Often times we talk about either hitter-friendly parks or pitcher-friendly ones. It’s an easy concept for major league teams, which we get to see on a regular basis and can confirm the results with our own eyes. The concept is easy with minor league teams, too, but there it requires a little more faith for the average reader, since they probably haven’t seen games in both Syracuse and St. Lucie in the same season.
It always helps when you use a descriptive term, like hitter-friendly, to put some numbers alongside it. Fortunately, Matt Eddy from Baseball America has done the heavy lifting for us. He examined the 2019 numbers for all classifications from Triple-A to the short-season leagues, except the Arizona, Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast loops. So, we have these numbers for the Mets’ top six farm clubs.
Eddy calculated both park factors for the league and percentiles for the 160 minor league teams in his study. The park factors are expressed as multipliers, where 1.000 is average, that have been halved in magnitude to reflect the fact that players compile only half their statistics at their home parks.
With the percentiles, you can place each park in an overall minor league context. These numbers, under the headline %tile, should be used to inform perceptions of how parks play. And these are all stated in terms of the batter. So a park in the 70% or above range are certainly hitter-friendly for that metric, while parks in the 30% and below range are pitcher-friendly ones.
It’s important to note that these are one-year factors and sometimes you get wacky results in a single season. Since they used the MLB ball in Triple-A, the numbers for Syracuse – especially the %tile ones – are different than what we would find if these numbers were compiled for the 2018 season, instead.
Still, when we say that Brooklyn and Columbia are pitcher-friendly, you can now see how much that is true. And the hitting environment in Kingsport is certainly a favorable one. The Florida State League is a pitcher’s league but St. Luice is one of the better hitting parks in the loop. We see the park factor for home runs is pretty good for the league yet one of the bottom ones in the 160-park universe, similar to Columbia.
Perhaps the most surprising thing to me was how pitcher-friendly Binghamton was last year. In the past, we’ve talked about the “Binghamton Bump,” the boost that Mets’ hitters get when they escape Columbia and the FSL. But last year, Binghamton was horrible for runs and nearly as bad for BABIP. It will be curious to see if this was a one-year blip.
Shoot, let’s look to the past and see what we can find. Sam Dkystra from MiLB.com did a three-year park factor study and Binghamton was below average in the league for Runs, HR and Hits, the three factors he examined in his study covering the 2014-16 seasons. There are a handful of really good hitter’s parks in the league, which makes the rest of the loop look tame in comparison.
Still, there are some examples of Mets’ prospects who put up crazy numbers in Binghamton and only so-so numbers in the other parks in the Eastern League. In 2017, David Thompson had an .889 OPS in Binghamton and a .635 mark in road games. The previous year, Dominic Smith had a .981 OPS in Binghamton and a .677 mark in road games. The same season as Smith, Victor Cruzado had a home OPS of .841 compared to a road mark of .614
Most hitters do better at home than on the road. If a player posts an OPS 30-40 points higher in his home park, that’s pretty normal. Even a 75-point advantage is not unusual. But once you start getting 200 points higher at home, that raises eyebrows. It’s not universal but there’s something in Binghamton that certain players have been able to exploit. Let’s move on.
After six years in Las Vegas, the Mets finally got their Triple-A team back in the Eastern Time zone and away from the silly ball nature of the PCL. Or so we thought. But the MLB ball flew out at a tremendous pace in the International League, as well as the Pacific Coast League. Syracuse was a below-average park for homers in the IL last year. But it was in the 85th percentile for homers among all 160 parks in Eddy’s study. That’s pretty wild.
We all know that Coors Field and Great American Ball Park are good hitting venues in the majors. With the information compiled by Eddy, we can see how the ball parks in the Mets’ minor league system rate. If you’re a HR hitter, you would have enjoyed playing in Syracuse in 2019. If pitching is more your thing, enjoy the time in Brooklyn, Columbia and St. Lucie.