Fantasy Baseball: The Park Factor All Advantage Team

  • Kyle Soppe, RotoExperts Staff

Adam Dunn … you and I are the same.

Sure, he’s a 6-foot-6, 285-pound mountain of a man that plays professional baseball for a living and I’m a 5-11 writer/waiter who tips the scales at a buck-40 soaking wet, but other than that? Identical.

For one, we both have first and last names that rank below the country’s average in length. More importantly, however, we both perform at an elite level in the right circumstances. That may sound simple, but dependability is important, and you know exactly what you’re going to get out of both of us when you place us in a favorable environment.

Adam Dunn has more home runs over the past 40 years when playing at home than any other player in baseball. He ranks outside of the Top 20 in total home runs hit over that time, but no one has provided the amount of power at home as Dunn during that span. Some people will hold this against him, but why? From a Fantasy perspective, you want production you can count on, so why not take advantage of Park Factor? Following a similar train of thought, I do my best work when writing in an internet-friendly environment with comfortable seating and possibly a performance enhancing peanut butter and banana sandwich. I wouldn’t expect you to read my material if I was forced to write an article in the middle of a crowded airport with questionable wifi, the final product simply wouldn’t reflect my best.

So why settle? August is a huge month for Fantasy Baseball owners, as you need to either make your move in a Roto league or need to improve your standing for the head-to-head playoffs, so why not make use of every advantage at your disposal? Fantasy numbers do not count any less if they are produced at hitter-friendly ballparks, they may be less repeatable over the course of time, but at this point in the season, you just want numbers and you don’t care how you get them. Below are four teams that should produce higher-than-expected Fantasy numbers in August and three that are in a position to disappoint based on the Park Factor rating of where they play.

Baltimore Orioles

Schedule: The O’s play 16 home games at hitter-friendly Camden Yards (ranked as the seventh best hitter’s park since 2010) and 13 road games. For the month, 89.7 percent of their games come in a ballpark that ranks at or above league average in park factor. The lone three games that buck that trend come in Cleveland, a ballpark that is serving up homers at the fifth greatest rate this season. We haven’t seen the power that we saw last season (fourth in runs scored and 12.7 percent more homers than any other team at home), but the roster is similar and the ballpark is still playing shallow. Even in a down offensive season, no team averages fewer at-bats per home run than the Orioles.

New York Yankees

Park Factor Schedule: The Bronx Bombers play 13 games in front of the home fans, but it is their 16 road games that make them an offense worth buying in to. Three-quarters of those road games come in hitter-friendly parks while the remaining four contests (three in Tampa Bay and one in Kansas City) come at ballparks that have played neutral this season. In fact, there has been an average of 10.1 runs scored per game when the Rays and Yanks meet in St. Pete over the last calendar year, not exactly an intimidating trend. The Yanks rank in the top third of the league in fly ball- o ground ball ratio, a pattern that could help Fantasy owners in a big way this month.

Toronto Blue Jays

Park Factor Schedule: Canada’s finest get 15 games in front of the home crowd (eighth best hitter’s park in the big leagues) and 11 on the road. Five of those 11 away games come against the White Sox and Brewers, ballparks that rank among the five most hitter-friendly ballparks over the last three-plus season. The Jays and Rockies make up an elite tier of elite power hitting home teams (they have a .189 and .193 ISO respectively, 27 points better than the next best offense), and with the favorable road parks on the schedule, it stands to reason that Toronto could hit 40 homers in August.

Chicago White Sox

Park Factor Schedule: The ChiSox play 19 home games at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular (ranked as the second best hitter’s park since 2010) and nine road games. Of those nine road games, three come at Yankee Stadium against a decimated pitching staff that has coughed up the third most homers in the big leagues this season. Six games in Seattle/San Francisco doesn’t particularly scare me as both of those pitching staffs rank at or below average in strikeout rate, the Sox kryptonite.

The Park Factor All Advantage Team:

C – Dionar Navarro (TOR): If there’s one thing I hate less than bad internet connection, it is rostering big name catchers. I prefer to piece the position together as the season moves on and Navarro is a nice target for owners who follow that same train of thought. The 30-year-old isn’t a great hitter but, much like the Adam Dunn example, he can produce when put into a positive situation. Since the beginning of last year, Navarro is batting .311 and slugging .517 in 267 home at-bats, numbers that are worth a look considering he played all of those games in hitter-friendly environments (Chicago and Toronto). Navarro has proven to be a plus-contact hitter over his career (85.5 percent) and routinely hits the ball hard (ranks 11th in all of baseball in line drive rate), a lethal combination given the Jays upcoming schedule.

