NBA baskets are supposed to be 10 feet off the ground. Imagine what would happen if NBA teams were allowed to arbitrarily set the height of their hoops and in Houston the hoop was 9 feet, 6 inches off the ground and in Cleveland it was 10 feet, 4 inches. Some players would find playing in Houston gave them an advantage and other players would find an advantage when playing in Cleveland.
That’s pretty much how baseball works: every park is different and different parks give certain players an advantage.
So if a ballplayer is looking at offers, he might want to play in a park where he’s performed well in the past. He might want to play in a park that favors his style of play. It wouldn’t be the only factor worth considering, but it would be on the list.
Today, let’s look at Eric Hosmer and the ballparks that favor his style of play.
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Hosmer at home
Over his career, Hosmer has had 4,393 plate appearances with a batting average of .284, an on-base percentage of .342 and a slugging percentage of .439.
Because 2,121 of his plate appearances came while playing in Kauffman Stadium, Hosmer’s career numbers while playing in his home ballpark are roughly the same: .282/.344/.440.
Hosmer’s second-most plate appearances, 260, came while playing in Detroit, so you can see why his home numbers dominate his overall numbers.
Hosmer on the road
I’ve arbitrarily picked 100 plate appearances as the cutoff point because it’s a round number, a pretty decent sample size and keeps me from talking about all 29 ballparks that aren’t Kauffman Stadium.
Assuming I transcribed the Baseball Reference numbers correctly, here’s Hosmer’s batting average/on-base percentage/and slugging percentage when playing in different parks:
▪ Angel Stadium (LA Angels): .214/.307/.347
▪ Camden Yards (Baltimore): .253/.336/.326
▪ Comerica Park (Detroit): .300/.358/.498
▪ Fenway Park (Boston): .354/.404/.485
▪ Progressive Field (Cleveland): .299/.347/.465
▪ Rogers Centre (Toronto): .297/.324/.406
▪ Target Field (Minnesota): .274/.340/.422
▪ Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay): .299/.367/.423
▪ Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox): .228/.271/.427
▪ Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees): .283/.343/.478
A quick look at this list makes it abundantly clear that it’s dumb to name your stadium after an insurance company, because when I say “Guaranteed Rate Field” I’m guessing “Chicago White Sox” does not leap to the forefront of your mind.
But I digress.
Keep in mind that the ballpark is only one factor in a player’s performance. We’ve ignored the pitchers Hosmer faced, the guys hitting in front of him and behind him, the score and all the other stuff that makes a difference.
But ballparks are a factor, so let’s get back to which ballparks seem to favor Eric Hosmer’s style of play and compare two of them.
Yankee Stadium vs. Fenway Park
A lot of people have mentioned Yankee Stadium as a possible destination for Hosmer because they figure a left-handed hitter with pop taking aim at a short right-field porch makes a lot of sense. That and the Yankees usually have a bajillion dollars to spend and usually get whatever they want.
But a lot of people — including Eric Hosmer — think he’s at his best when he hits the ball to the opposite field. When Hosmer pulls the ball he hits .297; when he hits the ball to the opposite field, Hosmer hits .420.
According to the Internet, which as I’ve mentioned before is totally infallible, Fenway’s Green Monster is 310 feet from home plate and 37 feet, 2 inches high. People talk about it being a target for right-handed hitters, but it can make a left-handed, opposite-field hitter a superstar.
Wade Boggs won five batting titles while playing in Fenway and a big part of his game was banging singles and doubles off the Green Monster.
So imagine what Eric Hosmer could do, hitting the ball to the opposite field while playing in Fenway Park.
But the ballpark is just one factor when considering offers
When I talked to Hosmer just before the season ended, he sounded like he genuinely did not know where he would wind up, it would depend on the offers that came in. Offer a ballplayer enough money and he might be willing to play north of the Arctic Circle.
But money isn’t always the deciding factor. Some players don’t want to live in the Midwest, some players don’t want to deal with the East Coast media. Some players want to go where they have a chance to win. And sometimes the deciding factor isn’t anything we think about: I’ve heard of a player rejecting an offer because his wife didn’t want to live in that city.
Ballparks are just one factor in a player’s decision, but they are a factor.
And next week, we’ll take a look at Mike Moustakas and where he likes to play.