Does Arizona's Humidor Have You Sweating D-Backs Hitters?

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Chase Field in Arizona is known as one of the best offensive ballparks in baseball, as the stadium ranked third for runs scored and eighth for home runs in 2017. Fantasy owners love to stack offense in Arizona, particularly considering a powerful Diamondbacks' lineup that includes Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, and Jake Lamb.

However, leading into 2018, the team has installed a humidor to store baseballs, something that should noticeably depress the offence in Arizona. When a ball is stored in a humidor, it absorbs water, decreasing its bounciness. The less bounciness, the lower its exit velocity will be. The humidor is also expected to have a more anecdotal benefit for pitchers, who say dry baseballs are harder to grip.

So, with this massive change, what will this do to Arizona's hitters leading in 2018?

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Offensive Drought In The Desert?

Before we look at what could happen to the Diamondbacks, let's take a look at the only case study that we have on a humidor. In 2002, the Colorado Rockies installed a humidor for baseballs at Coors Field, looking to cut down the offensive overload in the Rocky Mountains. In 2001, Coors saw 1,085 runs scored, while no other park topped Ballpark at Arlington's 939. Kauffman Stadium checked in at third with 867. Coors Field still had the most runs in 2002, but it fell to 989 with Ballpark at Arlington sitting at 957 and Kauffman at 939. In 2003, Coors Field did not even lead in runs; Ballpark at Arlington saw 985, with Coors at 967 and Kauffman at 945.

When you take a look at OPS+, which normalizes for the whole league, Coors went from a ballpark where the OPS+ was 143 in 1999 to one where the OPS+ was 129 in 2002 and 126 in 2003. Now, it is easy to say that there was not the same talent on the 2002/2003 Rockies as there was on the late 1990s teams (although Preston Wilson was the fantasy darling of the 2003 season), but it is staggering to see that the humidor cut the offensive production 12% in just two seasons. Also, if you want to say that the Rockies may have gotten better pitching, well, the 2003 Rockies my friends (spoiler alert: it is really bad).

The 2017 Diamondbacks collectively hit .274/.350/.492 with 122 home runs at home last season vs. .235/.309/.398 with 98 homers on the road. That is a quite noticeable difference, but the league average slash was .255/.324/.426 while the Chase Field slash was .256/.327/.449 with a 106 OPS+. Math may not be perfect here, but if the humidor has the same effect on Chase Field as it did to Coors Field, it appears that Chase Field will play as an offensively neutral park in 2018.

In 2017, the Diamondbacks finished fourth in the NL in runs, fifth in home runs, second in slugging and fourth in OPS. Reports say that the humidor could cut 25-50% home runs at Chase Field, even more when the roof at Chase Field is closed. The reasoning behind Chase Field potentially being more devastating to offense than what we saw at Coors Field is that the roof is only closed for parts of 32%  of games and Coors Field is an open air stadium. Also, Coors is in the Rocky Mountains, with thin air, allowing the ball to fly more freely. Reports from 2016 said that 6% of home runs were not even barreled up when the roof was open, compared to 2.5% when the roof was closed. All of this lines up to the Diamondbacks having a rough time offensively in 2018 in home games.

It is fair to say that, conservatively, the Diamondbacks will see a 10% drop in their offensive production. That makes Goldschmidt's 36 home runs play like 32 or 33 home runs, Lamb's 30 bombs seem more like 27, and put players like Chris Owings and Ketel Marte in a place where they will have negligible offensive impact without relying on speed. Players like Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas may not see too much of an offensive depression, judging by the fact that each were in the top-10 in exit velocity in 2017, but someone like Lamb (who was 155th in exit velocity), may really struggle. New addition Steven Souza Jr. was 68th in barrels per plate appearance in his 30 home run season of 2017, but he, like Lamb, struggled with exit velocity (147th). The Diamondbacks also had J.D. Martinez for the stretch run of 2017 and it is unlikely that they will find a player that posts a 1.107 OPS and 29 home runs in just 257 plate appearances.

While the Diamondbacks may have the next elite starting rotation, with Robbie Ray, Zack Greinke, Zack Godley, Patrick Corbin, and Taijuan Walker all grading out as above-average starters anyway, the team will take a step back offensively in 2018. Wherever you were ranking Diamondback players coming into the draft, before the news of the humidor came out, move them down a round or so. Even a player like Goldschmidt, who still has a mid-to-late 1st round grade, will see a drop in value with less run production around him.


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