When's the season start? In more than three months? Crap.
The big question for 2011, at least for the moment, is what kind of effect Adrian Gonzalez will see as he both moves from an easier league to a harder one and moves from a brutal home park to a generous one. It's worth noting that throughout Gonzalez's career, the National League parks he hit the worst in were:
- Dodger Stadium (.663 OPS in 190 PA)
- Dolphin Stadium (.799 OPS in 72 PA)
- Petco Park (.808 OPS in 1,650 PA)
- AT&T Park (.832 OPS in 205 PA)
Gonzalez every year was playing 99 of 162 games in three of the National League's best pitchers' parks — and performed accordingly.
Of course, the NL West also includes Coors Field and Chase Field, two of the league's best hitters' parks. But those parks aren't anywhere near the ballparks where he performed the best:
- Miller Park (1.302 OPS in 85 PA)
- Great American Ballpark (1.192 OPS in 74 PA)
- Citizens Bank Park (1.175 OPS in 74 PA)
- RFK Stadium/Nationals Park (1.179/1.143 OPS in combined 68 PA)
- Busch Stadium (1.114 OPS in 76 PA)
- Wrigley Field (1.093 OPS in 85 PA)
- Coors Field (1.022 OPS in 215 PA)
- Chase Field (.992 OPS in 193 PA)
Given Gonzalez will play a hefty chunk of his games in AL East parks — 117, as a matter of fact — let's look at some comparisons between them and their NL West brethren, courtesy ESPN's park factors:
- Coors Field, 1.364 (1)
- Yankee Stadium, 1.177 (2)
- Oriole Park, 1.112 (5)
- Fenway Park, 1.083 (7)
- Rogers Centre, 1.058 (8)
- Chase Field, 1.049 (9)
- AT&T Park, 0.942 (22)
- Dodger Stadium, 0.939 (23)
- Petco Park, 0.882 (26)
- Tropicana Field, 0.800 (30)
Not only does Gonzalez go from one of the five worst hitters' parks to one of the seven best, but he goes from a division with three of the 10 worst hitters' parks to one with four of the 10 best. The difference is even more pronounced when considering park effects on home runs:
- Coors Field, 1.496 (2)
- Yankee Stadium, 1.420 (3)
- Rogers Centre, 1.358 (4)
- Oriole Park, 1.262 (5)
- Chase Field, 1.063 (12)
- Dodger Stadium, 1.016 (14)
- Tropicana Field, 0.936 (17)
- AT&T Park, 0.885 (20)
- Fenway Park, 0.871 (21)
- Petco Park, 0.856 (22)
Fenway, of course, is a notorious home run depressor, but ESPN notes that while it reduces home runs for lefties by 12 percent — likely because of the deep right field — Petco is even worse, sporting an ugly lefty home run park factor of 59 (a 41 percent reduction over an offense-neutral park). Meanwhile, other than Coors, the AL East features three parks at the top of the list, while Petco is firmly on the bottom.
That ESPN article also says, almost as an aside, that every single one of the home runs Gonzalez hit to left field in Petco would have been homers at Fenway, too, even accounting for the height of the Green Monster. This strikes me as significant. Gonzalez's home average of more than 12 home runs per season the past three years is a baseline, then, particularly with Fenway's right-field fences possibly moving in 10 feet next year.
While many stats try to adjust for ballpark — OPS+, wRC+ and WAR among the most popular — they can only do so by looking at park factors. If those park factors fail to account for the specific circumstances of a player such as Gonzalez, then they might turn out to be using a faulty premise.
Could Gonzalez be even better than the combined 157 OPS+ he put up in 2009-10, already good for fourth in baseball? Better than the 152 wRC+ he posted in that same timeframe (same scale and adjustments as OPS+, only based on the linear-weights wOBA instead of OPS), fifth-best in baseball?
It's an attractive thought for Red Sox fans. The only way to find out, of course, is to play the games. Until then, all we can do is guess. So add your predictions here.
Here are the Sox' two new additions if they had been playing in Fenway Park last year, according to Baseball-Reference's stats neutralizer:
- Adrian Gonzalez (actual .298/.393/.511, 33 2B, 31 HR): .323/.421/.555, 37 2B, 35 HR
- Carl Crawford (actual .307/.356/.495, 62 XBH): .339/.390/.545, 71 XBH