In Part I of my look at Nolan Arenado and the so-called “Coors Effect” I pointed to some stats and metrics that hopefully explained why it’s sensible to look beyond the surface-level numbers. And now he comes to Busch Stadium … a beast that menaces hitters.
Arenado is a good hitter, but it’s foolish to expect Coors Field hitting prowess at Busch Stadium. Using the five-season breakdown of Park Factors at FanGraphs, we can see that Arenado is moving from the No. 1 hitter’s park in MLB to No. 23. Busch clearly favors pitchers; so adjust your expectations accordingly.
As I wrote in the first piece: leaving Coors isn’t the problem for Arenado. If there’s a problem, it will center around the power-depressing environment at Busch.
Going from The Coors Effect to The Busch Effect would be a challenge for any hitter.
Many — including this bloke — have fussed about the Cardinals’ puny power in recent seasons. And that criticism is true — at Busch Stadium. On the road? Not so much. Not nearly as much. Not even close.
You may be just as surprised as I was to see the Cardinals’ power capacity when the team hits the road.
Let’s take a look at the past five seasons of home-road power splits and where the Cardinals ranked among the 30 MLB teams. All data from FanGraphs.
- Home: .409, (24th.)
- Road: .469 (7th.)
- Home: .158 (26th.)
- Road: .180 (4th.)
- Home: 396 (24th.)
- Away: 491 (5th.)
The disparity is especially stark when we look at flyballs…
- Flyball slugging, home: .682 (25th.)
- Flyball slugging, road: .795 (3rd.)
- Flyball ISO, home: .458 (.25th.)
- Flyball ISO, road: .535 (3rd.)
Percentage of Flyballs That Result In a Homer:
- Home: 12.4%, 23rd
- Road: 14.7%, 2nd
That’s an eye-opening discrepancy. If the same group of players hit for little power at home and substantial power on the road, the home ballpark has a helluva lot to do with it. A five-year sample is abundant. There’s nothing to dispute here.
Arenado has been great at Busch Stadium — 25 percent above league average in park adjusted runs created — but it’s wise to avoid overreacting to 98 career plate appearances at Busch. In his eight years as a Rockie, Arenado never had more than 19 plate appearances per season at Busch.
If there’s a concern about Arenado in his new home yard, it’s flyballs. He hits a lot of them…
According to FanGraphs “NA” has a 42.6 percent career flyball rate. That’s 43rd highest among 445 qualifying hitters since 2013. (Also: too many popups.)
During his eight seasons in Colorado he slugged .981 on fly balls at home — and a much lower rate (.676) on fly balls on the road.
His park-adjusted runs created on fly balls was 97 percent above league average at home, and 20 percent above average on the road.
Naturally a higher percentage of fly balls landed over the walls for a homer at Coors: 17.4 percent, compared to his 13.3% rate on the road.
Because of the immense outfield at Coors Field, Arenado’s flyball tendencies make sense.
“The gaps are huge,” said retired Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, who excelled at Coors for his five-plus seasons as a Rockie. “You hit a you drive over the shortstop head, you’ve got to double and then in other parts that might be a single just because of how deep they have to play.”
Holliday may have presented a remedy there…
More line drives.
With Colorado, Arenado had a .976 slug and .250 ISO at home when he hit a line drive. And when he hit a line drive on the road, there wasn’t a huge difference: .934 slug, .230 ISO.
Flyballs may not travel well at Busch Stadium.
But line drives always travel well … in any ballpark.
And the Cardinals have a different interpretation of “flyball.”
“Arenado’s launch angle is more that of a line-drive hitter,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told me.
One way or another look for Arenado — an intelligent hitter — to make adjustments when he moves into Busch. He’s good at that too.
Thanks for reading.
Listen to Bernie’s sports-talk radio show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday 3-6 p.m. and on Friday from 4-6 p.m. Listen online or access the Bernie Show at 590thefan.com