not be enough, but it’s certainly more meaningful than one or two seasons. Here are the best to worst hitters’ parks in terms of runs scored for the period from 2007 through 2011:
1. Coors Field (Rockies) 1.245
2. The Ballpark at Arlington (Rangers) 1.141
3. Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 1.127
4. Fenway Park (Red Sox) 1.116
5. Wrigley Field (Cubs) 1.098
6. New Yankee Stadium (Yankees) 1.091 [Old Yankee Stadium, 2004-2008, 1.002]
7. U.S. Cellular Park (White Sox) 1.079
8. Camden Yards (Orioles) 1.061
9. Great American Ballpark (Reds) 1.046
10. Comerica Park (Tigers) 1.039
11. Sun Life Stadium (Marlins) 1.038 [Marlins Park,which opened this year, has a whopping 1.271 park factor so far in 2012.]
12. Citizens Bank Park (Phillies) 1.016
13. Kauffman Stadium (Royals) 1.015
14. Rogers Center (Blue Jays) 1.010
15. Minute Maid Park (Astros) 0.996
16. Nationals Park (Nationals) 0.992 [RFK Stadium, where the Nats played 2005-2007, 0.892]
17. Miller Park (Brewers) 0.978
18. Progressive Field (Indians) 0.972
19. PNC Park (Pirates) 0.970
20. Turner Field (Braves) 0.966
21. Angels Stadium (Angels) 0.964
22. AT&T Park (Giants) 0.953
22. Target Field (Twins) 0.953 [Mall of America Field (the Metrodome), 2005-2009, 0.966]
24. Busch Stadium (Cardinals) 0.926
25. Dodger Stadium (Dodgers) 0.925
25. Oakland Coliseum (A’s) 0.925
27. Citi Field (Mets) 0.914 [Shea Stadium, 2004-2008, 0.886]
28. Safeco Field (Mariners) 0.899
29. Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.892
30. Petco Park (Padres) 0.799
Not many surprises among the five best and five worst places to hit, although I personally was a bit surprised that Tropicana Field is the second-worst park to hit in over the last five years, excluding the now demolished Shea Stadium.
(No sadness about Shea’s destruction from these quarters — of the seven ballparks in which I’ve watched major league baseball games, Shea was the worst, easily beating out Candlestick Park, the Oakland Coliseum and the Vet in Philadelphia for that dubious distinction. What made Shea the worst was that the sight lines were terrible: the lower deck seats were too flat, making it hard to see over the person in front of you; and the upper deck seats were too steep, making you feel like you were watching the game from outer space. That said, I saw some good baseball there, including a Darryl Strawberry walk-off home run off John Franco in 1988 that may have been the hardest hit ball I’ve ever seen in person.)
The biggest surprises in my mind are that neither Minute Maid Park or Turner Field were higher on the list. I remember the early days of Minute Maid, when it was named Enron Field and commonly referred to as Ten-Run Field because of all the scoring there. Similarly, Atlanta has always been a good place to hit, regardless of the ballpark played in, due to the hot summer weather and the 1,000+ feet of elevation at which the city sits.
From 2002 through 2006, the previous five year period, Minute Maid Park had a park factor of 1.031, which would be 12th on the list above, a good, but not great, place to hit. Turner Field, however, was a terrible place to hit from 2002 through 2006, coming in at 0.866. Actually, Turner Field was a good place to hit in 2001 and in 2004 through 2006 (on average), but was absolutely horrendous (0.655 and 0.651) in 2002 and 2003.
As mentioned above, parks vary greatly from year to year, so perhaps ten-year averages would be more meaningful than five year averages. Of course, ballparks also change over time (five new parks have opened since the start of the 2008 season), which means that parks rise and fall somewhat depending on whether or not the new parks are good places to hit.
Of the five new parks noted above, all except for Target Field appear to be better hitters’ parks than the ball parks they replaced, and Target Field so far looks to be only a little bit worse than the Metrodome.
This isn’t particularly surprising: baseball fans like offense, so new parks presumably are constructed with offense in mind. Also, the new parks are generally baseball-only and are much cozier than the multi-use stadiums that were constructed between 1960 and 1985, the previous generation of baseball stadiums. Less foul territory means fewer foul-outs and thus higher batting averages and more runs scored.