Ballpark Rankings
By Dave Darling
For the casual baseball fan, about the only things that set apart a good ballpark from a bad one are parking, the price of beer and quantity of restrooms. OK, well, perhaps the park's overall atmosphere matters, too.

But to the more discriminating fan -- aka fantasy geek -- there's much more to consider. For where a player calls home can make or break his production.

When considering a player's value, his home certainly should not be the most important issue you consider -- bottom-line skills and potential come first. But for most major leaguers, a stadium can have a huge effect on his numbers. And knowing the difference between a pitchers and hitters park can prove to be the difference between first and second place in your league.

So as you work on your rankings list this year, pay close attention to offseason moves. For example, the values of Robert Fick, Mike Hampton, Jeff Kent, Ted Lilly, Damian Moss and Preston Wilson have risen with their moves. Conversely, players such as Ray Durham, Damian Miller, Russ Ortiz, Ivan Rodriguez, Brett Tomko and Todd Zeile could take a hit.

Some notes on the rankings:

  • They're based on three-year statistics, except where otherwise noted.
  • The runs, home runs and batting average statistics noted are calculated by comparing home and road statisics; this provides a better representation of the park's effect on any player. The numbers represent how the park would match up against an average major league park.
  • The number in parentheses is the park's MLB ranking (descending in all cases) for that category.
  • As you set your lineup each week, consider the top six or so teams on this list to be hitters parks, the bottom 10 to favor pitchers, and the 14 in between to be fairly neutral.

    1. Colorado, Coors Field

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +4.40 (1) +1.10 (1) +.055 (1)

    Say what you will about the humidor, it definitely had an effect on play at Coors in 2002. Nearly every offensive category -- including runs, home runs and batting average -- declined from 2001. Still, don't let this mislead you: from batting average, to homers to triples and everything in between, Coors still is by far the best hitters park in baseball.
    The skinny: Load up on as many Rockies hitters as possible and avoid their pitchers at all costs.
    Who wins: Everyone who swings a bat.
    Who loses: Everyone who ducks and covers.

    2. Kansas City, Kauffman Stadium

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +1.67 (2) +0.36 (5) +.025 (2)

    The Big K treats righthanded and lefthanded hitters equally well. It's easily the best hitting park in the AL in terms of batting average. Visiting teams batted .294 and scored 6.2 runs a game in 2002, while the Royals' pitching staff posted a 5.79 ERA, all MLB highs.
    The skinny: A great hitters park + weak lineup support + horrendous starting pitching = AVOID ALL ROYALS PITCHERS.
    Who wins: Carlos Beltran, Joe Randa
    Who loses: Runelvys Hernandez, James Baldwin

    T3. Houston, Minutemaid Park

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +1.32 (3) +0.38 (4) +.013 (4)

    Home runs dropped by 34 percent from 2001 (216 to 143), and we're not quite sure why, but Minutemaid still is one of only four that rank in the top five in all three categories. It's very kind to lefthanded hitters (.293 batting average and 239 homers during last three years).
    The skinny: It still ranks near the top in many hitting categories, but run production has decreased in each of the stadium's first three seasons (3.62 runs per game since 2000), so owners no longer should automatically bench a pitcher who is starting here.
    Who wins: Lance Berkman, Jeff Kent
    Who loses: Shane Reynolds, Wade Miller

    T3. Arizona, Bank One Ballpark

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +1.24 (4) +0.24 (7) +.021 (3)

    Surprised to see the BOB this high? Don't be. Its 1,090-foot elevation puts it second only to Coors Field. It treats lefthanded and righthanded hitters equally in terms of batting average and it favors righthanded power hitters. And think of what the numbers would be like if Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling weren't accounting for 35 starts here every year.
    The skinny: With the Diamondbacks and Rockies owning two of the best hitters parks in baseball and the Dodgers, Padres and Giants holding down the No. 28-30 spots, the NL West is a picture of contrast when it comes to parks.
    Who wins: Junior Spivey, Tony Womack
    Who loses: Miguel Batista, Elmer Dessens

