I can recall a handful of baseball stats that have just blown me away upon first viewing. Most recently, I was floored by advancements in pitch-framing research, and now I can’t think about any catcher without looking up how well he does or doesn’t receive. Obviously, PITCHf/x was sort of world-changing right away, and the same goes for the glimpses we’ve had of HITf/x. Years and years ago, I thought we solved almost everything with general batted-ball data, and I also remember opening a book and seeing batting averages and slugging percentages against specific pitch types. And there was an article I read in the Hardball Times, talking about various park factors. Some of them have been obvious for a long time. But it wasn’t until that day that I realized parks can affect outcomes like strikeouts and bases on balls.
There’s every reason for that to make sense. Every single ballpark is different, so in a way, every single ballpark’s version of baseball is different. The baseball will look different to the batter, and how the batter sees the ball is sort of one of the game’s fundamental components. The batter’s decision and swing lead to everything else. But what this isn’t is intuitive, or easily explained. People don’t pay much attention to these park factors, because they’re weird and ultimately not that important. Yet they exist and ought to be acknowledged, and one park in particular is extreme in a number of ways.