February 6, 2004 · Filed Under Mariners · Comments Off on  

One of the interesting side effects fo the space-age material they stuck up out there is that this may offer us a chance to look at whether or not a batting eye is significant. It wasn’t that long ago that you could buy centerfield seats at the Kingdome that were right where batters tried to pick up the ball, and slowly they started to phase that out — booting people who were being intentionally distracting, not selling those tickets unless they had to, and so on. Griffey complained about that when he came up, as I remember. Since then the existence and protection of the batter’s eye has gone from a matter of courtesy to something parks like Safeco Field are built around as if it was a divine commandment. (And God said “Also, as an eleveth instruction, more a guideline really, in five hundred generations or so, you’ll be playing this game with a stick and a thrown ball and… you shall respect the batter’s eye and offer a background, dark in color, to those who swing the stick. And seriously, that no killing thing? I mean it. Don’t make me come down there.” Except that everyone forgot about it until the 1980s.*)

As much as statheads like to discuss them, and while I think applying park effects is the single biggest advance in player evaluation in modern times, no one really understands park effects and how to use them. There are sometimes big one-year fluctuations in park effects: do you adjust player stats based on a one-year park effect swing when it’s traditionally been a neutral park? What if the effect’s persistent? If I bat .300/.400/.500 consistently at home and the league builds a ton of hitter’s parks making mine seem like a pitcher’s, my offensive contributions at home don’t become more valuable, but now they’re adjusted up to compare to the league…

We can come up with theories on why parks played one way one year and another way another, but we don’t really know. Wind patterns inside a park have little if any relation to the wind in the area or even the wind in the neighborhood. It’s difficult to prove park effect correlation to humidity or cold or whatever because there are so many other factors and only 30 parks, each unique in almost every characteristic.

I look forward to seeing what Safeco’s numbers look like in the future, and seeing if we can nurse any good conclusions out of it. In the meantime, I agree with Dave — let’s remain skeptical for now.

* for the easily offended**: no blasphemy intended

** why bother with that footnote? it’s not as if someone easily offended would be mollified by a footnote that says “don’t be offended”