1B – Juan Francisco (TOR): The nice part about this utility Blue Jay is that you can afford to pick and choose your spots with him. Being owned in less than 15 percent of ESPN and Yahoo! leagues, it is very unlikely that Francisco is a staple in your starting lineup, but he should be when at home against a righty. For the season, the slugger owns a .513 slugging percentage in the Rogers Centre and a .547 SLG against righties, numbers than exceed those of Nelson Cruz and rival Miguel Cabrera.

2B – D.J. LeMahieu (COL): I made the case last week that with consistent playing time and an improving plate discipline to go along with strong contact numbers, the Rockies middle infielder should be a name on your radar moving forward. Listen, I know his name doesn’t exactly generate excitement, but he is a .309 career hitter at Coors Field and has played in almost every game over the last month. The Rockies play 12 home games and 16 road games in August, a rate that wouldn’t typically steer me in their direction, but the fact that nine of those 16 road contests come in favorable parks (not to mention six against a bottom five ERA team in Arizona), gives me confidence that LeMahieu can provide serviceable numbers at second base.

SS – Alexei Ramirez (CWS): Anybody can look at Ramirez’s splits and guess that the league has caught up to him after his hot start, citing that his batting average has been on a steady decline all season long. Not so fast. The schedule has played a great role in that (.125 batting average this season in parks that rank 20th or worse in Park Factor compared to a .301 average in parks that rank 10th or better) and should give Ramirez owners some hope in August given the ChiSox favorable schedule. By batting in the second half of the order, look for Ramirez to routinely come up with men on base in August, a situation in which he has thrived over the last 3.5 years (.297 batting average and a .438 slugging percentage).

3B – Kyle Seager (SEA): The schedule gods are looking to reward those who hold onto Seager and refuse to sell high. He’s continued to improve his isolated power (ISO) and batting average, a rare combination anywhere, but especially at a position in third base that has been awfully disappointing this season. Seager gets a nice bump in value by playing 15 of his 27 August games at home (.356/.423/.644), and it certainly doesn’t hurt that all 12 of his road games come in favorable ballparks (Baltimore, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Boston). The sub-.280 batting average doesn’t even tell the whole story for the second best Kyle S involved in this article, as he hit .307 from the final week of April to the All Star Break.

OF – Carlos Beltran (NYY): His first season in pinstripes has been far from ideal, but it hasn’t been due to his inability to produce at home (every part of his slash is up at least 30 percent at Yankee Stadium this season). He is very much enjoying consistent games in parks that favor the hitter after spending the first the first 16 years of his career (minus a 90 game stint in Houston) in pitcher-friendly parks and I expect that to continue as his Yanks battle for a playoff spot. He’s making some of the best contact of his career, a trend I’ll buy into given better than 75 percent of his August games come in ballparks that are known to give up runs.

OF – Brett Gardner (NYY): He might be the most underrated speed/power guy in the big leagues this season, and if his owner is unaware of just how good he has been, try to acquire the Yankees leadoff hitter ASAP. Did you know that he holds a higher ISO and SLG than Ryan Braun this season at home, despite playing in a statistically less favorable environment? Or that only three players have more steals and a higher OBP than Gardner? He is so much better than you realize, and should his contact numbers improve to his career norms, August might yet be Gardner’s best month of 2014.

OF – Steve Pearce (BAL): As a result of finally getting consistent playing time (already has a career high at-bat total) in a hitter-friendly park, Pearce has come into his own. He is tearing the cover off the ball in front of the Oriole faithful (.352/.420/.600), a trend that is buoyed by his ability to maintain strong contact ratios with an increasing swing-rate. His willingness to hit anywhere in the lineup and his ability to hit both left and right handed pitching should result in consistent playing time. Given the favorable schedule, Pearce could well be a difference-maker in the final full month of the season.

DH – Paul Konerko (CWS): If you’re looking far enough down the rankings to see Konerko’s name, you’re likely in dire straits for power and need some help. As mentioned, the White Sox will spend most of August in hitter-friendly parks, a scheduling quirk that greatly benefits those willing to roll the dice on Konerko (despite a poor season, he has still found a way to slug .478 at home, nearly double his number on the road). He doesn’t play a ton these days, so I’d avoid him in weekly leagues, but if you can substitute daily, he makes for an interesting play given his high fly ball rate and still viable ISO.

