One constant refrain in minor league statistical analysis is that Context is Everything. Statistics mean very little in a vacuum, but instead, we need to know factors like their age relative to level, their league’s run environment, their park’s run environment. These are all factors that can wreak havoc on our attempt to judge a basic AVG/OBP/SLG batting line. We’ll be playing around to make things context-neutral all winter, but today, I wanted to magnify an environment that is universally known to favor pitching: the Florida State League.
Scouts and statisticians alike know the difficulty hitters face in the FSL, and both are long ahead of me in making adjustments. If you want to see the specific proof, I always point to a great offseason article at the Hardball Times by Justin Inaz. In terms of runs and BaseRuns alike, the FSL is the hardest league in professional baseball for hitters. As a result, I think most of us (I know that I’ve been) are guilty of seeing a batting line out of Florida, and saying, “Well, he’s played in the FSL, so I should boost up those numbers relative to other High-A players.”
However, it’s important to remember that if we continue on the path towards context-neutral, our adjustments need to be taken a step further: park adjustments. While we know how the league plays in the context of the Carolina and (especially) California Leagues, I haven’t seen a ton detailing how the specific stadiums play within the context of the league itself. In that vein, I calculated the runs per game and home runs per game at each FSL stadium (by both the home and road team) from both this season, and over the 2008-2010 period.
Name R/G HR/G 3R/G 3HR/G FSL Avg 8.45 1.01 8.34 1.10 Brevard 8.02 0.67 7.84 0.88 Clearwater 8.59 1.31 8.30 1.34 Daytona 9.07 1.30 8.99 1.21 Dunedin 8.81 1.47 8.89 1.45 Fort Myers 8.64 0.76 8.13 0.90 Jupiter 7.79 0.63 7.72 0.84 Lakeland 8.07 0.93 8.87 1.34 Palm Beach 7.68 0.75 7.78 0.79 St. Lucie 9.93 1.07 9.35 1.27 Tampa 7.56 0.81 7.77 0.78
Note: Not included above are Bradenton and Charlotte, because those affiliates haven’t existed for 3 years. Bradenton has played (relatively) hitter-friendly this year, at 9.79 runs and 1.30 home runs per game. Charlotte is somewhere between neutral and pitcher-friendly, at 7.38 runs and 1.13 homers per contest.
You see quite a bit of diversity in those numbers. This season, for every home run hit in Jupiter, there have been 2.3 hit in Dunedin. The league has three stadiums that seem to be extreme pitcher’s parks (Jupiter, Palm Beach, Tampa), and two others that favor pitchers (Brevard, Fort Myers) by a decent amount. By contrast, hitters from Clearwater, St. Lucie, Dunedin and Daytona probably receive more credit from our sub-conscious FSL adjustments than they deserve.
Some thoughts on how these findings should alter our thoughts on specific prospects numbers this season.
Plenty of more examples, but needless to say, there’s a lot here. This winter, we’ll spend all sorts of time neutralizing as best we can, and really get an idea of how these players actually performed relative to each other.