Today we are going to dive into the park factors for the Billings Mustangs. They play their home games at Dehler Park, their home for the last 11 years. The dimensions to left and center field are fairly standard at 329 feet and 410 feet. Right field, however, is a different story. Down the line it’s 350 feet to the fence.

Billings plays in the very hitter friendly Pioneer League. It’s among the more hitter friendly leagues in all of Minor League Baseball. But, historically, Dehler Park has been the park that stands out for being pitcher friendly by comparison.

Before we dive into the numbers below, this is your reminder that they are only being compared to the other parks in the league and not to all parks in the Minor Leagues.

How did Dehler Park play in the 2018 season?

The first thing we want to look at is how average was changed by the home ballpark versus the road.

dAVG %Change
To LF -.061 -10.0%
To CF .018 3.2%
To RF -.015 -2.6%

This was a bit of a change from the previous season. Left field and right field still hurt hitters in average, but by much smaller amounts. Center fielder went from hurting hitters in 2017 to slightly helping them in 2018. The park, at least from an average standpoint, was more hitter friendly than in the past – but still hurt hitters a small amount.

As has been noted before, it’s more how a ballpark changes the power output that dictates how we feel about a park. Let’s take a look at how Dehler Park changed the output for hitters in 2018. We’re looking at Isolated Power here, which is average subtracted from slugging.

dIsoP %Change
To LF -.065 -17.7%
To CF -.067 -36.8%
To RF -.041 -13.2%

Here is where we see the differences that make Dehler Park the “pitchers park” in the Pioneer League. No matter where you hit the ball, it hurt your power. Both of the corners kept power down a little bit, but center field just crushed power output by comparison. With that said, it wasn’t quite as bad to center as it was the previous year, when the difference was -44.3%.

What do we know from this data?

Like the other rookie league park factors, we are dealing with a small sample size. And that does come into play in terms of how reliable the data itself is. But, the park played out generally how it’s played out in the past: pitcher friendly by comparison to the league.

There were significantly more balls in play in road games than home games (weather caused there to be a few “home games” played on the road in 2018). Still, there was an enormous difference in the home run splits. At home there were 29 home runs hit between the two teams playing in Dehler Park. In road games there were 74. The road games also favored doubles. Triples were far more frequent in Dehler Park, with 27 of them against just 16 on the road.

One interesting note is that on fly balls that made it to the outfield, players hit .260 on them in Dehler Park. In road games they hit .314 on fly balls that made it into the outfield. There are some really small ballparks in the league. Dehler Park has some of the bigger dimensions. That’s probably got something to do with it, but I found it interesting.

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9 Responses

  1. Shaggy

    Doug I have a question for you not related to this subject, when was the last time there was 14 teams with losing records, with several teams with over 90 wins. Why is there such a disparity between the good and the bad. It’s either your team was still in contention for the last several weeks or you were out several months ago. What can be done to make more even teams across the board?

    • Doug Gray

      I have no idea when the last time it happened was. But the disparity is easy to figure out why: Teams no longer need to sell tickets to make money. So they don’t have to try and be an 81-win team anymore. They understand that it’s better to be a 70 win team than an 80 win team, because 80 isn’t enough, and puts you in worse position for the future. So you either go big, or you don’t go. You don’t try to play the middle. So you have a bunch of teams that simply aren’t trying their best to win (the players are, but the teams being put together aren’t being done so on the basis of “we’re doing everything we can to make the playoffs this year”).

      • Michael Smith

        Same thing has been going on in the NBA for a while. Either be a playoff team or tank and try to get the best pick possible. Works better in the NBA where one player can make a world of difference for a franchise.

      • Doug Gray

        Not just that one player can truly have an insane impact, it’s usually that next season. Unlike in baseball when sometimes it’s 4 years away.

        It’s a situation that requires a whole lot more words and thoughts than I’ve got time for right now. But I don’t think it’s a good plan to follow in baseball.

    • Bill

      I like Smoltz’s idea of splitting the season into halves to improve competition and interest in the game. There is nearly no excitement regarding pennant races or even wild card spots. Tanking, although a rational strategy from an individual team perspective, is terrible for MLB as a whole. The league has made some progress in leveling the playing field among teams in the international free agent market and in the Rule 4 draft, but needs to make other changes so the vast majority of teams come into each season believing the have a chance to make the playoffs.

      • Doug Gray

        I’ve heard some good arguments in both directions for that. Teams that win the first half don’t exactly have to take things as seriously in the second half. They can rest players down the stretch that they may not have been able to otherwise. They can line up their playoff rotations if they want. It makes the first half far more important than the second half.

  2. Doc

    I am not sure I understand the point of your ball park assessments. You are comparing 2017 to 2018 data but the ballparks did not change between 2017 and 2018 so what points are you trying to show with your data?

    If the ballpark remained the same, then the differences from one year to the next must be explained by something other than the park, like maybe the players, or global warming…

    Regarding your comment above in response to Shaggy, you are, in effect, saying that team wins don’t matter. A couple of days ago you said that individual wins don’t matter, that only the team wins matter. Sounds to me as though wins don’t matter, as long as the money keeps rolling in, but the teams don’t need fans to show up to make money. Which explains why teams pay exorbitant amounts of money to players whom nobody wants to watch.

    If it is correct that teams want to hover around 70 wins and improve their draft position, perhaps you should start to write more about what the Reds need to do to remain a 70 win team than what they need to do to make the playoffs. At least your writing would align with your perception of team goals! It would be a whole different approach to evaluating players. Suddenly Jesse Winker becomes a player whose defensive prowess becomes a strength and makes him fit perfectly as a 70 win team right fielder, as long as his above average hitting weakness doesn’t start to get too timely and make him a liability for staying around 70 wins.

    Probably would explain why you don’t like Harvey to come back. A .500 pitcher tracks for more than 70 wins in a season so he is a liability for a team wanting to stay in that 70 win range. Trading the farm for one pitcher makes more sense when viewed in this light since that pitcher would only marginally strengthen the team, until he gets hurt, while giving away the farm helps to insure not getting too good and touching that 81 win level.

    “I see now”, says the blind man. It all begins to make sense!

    • Doug Gray

      The numbers in the charts are simply comparing 2018 home (for both teams playing) and 2018 road (for both teams playing). I simply bring up 2017 when talking about how the park changed in how it played from year to year. Sometimes you can point to the players within the league simply being better or worse in one aspect as a whole. Sometimes weather is a factor.

      The point of the data is: Did the home ballpark help or hurt the players during the season versus road ballparks in the league.

      As for why I don’t want Harvey to come back, it’s simple: The Reds need to go out and get pitching that is significantly better than Matt Harvey, or they are going to struggle to win 70 games again. They need to go out and get two legitimate above-average starting pitchers. What they don’t need to do is waste money on someone that is sort of kind of if you squint, average-ish, like Matt Harvey. If this team needed a #4, Matt Harvey is your guy. This team doesn’t need a #4. This team needs two, maybe three dudes that are #2’s.

      • terry m

        One major problem is that other teams will also be looking for the same pitchers the Reds are looking for. Some of these teams could have deeper pockets than the Reds.