Perhaps due to schedule shenanigans, Arizona’s Chase Field has only been home to one Mark Trumbo home run this season. That’s fine. The park has already helped Trumbo become a better hitter.
When you’re trying to anticipate how a player will do with a move, it’s fair to look at the entirety of the division. For every Texas there’s a Colorado; every Seattle has its San Diego. But for Trumbo, those other parks are secondary. “Having a favorable home park is probably the most important thing throughout the year because that’s generally how you’re going to gear your swing and approach,” he told me, earlier this week, about his new home division.
We know the right-handed power factor for home runs in Anaheim is a 95 and that it’s a 103 in Chase Field. We know the park plays well for power. “Places usually get their reputation for a reason,” Trumbo said. “I anticipate Arizona playing nicely.”
But for a right-hander looking just at the dimensions of the two parks — especially for a pull-hitter — the source of that difference is not immediately clear. In Anaheim, it was 330 feet down the line in left and 387 feet to left-center. In Arizona, it’s now 330 down the line in left and 374 to left-center.
That doesn’t seem enough for a near 10-point swing in home run power factors, and of course it isn’t: Temperature is one of the largest sources of park differences when it comes to power. And if you think Anaheim’s a warm place, you have to go to the park at night. “These beach parks don’t play as warm at night,” Trumbo said. The average temperature in Anaheim for evening games was 73.2 degrees last year. In Phoenix, it’s T-shirt weather at night: 86.7 degrees, the hottest in the bigs. That difference alone means almost six feet of difference in batted-ball distance.
In the end, it might be how Trumbo feels about his power to right field that matters most to his production this year. “In Anaheim, it’s not as favorable to the opposite field side,” he said. That quirk made him subconsciously pull the ball more often. He knew he had to “actually nuke the ball to get it out to right field,” and he got “tired of making outs.” Now he’s at a park that will play more fair, and Trumbo’s trying to go to right-center or dead-center more often.
It’s early returns right now, but it looks like Trumbo has been true to his word. He’s already equalled his seasonal average of two opposite-field home runs, and his spray chart seems to reflect a more up-the-middle approach. At 28%, his opposite-field percentage is three points higher than ever.
There are a couple other changes Trumbo’s been working on. He’s trying to be “efficient to the ball” while still driving it, which means he’s shortening up with two strikes. Last season, he tried to take more pitches and work walks. Instead, he saw himself in worse counts, and his strikeout rate increased and his batting average dropped. “It didn’t really work at all,” he said. Now, he’s going to be aggressive while also trying to lay off bad pitches — rather than focusing on simply being selective. He’s relying on his coaches and teammates a bit more this year because he’s in a new league and doesn’t know the pitchers as well.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.