Given the severe lack of anything exciting happening in the sports world right now, people are being creative with ways to pass the time. One recent example is the MLB Remix League, which Matt Williams of the Turn Two Podcast has created. It is a league of heavyweights within the fantasy industry, and yours truly is excited to be a participant.
Essentially, we’ll find out what happens when a bunch of fantasy baseball nerds get to run an MLB franchise. Each owner gets a team to run, and I’ll be the proud manager of the Cincinnati Reds. I offered to take whichever park was left after everyone picked their team, and I assumed I’d be stuck with Kauffman Stadium or something ugly like that. But apparently some folks must be rolling with the pitching and defense model, so I get to build an MLB team that calls the Great American Ball Park home. And I couldn’t be more excited, as I don’t have any interest in building a squad in a pitcher’s park. GET READY FOR SOME DINGERS, people!
Some housekeeping things about this redraft of the MLB...we are each drafting 26-man rosters. Each team will have a pool of minor leaguers, as we are also drafting 24-man MiLB rosters. Pitching and defense matter...basically we’ll be as close to real life as we can be. One fun wrinkle is that we won’t be bound by payroll, as Matt made a great point on last night’s stream—these teams COULD all spend more money if they wanted to do so. It will be really cool to see a balanced-looking league, talent-wise, that isn’t bound by franchises who refuse to spend money. It should make for a really exciting draft!
Last but not least, we are using the OOTP platform to host our league. We’ll be simulating three seasons there, and the folks there were awesome enough to give us access to their platform. I am as of yet totally ignorant of the site, but it sounds like an amazing product and I’m excited to get to know it better.
Now for the Reds home park, and how that affects my draft strategy. For me, I thought it was important to get to know my park as best I can. To do so, I leaned on ESPN’s park factors and recent Pitcher List research with regard to barrels and ball parks.
Great American Ball Park specs that might matter:
Playing surface: Natural Grass
Left field distance: 328 feet
Center field distance: 404 feet
Right field distance: 325 feet
Home run park factors over the last four years (I wanted three years of data sans the bouncy ball of 2019:
2016: 1.175 (4th)
2017: 1.094 (10th)
2018: 1.395 (1st)
2019: 1.130 (8th)
We all know this is a hitter’s park. But some parks are home run parks, while others are spacious and allow for more run-scoring. So I need to check runs, too.
Runs Park Factor:
2016: 0.990 (15th)
2017: 1.020 (13th)
2018: 1.128 (4th)
2019: 1.038 (11th)
So by both measures this is a hitter’s park, but it is interesting to me that GABP takes a hit with regard to overall run-scoring, despite being an elite place to hit home runs.
Pitcher List and Barrels Research by Ball Park
If you haven’t yet, you should check out the work by Dan Richards over at Pitcher List for some insight into barrels by ball park. It’s great, and it’s great that I’m drafting with the Reds park in mind. Here’s why:
Based on 2019 barrels data, GABP ranked FIRST in HR/Brl% at 74.34%. Put differently, if you barrel a ball in GABP, there’s nearly a 75% chance that that sucker is leaving the yard. Compare that to the MLB average, which is 59.59%—and you get an idea of just how much better this park is for hitting dingers compared to the mean. One way of putting it is to say that a hitter is nearly 25% more likely to hit a home run in GABP for every barrel on average. Now give me all the Pete Alonso at pick 21...we’ll see!
Just for reference, Oracle Park is atrocious for hitting home runs and ranked 29th on the list, with a 45.08% rate. My division rival Brewers ranked fourth with a 69.36% rate, while Yankee Stadium ranked 14th at 61.88%. Another popular hitting venue, Oriole Park, ranked third with a 70.12% rate.
I bring up those parks just to give you a frame of reference. I’m excited to have a park that allows for dingers. Admittedly, though, finding a pitching staff suited to this park is going to be a challenge. More on that before we finish up.
I should note that this work does not include non-barreled home runs, but the short story is that it’s safe to say that GABP is also a great venue for hitting those types of homers. Eugenio Suarez was specifically mentioned in Richards’ article, due to hitting 21 of his 49 bombs at home, but doing so on only 26 barrels—a rate of over 80%. In short...this is a great place to hit, barrels or not. Off the cuff, I’ll be looking for guys who can pull fly balls down the line...
Park Factors by Handedness
So I know that GABP is a great place to hit, but is it better for lefties or righties? Let’s consult Pitcher List again.
For lefty bats, GABP ranked 4th overall with a 83.6% LHH Pull HR/Brl. Only Yankee Stadium, Minute Maid Park, and Guaranteed Rate Field ranked higher. No big surprises there, and Yankee Stadium is a good example of what I’m looking for. Despite the Yanks’ home park ranking 14th overall, they rank first for lefty hitters. So if I was building for New York I’d definitely be looking for lefty bats (again, no surprises).
As for GABP and righty bats, the Reds home environs ranked third with a 83.1% RHH Pull HR/Brl. Only Oriole Park and Minute Maid Park were ahead. And this confirms what I knew on an anecdotal level—both lefty and righty bats are at my disposal. This is a great place to hit, period.
Lastly—and to cover all the proverbial bases—the Reds’ home park ranked sixth in all of baseball on barreled balls hit to center field, at 55.9%. Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, Miller Park, Oriole Park, and Coors Field were the only places with higher percentages.
In all, I don’t want to say handedness doesn’t matter...but it’s clear that lefty or righty bats can be safely on my board when drafting.
What does this mean for pitching?
Well...I’m scared? Ha! I was wondering if a split would emerge based on handedness data, but it did not. So it appears that yours truly may mine for guys who are true worm-killers...fellas who can keep the ball on the ground and hopefully limit hard contact. We’ll see what is available to me at pick 21, as the draft is already underway! I have some ideas for pitching, but right now I’m eager to find out who I’m taking first!
Lastly, given the extreme hitter’s locale that I find myself building a squad in, tell me what YOU would do! Are you going heavy on the hitting first? To add to what could be an existing strength—i.e. let’s just bludgeon everyone to death? Or is it more prudent to hammer starting pitching early, in order to nullify the park I find myself in?
If you were the new Reds GM, are you leaning towards hitting or pitching early on?
This poll is closed