In February 2006, the Globe ran a little-noticed article questioning whether Fenway would become a harder place to hit home runs because of the construction of nearby skyscrapers.
Now, thanks to the Bill James Handbook 2007, we have our answer. And that answer is, "Absolutely."
Fenway Park was the hardest ballpark in baseball out of which to hit a home run, suppressing longballs by an amazing 27 percent — 31 percent for righties. No AL park suppresses any stat as much as Fenway did homers in 2006, and no AL park enhanced any stat more than Fenway enhanced doubles in 2006 (by 37 percent). Doubles and homers are flukey things, and it’s often luck that turns one into the other. But consider: Fenway from 2004-06 averaged an 86 percent homer rate. If I’ve done my math right, that means it suppressed home runs by an average of merely eight percent in 2004 and 2005.
More interesting tidbits from a stats-lover’s must-buy after the jump.
- The revlutionary plus-minus system — in which players receive and lose points for plays they do and don’t make that other players at the same position don’t and do make — ranks Kevin Youkilis as third in baseball, behind Pujols and Malphabet. Mike Lowell is ninth. Jeter, A-Rod and Alex Gonzalez all are outside the Top 10.
- Daisuke Matsuzaka’s component ERA — essentially a pitcher’s ERA based only on his own performance, subtracting the defense, relievers, etc. — shows he was actually unlucky when he posted his sick 2.13 ERA in Seibu last year. His ERC was actually 1.77, the sixth straight decline since a high of 3.48 in his second season (2000). Likewise, Pedro was unlucky in 1999. His 1.90 ERA being higher than his ERC of 1.78. Poor guy.
- The similarities between Randy Johnson and Josh Beckett continue to amaze. They appear within a few spots of each other in several leaderboards, and rarely does one appear without the other. Their ERCs are significantly below their season-ending ERAs (Beckett should have been at 4.28 based on his pitching, RJ at 3.80). Both were among the leaders in lowest BAA. Random: Beckett led the league in lowest OBP allowed by leadoff hitters (.231). and had the third-fastest average fastball and third-lowest BPS (batting plus slugging) against his curveball. Johnson threw more sliders than anyone in the AL.
- A look at various manageral "stats" shows that Grady Little is actually a quick hook (you’d never know it, based on 2003), averaging 53 "quick hooks" versus 30 "slow hooks." A quick hook is the bottom 25 percent of a number figured by adding the number of pitches to 10x the number of runs allowed in a game. Not surprisingly, Terry Francona is considered a "slow hook." Joe Torre’s numbers vary all over the place, but he consistently orders sacrifice bunts, intentional walks, pitches out and sets runners in motion far more than Francona.
- Only player in the Top 10 in BA, OBP and SLG for 2006? Manny Ramirez.
- Youk really was a revelation — Third in plus/minus, second in leadoff OBP, fifth-lowest first-swing percentage, 10th-highest OPS among first basemen, second-most pitches taken (next to Giambi), most pitches per pate plate appearance, second-most pitches seen, seventh in walks, . Is it too late to keep hm leadoff and put Lugo at No. 2?
- Longest average home-run hitter in the AL? Wily Mo Pena, 411 feet. Second? Alex Rodriguez, 410 feet. Eric Hinske, Jason Giambi and David Ortiz also in the top 10. Pena, who had the top two longest homers in the NL in 2005, had the second- and ninth-longest in the AL in 2006 — 475 feet and 451 feet. A-Rod was first, a 480-foot bomb. To see Pena’s longest, go here (although it’s disappointing because he hit the ball so hard it never shows up on camera). MLB didn’t save A-Rod’s homer, which was overshadowed by the first career dinger from Melky Cabrera.
There are also win shares standings and stats, as well as projections for most players and pitchers and, of course, complete career stats for all current active players (plus several foreign players, like Matsuzaka, who will or might be playing in 2007). I’ll save the projections for when we get closer to predicting how out respective teams will perform. Anyway, I highly recommend the handbook if any of this stuff interests you. Great stuff.