But not all teams/players get the benefit of playing in hitter-friendly ballparks. These three high-powered offenses have carried their Fantasy owners to this point, but could well disappoint when you need them most.

Milwaukee Brewers

Park Factor Schedule: The BrewCrew play just 11 of their 27 games at Miller Park (the fifth best park for hitters) in August and the sledding gets tough on the road. They don’t have a single contest away from home in a ballpark that ranks in the top third of the league in Park Factor, a lethal schedule when you consider that the majority of their home games come against pitching staffs that rank in the top seven in ERA. The Brewers rank in the bottom third of the league in fly ball to ground ball ratio, a trend that limits their power upside, especially in a month that features plenty of pitcher-friendly matchups.

Oakland Athletics

Park Factor Schedule: The best offense in baseball is going to have to earn their stripes this month as they attempt to hold onto their slim division lead. They play 15 games at Coliseum, a stadium that ranks 24th in Park Factor since 2010, and 14 on the road. Four of those road games come against the Angels, a team that calls the third least hitter-friendly park home. For the month as a whole, 89.7 percent of their games are played in below average parks. This worries me for the power-packed Athletics lineup, as they top the league in FB percentage but rank in the bottom third of the league in HR/FB percentage, a style of hitting that could result in a lot of fly ball outs as opposed to home runs this month.

Atlanta Braves

Park Factor Schedule: As an offense that relies heavily on the three run homer, the Bravos could be in trouble with 13 home games (Turner Field ranks below average in park factor) and 15 road games. Four of their five road series’ will be played in stadiums that rank in the bottom third of the league in park factor. Atlanta trails only Houston in team contact-rate and August could be a month where that contact simply isn’t enough to clear the bases.

The Park Factor All Disadvantage Team

C – Evan Gattis (ATL): The Braves play the majority of their games on the road (slash is down 47/43/90 points on the road) this month and will face plenty of talented righties (slash is down 108/80/247 points against righties), a major issue for Gattis owners. I’m also concerned about his bulky back that landed him on the disabled list (he returned on Monday) and what that could do for a hitter that relies on his raw power as much as anyone in the big leagues. Even a healthy Gattis is a long shot to maintain his plus-.300 ISO and plus-24 percent HR/FB rate at home.

1B – Brandon Moss (OAK): I love what the Athletics have done this season, but can you really boast the second highest scoring offense with a batting average that sits at league average? The run-scoring could come back to earth a little bit this month and it could well come at the expense of their powerful first baseman. He’s batting just .238 at the ballparks he’ll visit in August this season, and when you consider that there are three pitches that he struggles to handle (two seam fastball, slider, and curveball), it stands to reason that Moss is more of an “all-or-nothing” sort of play as opposed to the stud he has been thus far (a Top 10 1B and Top 20 OF). If you want a low batting average guy with power, why not trade Moss for assets while his value is great and fill his void by platooning Juan Francisco (vs righties) and John Mayberry Jr. (vs lefties)?

2B – Scooter Gennett (MIL): How can you not love what this kid has brought to the table since the beginning of June? He’s burst onto the scene and likely carried your middle infield. Sell. Sell now. Both his batting average and slugging percentage improve by more than 25 percent at home, a luxury his owners will not be able to take much advantage this month as the Brewers are on the road for nearly 60 percent of their games. He also isn’t hitting and/or is being sat against left-handed pitching (.118/.143/.147 slash this season), a disturbing trend for lineups that lock weekly. From a metrics standpoint, a player with an ISO north of .170 that hits 21 percent more ground balls than fly balls is a serious anomaly and one that shouldn’t be counted on to continue his current home run pace. He’s been “ScooterMan” thus far, but don’t be surprised if he turns into Ryan Joseph (his birth name) in this crucial month for Fantasy owners.

SS – Erick Aybar (LAA): The Angels offense is rolling right now, but Aybar owners may miss out on the fun moving forward. In August, the Halo’s play 14 home games and 15 road games, two-thirds of which figure to limit the upside of their shortstop. He has struggled at pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium this season (.250/.287/.340) and doesn’t figure to get much help in the power department as his Angels play three road series’ in parks that favor the pitcher. He’s yet to homer in July, and with a nagging groin injury, I worry about his ability to contribute speed to your Fantasy roster for the remainder of the season. His high contact rate limits his floor, but a dinged slap hitter without much pop or speed has very limited upside.

