Justin Upton has some of baseball’s most dramatic home/away splits over the past several seasons, so when the Arizona Diamondbacks dealt him to the Atlanta Braves last week, some analysts raised concerns about how Upton would translate to a new home park. It was a fair observation: Turner Field is neutral, maybe pitcher-friendly, whereas Chase Field in Arizona is one of the best hitters’ parks around.
It’s fair in general, but for Upton specifically, it’s just not an issue. Consider the info you’ll find at the link below:
Whoa. Upton simply does not hit cheap home runs. In 2012, only one of his 17 bombs fell under the category “Just Enough,” according to the hit tracker – and that was a screaming line drive, one of his hardest off the bat, never rising more than 55 feet off the ground.
*Note: One other homer was probably lucky, as it was an in-the-park shot to the deepest part of Chase Field. But even that one went 407 feet in the air, and according to the site, would have left 13 MLB parks.
Now, obviously, ball parks often impact more than just the home-run rate. The fact that Upton’s power is park-proof doesn’t mean, without looking further, that we can dismiss his home/away splits as a non-factor. You should never assume all players will feel the same magnitude, or even the same type, of impact when changing environments. This is because parks aren’t just big or small, but are unique and often have multiple quirks. Moreover, players are people, and shouldn’t be expected to handle transitions as if they were robots.
All that said, in this case, the difference between the direct, quantifiable impact on right-handed batters of Upton’s old home park and his new one lives almost exclusively in home-run rates.
Park Factors for Right-Handed Batters, 2012, Chase Field and Turner Field
Home Runs: Chase 114 – Turner 85
Doubles and Triples: Chase 110 – Turner 109
Hits on Ground Balls: Chase 102 – Turner 100
Hits on Fly Balls: Chase 104 – Turner 107
Barring some unforeseen effect, then, Upton is not going to suddenly lose all offensive value because his new playing environment will be much more humid. This is not Earth-shattering news, but for whoever was wondering, it’s nice to know. Upton has been inconsistent over his career, so projecting his 2013 is still tricky, but the park should take no blame nor credit if his performance changes drastically.Next post: On Alex Rodriguez, PEDs, Jeff Passan’s Cat and Jon Heyman’s Oedipal Conplex
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