Now that Adrian Gonzalez will be calling Fenway Park home instead of Petco Park, we have to wonder what we can expect from him this year (and in the future) in terms of fantasy production.
From all of the available data, it appears fantasy owners can expect a significant improvement from Gonzalez in four of the primary offensive statistics utilized in fantasy baseball (with the exception of stolen bases). Statistics suggest he will benefit from playing at Fenway Park in terms of batting average and home runs, and as part of the Red Sox lineup he will have many more opportunities for runs batted in and runs scored. In addition to the raw statistics, the data available at hittrackeronline.com supports the conclusion his home run production should be considerably higher playing for the Red Sox.
He will enjoy playing half of his games in Boston as opposed to San Diego. While Fenway Park is not the homer haven most fans believe, it’s significantly better than Petco Park: Fenway ranked near the middle of the pack in terms of most home runs per game (12th of 30 parks, at 2.09 hr/g) whereas Petco was near the bottom (tied for 24th at 1.56 hr/g). And while some of that difference may have something to do with the teams’ respective rosters, it is unlikely all of it can be explained by the difference in personnel.
Gonzalez hit 31 home runs last year (11 at home, 20 on the road) at an average distance of slightly more than 393.3 feet.
MLB.com provides a nice tool for reviewing a player’s performance at any major league ballpark (click here for Gonzalez’ player page). Once there, you are able to select an individual ballpark and the type(s) of batted ball you wish to review. (NOTE: in the chart below, I’ve selected Petco Park, and all of the doubles, home runs and fly outs which Gonzalez hit there in 2010).
The data provided on mlb.com was then overlayed onto the home run chart for Gonzalez that is provided at hit-tracker (see below)
Analysis of the available data indicates A-Gon may have lost up to four home runs on balls hit at Petco, if those balls would have been hit at Fenway Park, but he may have gained as many as 11 home runs on other balls that were either doubles or fly outs at Petco Park. Balancing the two inputs, the data suggests he would have hit as many seven additional home runs playing at Fenway Park last year.
Some pundits might argue that such an improvement will be mitigated by the fact that he’ll be facing the pitching staffs of the AL East and not the NL West… but those suggestions don’t fly in the face of statistical analysis.
We know pitchers in the National League have an easier task on a game-in, game-out basis because of the hitting talents of the #8 and #9 hitters in the senior circuit (ERA numbers are improved by as much as a half-run and WHIP by as much as 15% due to facing the easier lineups. The performance of the respective AL East and NL West starting rotations suggest there is “a wash” in terms of the relative abilities of those pitchers (the following stats are for the five pitchers who made the most starts for each team):
AL East starting rotations: 236-187, 4.21 ERA, 1.325 WHIP
NL West starting rotations: 186-193, 3.89 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
For every Matt Cain in the NL West there is a CC Sabathia in the AL East, for every Tim Lincecum there’s a David Price. The starting rotations in Los Angeles and San Francisco favorably compare to those in New York and Tampa Bay, so it seems safe to deduce that Gonzalez is not going to be overwhelmed by the starting pitching in his new division.
And how will he fare against the better pitchers in the AL? It should be noted two of the home runs he hit last year were launched off Giants starter Matt Cain, and that he also homered off such notable hurlers as Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, James Sheilds and Shaun Marcum, among others. It seems to me he can hit a home run off CC Sabathia if he can hit one off Cliff Lee (especially if the teams are playing in the new Yankee Stadium softball field!).
Let’s take a look at some more numbers.
In 2010, he hit .421 in interleague play, with a .484 OBP and .772 slugging percentage… and over the last five years, here is how he fared against some of the top pitchers in the game:
vs. Matt Cain – in 64 PA, he hit .321, with a .391 OBP and .643 Slugging Pct
vs. Tim Lincecum – in 41 PA he hit .205, with a .244 OBP and .205 Slugging Pct
vs. Brandon Webb – in 41 PA, he hit .364, with a .488 OBP and .576 Slugging Pct
vs. Ubaldo Jiminez – in 32 PA, he hit .154, with a .313 OBP and .385 Slugging Pct
vs. Cole Hamels – in 26 PA, he hit .364, with a 0.462 OBP and .636 Slugging Pct
vs. Roy Oswalt – in 24 PA, he hit .300, with a .375 OBP and .600 Slugging Pct
vs. Felix Hernandez – in 23 PA, he hit .318, with a .348 OBP and .545 Slugging Pct
And what of facing southpaws (the AL East has a couple of outstanding lefties in Sabathia, Price and Ricky Romero, to name a few). Well, Gonzalez has historically struggled a bit against southpaws… but, his splits have gradually improved and last year he actually managed to hit better against left-handed pitching than he did against righties:
vs. RHP: .278 / .377 / .510
vs. LHP: .337 / .424 / .513
And one last bit of information that suggests Gonzalez will flourish at Fenway Park? In road games last year, he hit .315, with a .402 OBP and .578 Slugging Pct – numbers that compare favorably to the road performance of the best first basemen in all of baseball and which indicate he will enjoy being away from Petco Park:
Joey Votto: .349 / .452 / .641
Miguel Cabrera: .315 / .396 / .619
Albert Pujols: .291 / .392 / .599
Kevin Youkilis: .294 / .406 / .561
Prince Fielder: .252 / .379 / .427
Mark Teixeira: .227 / .320 / .408
All of the the statistical analysis and anecdotal information suggests Gonzalez will perform much better with the Red Sox. Freed from the suppressive offensive environment at Petco, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that he will hit .310, with 38 HR, 130 RBI and 110 R.
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