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Park Factors: Using Sabermetrics For 2024 Fantasy Baseball

charlie blackmon fantasy baseball rankings draft sleepers outfield MLB DFS lineup picks

If you have ever selected a streamable pitcher based on a home park or benched an otherwise must-start arm at Coors Field, you already know how much a stadium can impact a player's bottom line.

Ballpark factors quantify the influence each stadium has, allowing you to make the most of your fantasy team's real-life schedule. However, the math involved is approximate, and random fluctuations in weather patterns and sheer dumb luck can make the same parks play very differently from year to year.

Today, we continue our journey through baseball sabermetrics with a look at how each team's home stadium can play a factor in the fantasy baseball world.

Be sure to check all of our preseason fantasy baseball rankings for Roto, Points, H2H, dynasty, best ball, prospects and more:

 

How to Interpret Ballpark Factors

Ballpark factors are generally set to a base of 100 (or 1.000, which doesn't change anything), meaning that a park factor of 100 plays perfectly neutral. Factors greater than 100 signify that a given park sees more of that outcome, while numbers below 100 represent less of those outcomes.

There are multiple sources of ballpark factors, including Baseball Savant (aka Statcast), FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN. Each calculates its numbers a little bit differently, but they all use the base-100 scale listed above. There is no "correct" factor to use, as each system has its own merits. Just make sure you stick to a single source for any analysis to control for the variance.

The source you choose also dictates how much each point above or below 100 is "worth." A player only plays 50% of his games at home, with the rest of his schedule comprised of road games. Some sources such as Fangraphs halve all of their factors to accommodate this, making each point above or below 100 represent a one percent increase or decrease over a full season of stats. Other sources leave that to you.

If that's too confusing, it's fine to forget it. The only thing you need to know is that a park factor of 110 is considerably higher than a 105 mark. It's also important to note that ballpark factors aren't everything. If a particular park has a runs factor of 99, that isn't a strong enough argument to stream a pitcher there absent other compelling reasons.

 

Long Ball Hunting

When most fantasy managers think of ballpark factors, they think of home runs. A park allowing plenty of bombs is viewed as a hitter's park, while parks allowing fewer dingers are more pitcher-friendly. In truth, this approach is too simplistic even if you only care about home runs.

The home of the Cincinnati Reds is known as a home run haven for good reason. From 2021-2023, the stadium had a Statcast HR factor of 131. This means that the stadium helps all power hitters. In contrast, Toronto's Rogers Centre is known for inflating power. However, only right-handed hitters see a power surge with a HR factor of 111 from 2021-2023. Lefties have to contend with an 89 HR factor, meaning the park suppresses left-handed power.

While most fantasy managers are familiar with certain ballparks allowing more or fewer homers than others, BABIP is an underappreciated component of ballpark factors. Altitude, infield conditions, foul territory, the batter's eye, and the size of the stadium can all influence how a ballpark plays beyond just home runs.

 

Coors Canaveral

For example, the Colorado Rockies managed a .331 BABIP at home in 2023 against a road BABIP of .298. The Rockies have a similar split in every year of their existence, so that performance was no fluke. Players tend to perform a little better at home, but Colorado's splits seem indicative of more than that.

Indeed, look at Colorado's park factors for each hit type from 2021-2023:

Coors is a gigantic ballpark, offering plenty of real estate for balls to find grass. Breaking balls behave differently due to the elevation of Denver, removing some pitching weapons. Fatigue may set in faster for the same reason. The introduction of the humidor has decreased the ballpark's HR rates compared to what it was, but it still consistently posts the highest BABIPs in baseball.

For this reason, fantasy gamers should generally be skeptical of Colorado hurlers. Colorado is the most extreme example, but every stadium has some quirk that makes it unique. Fenway's Green Monster, the Trop's artificial surface, and the miles of foul territory in Oakland all affect fantasy stats.

That said, sometimes ballpark factors can lie. 81 games are a relatively small sample size, so a park could play dramatically differently in a given season than it has in the past or should be expected to moving forward. Many ballpark factors come in three-season or five-season variants to attempt to filter out some of this noise, but it's still something to consider in your analysis.

Of course, ballpark changes overwhelm these considerations. The Orioles pushed the fences back at Camden Yards before the 2022 season. From 2021-2023, the park had a HR factor of 104. However, that number is inflated by 2021's HR factor of 139. Last season, Camden Yards had a HR factor of 91. We should believe the more recent number in this case since we know the dimensions at Camden changed.

 

Conclusion

Ballpark factors quantify how much influence a player's environment has on his final totals. A 100 factor is league-average, with numbers above or below that indicative of more or less whatever it is a factor for. Most fantasy managers think of homers when considering park factors, but singles, line drives, and even strikeouts have park factors as well. Platoon splits can also dictate where a given player is most likely to succeed. Stay tuned to learn more about how advanced stats can help you dominate your leagues in 2024.



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