    T3. Texas, Ballpark in Arlington

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +1.21 (5) +0.50 (3) +.013 (4)

    Another equal-opportunity hitters park, the Ballpark ranks above the AL average in every offensive category. Teams bat .287 here and have hit more homers over the past three years (624) than at any other AL park (second overall to Coors at 670). And it yielded the second-highest ERA in the majors in '02 (5.67).
    The skinny: It would be a fine hitters park in almost any climate, but the hot Texas summers wear down pitchers. So avoid Texas pitchers from June on.
    Who wins: Rafael Palmeiro, Hank Blalock
    Who loses: Chan Ho Park, Joaquin Benoit

    T6. Pittsburgh, PNC Park

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.82 (6) -0.18 (22) +.008 (7)

    Note: Figures represent 2001 and 2002 seasons.

    After two seasons it's becoming clear that PNC is more of a friend to singles hitters than power guys. Interestingly, as deep as the park is to left field as compared to right field, lefthanded hitters don't appear to benefit greatly in the power department - and in fact they had considerably less success in 2002. It appears to have one of the worst infields in baseball (1.38 infield errors committed per game the past two seasons), which can lead to more runs scored.
    The skinny: It's certainly not a home run park and is just above average in batting average, but runs sure do come easy here.
    Who wins: Brian Giles, Kevin Young
    Who loses: Kris Benson, Josh Fogg

    T6. Chicago (AL), U.S. Cellular Field

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.41 (7) +0.61 (2) +.008 (7)

    Interestingly, after moving in the fences substantially down the lines in 2001, the number of homers hit on the South Side have remained nearly unchanged (198, 199, 199), though batting averages have dipped a bit (.279 in 2000 to .269 in '01 and '02). Its only drawback is that the gaps are narrow, which cuts down on doubles and triples.
    The skinny: The park is equally kind to lefthanded and righthanded hitters, and because the White Sox have a pretty potent lineup, you should avoid starting visiting pitchers here (5.88 ERA in 2002).
    Who wins: Magglio Ordonez, Frank Thomas
    Who loses: Bartolo Colon, Dan Wright

    T8. Montreal, Olympic Stadium

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.37 (9) +0.09 (11) +.002 (12)

    Olympic Stadium is much kinder to lefthanded hitters than righties (.277 vs. .260 batting average the past three seasons). But the main issue to keep in mind this season when selecting Expos players is that they will be playing 22 (27 percent) of their home games in Puerto Rico at Hiram Bithorn Stadium - and this place is a bandbox even in comparison to newer AL stadiums (averages 314 down the lines, 350 to power alleys and is 400 straight away).
    The skinny: Treat Olympic Stadium as a moderate hitters park, but be extra cautious when your pitchers travel to Puerto Rico because Hiram Bithorn could end up rivaling Coors in terms of offensive production.
    Who wins: Jose Vidro, Brad Wilkerson, Vladimir Guerrero
    Who loses: Expos pitchers throwing in the heat of San Juan.

    T8. Toronto, Skydome

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.39 (8) +0.04 (14) +.002 (12)

    Must be something in the air, because Skydome's numbers are nearly identical to its Canadian counterpart in Montreal. Skydome is a symmetrical park that treats righthanded hitters slightly better than lefthanders.
    The skinny: For the most part, Skydome can be considered a moderate hitters or neutral park.
    Who wins: Shannon Stewart, Eric Hinske
    Who loses: Vernon Wells

    10. Cleveland, Jacobs Field

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.14 (11) +0.24 (7) +.001 (14)

    It's still one of the better power parks in baseball, but is pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of batting average and runs produced.
    The skinny: It shouldn't be considered a visiting pitcher's nightmare, particularly with Jim Thome no longer pummeling righthanded pitching.
    Who wins: Matt Lawton, Omar Vizquel
    Who loses: Ellis Burks, Karim Garcia

    11. Minnesota, Metrodome

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.29 (10) -0.39 (25) +.003 (10)

