Ballparks are very clearly strongly tied to fantasy production. However, I actually think park factors – not parks themselves, but what we label ‘park factors’ – are overrated in daily fantasy baseball, and I feel kind of strongly about this. Here’s my reasoning…
1. Park factors aren’t static.
Parks are often assigned a value in terms of how hitter-friendly they are, but the reality is hitter-friendliness is changing all the time based on a variety of factors, such as weather, handedness, and so on. If you’re going to assign values to parks, you at the very least should be breaking it down by handedness; some parks play very well for righties and not so for lefties, or vice versa.
2. It’s difficult to separate the park from the teams that play in it.
Understanding the “true” hitter-friendliness of a park is much more challenging than people think. You have to properly control for the quality of the teams playing in the park (the home team and division rivals most of all), and doing that is not so easy.
We know that Coors Field is a hitter’s park because the results are so extreme, but most parks are in the middle area.
3. The middle ground is the worst place to be.
I talk about this a lot in my books, but focusing on a metric that requires an extremely high level of precision isn’t the best idea; there are so many parks and such little difference between many of them (when analyzed on the whole) that we can’t really be certain the 7th-best park (one that we’d say is good for hitters) is really much better, or better at all, than the 17th-best park (one we might say is neutral or pitcher-friendly). Basically, I want to focus my attention on the tails, where I’m not going to get completely thrown off by small errors in assessment.
4. We can replicate park factors in other ways.
I mentioned weather, and those who know me know how much I use it (I even have an entire RotoAcademy course on it). Coors Field, as an example, is the “worst” park for hitters in terms of the actual dimensions, but clearly No. 1, due entirely to the altitude. The majority of what we consider park factors is simply a reflection of atmospheric conditions. If you don’t believe me, take a look at numbers in Globe Life – a notorious hitter’s park – when it isn’t extremely hot (like in April), or numbers at Safeco when there aren’t mild temperatures in Seattle.
5. The crowd uses park factors.
In tournaments, there’s a very strong correlation between ownership and the park in which a guy is playing (or, to be more specific, the narrative about that park). Some of them are justified – like Coors Field or Wrigley when the wind is blowing straight out – but others are not. PNC Park, for example, is one I don’t really think is specifically targeted, yet it’s offered pretty incredible value to hitters over the past few years. That’s because 1) it isn’t going to be directly priced into site salaries in the same way sites compensate for games at Coors, and 2) the crowd isn’t all over it. Even if PNC is a worse park for hitters than, say, Globe Life (which I’m not even sure is the case in many situations), I’m going to favor games at PNC if it means getting significantly reduced ownership.
Basically, outside of the extremes, I think people place way too much emphasis on how much value there is in a static park factor number, particularly when we can arguably better predict hitter-friendliness using other means.