Josh Donaldson has been traded from the Oakland A's to the Toronto Blue Jays. With this trade, Donaldson moves from one of the most pitching friendly ballparks in the American League to one of the most hitter friendly ballparks. This, combined with bad luck in 2014, makes him a fantastic target in 2015.
I’m going to use ESPN’s park factor list to compare Rogers Centre to the Oakland Coliseum, but keep in mind that this park factor formula is not perfect.
Park Factor compares the rate of stats at home vs. the rate of stats on the road. A rate higher than 1.000 favors the hitter. Below 1.000 favors the pitcher. Teams with home games in multiple stadiums list aggregate Park Factors.
Due to MLB divisional scheduling, some teams play a higher amount of road games in extreme ballparks than others. Teams are scheduled to play 19 divisional games against each division opponent per season, and half of those games are on the road. So, for example, the Colorado Rockies play about 27 road games per year in Petco Park, AT&T Park and Dodgers Stadium, three of the most pitcher friendly parks in baseball. This can skew the home/road park factor statistics using the above formula. Another example is the Texas Rangers, who travel to Seattle, LAA and Oakland, three more pitcher favorable parks.
The A's have a split in their divisional road park types; they play in two pitcher parks, Safeco and Angel Stadium, and two hitters parks, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Minute Maid Park, so in theory this park factor list shouldn't be too off for them. In addition to the divisional road games, the type of pitching a team faces and the handedness of the batter can also affect the park ratings, too. This park factor formula should generally be taken with a grain of salt. Regardless, this is a quick and easy way of comparing home run park factors, and still holds value.
In 2014, Rogers Centre ranked 3rd in home run park factors at 1.310 while the Oakland Coliseum ranked 21st at 0.903. In 2013, Rogers Centre was 3rd at 1.289 while the Oakland Coliseum was 25th at 0.818. Donaldson’s chances of hitting more home runs improves significantly by moving from the spacious Oakland Coliseum and into Rogers Centre.
Donaldson’s new divisional road schedule will also help him. The Blue Jays will play 29 road games in Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, and Fenway Park, all fantastic hitters parks. This replaces 19 divisional road games in Safeco and Angel Stadium, two pitcher’s parks.
Donaldson's home/road splits in 2014 also support the idea that putting him in the American League East will boost his statistics. Donaldson hit .276/.361/.513 (.874 OPS) with a 146 wRC+ in 2014 away from the Oakland Coliseum, a line almost identical to his 2013 season line.
Donaldson was unlucky in 2014
Josh Donaldson made excellent contact in 2014 and wasn’t fully rewarded for it. Donaldson had the 12th best hard hit rate in baseball at 21.4% in 2014. Hard contact is great for a hitter because the harder a ball is hit, the more likely strong offensive production occurs:
Batting average by batted ball type:
Hard: around .700
Medium: around .400
Soft: around .140-.150
% of _ that are hard hit:
Home runs: about 100%
Triples: over 80%
Doubles: over 70%
Singles: about 30%
Outs: about 7%
Despite such an excellent hard hit rate, Donaldson’s batting average dropped nearly 50 points from last season, his wRC+ dropped from 147 to 129 and his OPS dropped from .883 to .798. Why did Donaldson’s statistics drop so much despite such a strong amount of quality contact?
I think an explanation lies here: 131 of Donaldson’s batted balls were hard hit, and Donaldson only hit .646 on these, about .54 points below the average of .700. Had Donaldson had average luck on hard hit balls, his batting average, OPS and wRC+ would have been much closer to his 2013 statistics. Donaldson’s process at the plate was good, he just had bad luck and wasn’t being rewarded for his good process.
If we project Donaldson to have average luck on hard hit balls in 2015, and combine that with the better park factors he’ll be facing in the AL East, Donaldson looks primed for a sensational 2015 fantasy season. Expect 30+ home runs, 100 RBI, and 100 runs scored.