3B – Pablo Sandoval (SF): Location, location, location. The Giants play teams that call favorable parks home (the White Sox, the Phillies, the Rockies, and the Brewers), but all 12 of those games are in the spacious AT&T Park that ranks dead last since 2010 in total park factor. San Francisco will be on the road for 16 games in August and will be racking up the air miles as they are forced to travel all over the country. Panda has struggled on the road this season (.254/.304/.396) and is producing at an elevated rate that has no real statistical explanation. His K-rate has been steadily trending in the wrong direction, another hint at regression moving forward.

OF – Ryan Braun (MIL): I’m not suggesting you move Braun for a bag of baseballs, but the fact that he slugged 72 points higher at home from 2011-2013 and is batting 38 points higher at hitter-friendly Miller Park than on the road this season scares me given the Brewers August slate. He’s a great hitter, but there is no denying that his home ballpark helps a bit, an aid he won’t have much this month. In addition to the park factor, how many power hitters do you know that have recorded 66 percent more ground balls than fly balls over the last two seasons? That hasn’t been a major issue for Fantasy owners this season as his rare fly balls have come in ballparks with tremendous carry (mainly Philadelphia and Milwaukee), thus resulting in over 58 percent of his homers. But banking on much power this month is a risk that you can avoid by selling high on the Hebrew Hammer. Again, I’m not taking anything less than face value for him, but I would certainly entertain the idea of receiving Brett Gardner and a pitcher.

OF – Justin Upton (ATL): He has been all sorts of bad on the road this season (.244/.299/.400 slash), so I’m not all that excited about him facing five pitching staffs that rank among the Top 11 in team ERA on the road this month. Upton has been known to be very streaky (as many 80-plus at-bat months with a sub-.230 batting average as with a plus-.290 average) and I fear that there’s a strong chance we see the former down the stretch.

OF – Jayson Werth (WSH): It hasn’t been a massive swing in production, but the caveman turned outfielder has more of a Fantasy asset away from Nationals Park since the beginning of last season, a negative trend considering that 17 of Washington’s 29 August games are at home. It also doesn’t help that three of their four road series’ take place at traditionally pitcher-friendly ballparks, potentially sapping Werth of his high-level road power. His line drive rate has plummeted this season due to his lack of plate discipline (swinging at 15.4 percent more pitches outside of the zone and 4.6 percent fewer pitches in the zone than his career averages), yet his Fantasy numbers have steadied thanks to a contact rate that has somehow improved 4.3 percent despite the lower quality of pitches seen. He’s no longer the five-tool player he once was (no steals in over a month and only two since April 24) and the combination of pitch selection and park factor have me thinking that he will rank among the Torii Hunter’s and Nick Markakis’ of the world the rest of the season (not bad, but not what his current value would suggest).

Quick Hitters

On Friday, five of the 15 games featured a pair of leadoff hitters that combined to hit .125 or worse. One third of all leadoff men failed to record a single hit.

Chris Carter has hit a home run or struck out at least three times in 25.9 percent of games this season. That’s nearly the same percentage in which Masahiro Tanaka is striking batters this season (26.1 percent).

Victor Martinez had gone 345 consecutive days with prior to July 18th without notching at least one hit and multiple strikeouts in the same game.

From July 4th through July 18th, Michael Brantley recorded one more hit in 40 percent fewer at-bats than George Springer did in all of June.

Based on money in which they are being paid this season, the Royals 4-5-6 hitters (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez) are averaging 20.8 hits per million dollars while the Yankees middle of the order (Mark Teixera, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran) are averaging 4.0.

Player A (June 17 – July 18): 40.2 innings pitched, 24 hits, 11 walks, 46 strikeouts, and eight earned runs

Player B (June 17 – July 18): 43.2 innings pitched, 36 hits, 13 walks, 32 strikeouts, and 13 earned runs

Subtract a rough three game stretch and Drew Smyly owns a 3.02 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP, numbers that mirror those of Jordan Zimmerman this season.

Tim Lincecum notched his fifth straight quality start with at least six strikeouts and fewer than six hits allowed, a streak he didn’t accomplish in either of his Cy Young seasons.

Don’t look now, but Josh Collmenter has a 1.50 ERA and has struck out 3.43 batters per walk issued over his last six appearances at home.

Player A is the Chicago White Sox “other” strong arm, Jose Quintana, while Player B is a pitcher who has been among the Top 3 pitchers on ESPN’s Player Rater for nearly the entire season in Johnny Cueto.

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