Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football

By Wayne Winston | Go to book overview

10
PARK FACTORS

During the 2006 season right fielder Brad Hawpe of the Colorado Rockies had a basic Runs Created rating of 5.04 runs per game. During the 2006 season San Diego Padre second baseman Josh Barfield had a basic Runs Created rating of 4.21 runs per game. On the surface, this would seem to indicate that Hawpe had a much better hitting season than did Barfield. Most baseball fans, however, realize that the Rockies play in Coors Field, which is notorious for being a hitter's park because the air is thin (the ball carries farther) and the park is not that big. On the other hand, the Padres play in spacious Petco Park, and the Padres are routinely involved in lowscoring games. Does the fact that Hawpe played in a hitter's park and Barfield in a pitcher's park mean that Barfield actually had a better hitting season than did Hawpe? As we will soon see, Barfield and Hawpe had virtually identical hitting seasons.

Bill James was the first to develop the concept of Park Factors. In every NBA arena the court is the same size and the baskets are ten feet high. In every NFL stadium the fields are the same dimensions (although Denver's thin air, domed stadiums and inclement weather may affect performance). In baseball, however, each stadium has different dimensions, which certainly influences how many runs are scored in the park. Park Factors are an attempt to measure how the park influences runs scored, home runs hit, and so forth.

We will discuss the simplest version of Park Factors. How much easier is it to score runs or hit a home run in Coors Field than it is in a typical National League park? Simply calculate runs scored per game in Coors Field divided by runs scored per road game. As shown in figure 10.1, during the 2006 season 10.73 runs per game were scored in Coors Park, and during road games, the Rockies scored 9.33 runs per game. In both road and home games, runs are equally affected by the Rockies' offense and defense, the average National League team's offense, and average National League

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