Is this the final post on park factors?
Could be. A lot of ink has been spilt lately on park factors, with the Inquirer going so far as to claim the Phils had a "Home Field Disadvantage" due to the Cit. I am so tired of the whole thing, I decided to do a little research to finally answer the questions raised by the Phillies Home field.
First, here's an interesting article on winning chances for extreme parks. Conclusion: Get a great pitching staff together if you have a hitters park. Here's another article which states a few interesting things: Most teams play better at home than the road, and the Phils don't even have the biggest differential. Also, the Phils bullpen has been managed in a fairly average way this year, which IMHO is a whole let better than last year.
Looking deeper, I did some data mining about the Phils this year and the park and the opponents and the opponents' parks. My primary conclusion: variables compound so quickly as to make this job very, very hard! But bear with me, and I'll take you step by step through some of my discoveries and conclusions.
First, referring again to the first article, park factors can vary from year to year (small sample size is a real thing, people). Thus, while the Phillies have a big park factor this year for hitting, last year they didn't so much (Eric Milton's claims notwithstanding). I'm going to link ESPN's park factors, but there always seem to be problems with their site, so buyer beware. But the Phillies have a park factor of 1.342 this year and 1.024 last year. This averages to be a factor of 1.183. I looked at the averages for all the clubs over three years (or as long as the park has been in existence) and got the following:
1.153 Ameriquest Field (Rangers)
0.940 Angel Stadium (Angels)
0.939 Bank One Ballpark (Diamondbacks)
1.148 Busch Stadium (Cardinals)
0.903 Camden Yards (Orioles)
1.183 Citizens Bank Park (Phillies)
0.912 Comerica Park (Tigers)
1.380 Coors Field (Rockies)
0.834 Dodger Stadium (Dodgers)
0.897 Dolphins Stadium (Marlins)
1.092 Fenway Park (Red Sox)
0.944 Great American (Reds)
1.156 Jacobs Field (Indians)
1.282 Kauffman Stadium (Royals)
0.858 McAfee Coliseum (Athletics)
1.147 Metrodome (Twins)
0.996 Miller Park (Brewers)
0.908 Minute Maid Park (Astros)
0.803 PETCO Park (Padres)
1.031 PNC Park (Pirates)
0.809 RFK Stadium (Nationals)
1.082 Rogers Centre (Blue Jays)
0.856 Safeco Field (Mariners)
0.876 SBC Park (Giants)
0.913 Shea Stadium (Mets)
0.996 Tropicana Field (Devil Rays)
0.804 Turner Field (Braves)
1.029 U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox)
0.981 Wrigley Field (Cubs)
0.898 Yankee Stadium (Yankees)
One important thing to observe here: the Phillies have played their road games in a lot of pitcher's parks. In fact, the average Phillies road game in 2005 has had a park effect of 0.915, suppressing runs at a nearly 10% clip! I got this number by averaging the park effect, allowing for the total number of games played in each park. The only hitter friendly parks the Phils have played in this year is the relatively neutral Pittsburgh (1.031) and the hitter friendly St. Louis park (1.148). All other parks are mild to extreme pitcher's parks. Be espicially mindful of the fact that ALL of the NL East teams but the Phillies play in heavy to extreme pitchers' parks. Braves - 0.804, Marlins - .0897. Nationals -0.809. Mets - 0.913 (a comparative hitter's playground!)
Without going any further, I would like to state that this confirms my suspicion that one of the main reasons that the Cit is seen as "Coors field lite" is because it isn't a pitcher's park, unlike so many others the Phillies play in.
I entered into my database the total runs scored by the Phils in each game this year, then divided those runs by the park factor in which the game was played. For example, we beat Baltimre 9-3, which has a park factor of 0.903, for the total "Park Neutral Run Total" of 9.97 runs that game. Applying that formula to the total road games for the year, we see that the Phils have scored a park neutral average of 4.341 RPG on the road this year. Doing the same for all the Cit games this year with a park factor of 1.183, the Phils scored a park neutral average of 4.47 RPG at home. In other words, the Phils offense has been about the same at home as on the road, modified for park factor. I didn't draw any conclusions from this, but it's still pretty interesting to me. It's an indication that the offense, at least, has been pretty consistent this year.
However, does this tell the whole story? You know it doesn't! Because the Phils don't play the same teams on the road as they do at home, isn't it fair to account for the strength of the opposing pitching staffs when looking at runs scored at home vs. on the road? One would think so!
So, I developed a stat, Strength Of Opposing Pitching (SOOP), in which I compared opposing pitching staff's total OPS against to the Major League Average. The ML average OPS against is 0.751. The Nationals, for example, have an OPS against of 0.724, which leads to a factor of 0.965 (OPS Against /ML Average Against). Now, this can lead to endless "chicken or the egg" arguements as to how much the Nats are helped by their park, and how much they help their park, and seemingly endless iterations of both. But to simplify, I left the rations raw as described. Here's what I got:
Chicago Cubs 0.987
Chicago Sox 0.925
Kansas City 1.062
LA Angels 0.945
LA Dodgers 1.010
NY Mets 0.941
NY Yankees 1.026
San Diego 0.969
San Francisco 1.057
St. Louis 0.949
Tampa Bay 1.097
Anyhoot, the average SOOP for Phillies road games was 0.970, while at home it has been 1.016. In other words, at least some of the home cooking for the offense can be explained by the fact that we have faced better pitching staffs on the road than at home! Seattle and Oakland, for example, the Phils played on the road but not at home, have SOOP totals of 0.985 and 0.939, respectively, while 2 teams the Phils played only at home, Cincinnati and San Francisco, have factors of 1.116 and 1.057, respectively.
Also in passing note that the Phillies OPS against is pretty much league average (1.034), despite playing half of their games at the Cit (remember that SOOP is unadjusted for park effects).
Now, if I was more ambitious, I would take the games played on a pitcher by pitcher basis, but I suspect these crude indicators would hold up there, too. I also didn't look much at the Phillies pitching staff and the offenses we have gone up against, but again, I suspect the conclusions would be similar.
Can I put any real number on how much opposing park factors and SOOP affects the Phillies home and away totals this year? Nope. Can I conclude with great confidence that the teams we've played and the parks we've played in have been in general a great deal responsible for the perceved "Coors Field Lite" effect that seems so in vougue? Yes, indeed!
Here's another thought, just to throw it out there. If the Cit is the juicebox that people claim it is, shouldn't pretty much every Phillie pitcher be in real contention for the Cy Young this year? And shouldn't Ed Wade get a little credit for putting together a staff of aces, whose greatness is only obscured by the "hitter's paradise" that is Citizens' Bank Park? Hey, if you can discount the hitters' accomplishments at home, you have to look at what the pitchers are doing overall, and leading the league in road OPS against, ERA, and almost every other measure as well deserves some consideration, to my way of thinking.
Both ways I looked at the data clearly indicated to me that the idea that the Phills play in a juicebox where they can never hope to win is, bluntly, absurd. Worse than absurd, it is an excuse. Winners don't make excuses, and to be fair, Eric Milton is the only player I can think of who claimed it was the park's fault, not his. We all know what's happened to him in '05. The Phillies know that they play in a fine park, and if they fail to win there, it is their fault. If they win, it is because of them, as well. Parks don't win games, people, players do.