    It's no longer known as a homer dome, and with good reason. During the last three seasons, only 416 home runs have been hit at the Metrodome, which makes it one of the bottom five power fields in the AL. And curiously, there was a severe drop-off in power there in 2002 compared to 2001 and 2000, particularly for lefthanded hitters. Still, those same lefthanded hitters fare pretty well in terms of batting average (.285 over the last three seasons).
    The skinny: Consider it a borderline hitters park, but don't be afraid to start any pitcher here.
    Who wins: Corey Koskie, Doug Mientkiewicz
    Who loses: Jacque Jones

    T12. Atlanta, Turner Field

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.11 (12) -0.01 (17) +.006 (9)

    Overall, it boosts batting averages, but hurts power. It favors lefthanded hitters, particularly in the power department (righthanded batters have averaged 94 homers there during the past three seasons).
    The skinny: Turner Field still is pretty neutral, but it slowly is distinguishing itself as a moderate hitters park.
    Who wins: Chipper Jones, Mike Hampton
    Who loses: Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones

    T12. Anaheim, Edison International Field

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.07 (13) +0.08 (12) +.003 (10)

    The last park on our list with three categories in the positives, Edison might be one of the most deceiving stadiums in baseball. While the left-center field wall is one of deepest in the AL (387 feet) and the right-center wall is one of the closest to homes plate (370), righthanded hitters are far more likely to homer here than there lefthanded counterparts. It treats each about the same, average wise. It also should be noted that almost all hitting indexes were down in 2002 from 2001 and 2000 - particularly power numbers -- and we're not quite sure why, but it's something we'll continue to monitor.
    The skinny: It's a moderate hitters park that curtails lefthanded power.
    Who wins: Troy Glaus, Adam Kennedy
    Who loses: Tim Salmon, Jarrod Washburn

    T14. New York (AL), Yankee Stadium

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.01 (14) +0.29 (6) -.005 (19)

    Enter the neutral parks. The Stadium still is one of the best places in baseball to jack up power numbers if you're a lefthanded hitter, but it still hurts batting averages from both sides of the plate (batters hit .264 there over the last three seasons).
    The skinny: Despite this being a very neutral park, it's best to avoid starting visiting players here because of the Yankees' ability to score runs and the pitching staff's general excellence.
    Who wins: Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens
    Who loses: Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera

    T14. Boston, Fenway Park

    Runs Home runs AVG
    +0.01 (14) -0.45 (27) +.010 (6)

    Fenway easily is the most unpredictable park in baseball - and its no wonder, given its irregular dimensions. One thing is for sure: The Green Monster takes away homers but adds base hits. It's the most difficult park in the AL to hit a homer from the left side. Also, beware: it's one of the most difficult places to play in the field. The infield has the worst rating in the majors over the past three seasons (1.19 errors per game by home and visiting teams). And the irregular fence dimensions make things just as tough on outfielders to field balls.
    The skinny: It's baseball's box of chocolate - but treat it indifferently.
    Who wins: Derek Lowe, Nomar Garciaparra.
    Who loses: Trot Nixon, Pedro Martinez.

    NR. Cincinnati, Great American Ball Park

    After playing in one of the better NL hitting parks for more than three decades, the Reds move next store to a new facility this season. The dimensions are fairly similar to what Cinergy was until two years ago (though they've avoided making this a symmetrical cookie cutter): 325, 379, 404, 370, 328 feet from left to right. The walls measure eight feet high down the lines and in center field and 12-feet high in the gaps. Also, there is six more feet of foul space from home plate to the seats, which will lead to more pop outs in foul territory.
    The skinny: The early speculation is it will be fairly neutral, but perhaps overall will favor pitchers and lefthanded power. Unless we tell you otherwise, treat it as a neutral field during its inaugural season. The closer fences in right field should help Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr.

    17. Tampa Bay, Tropicana Field

    Runs Home runs AVG
    -0.01 (17) -0.14 (20) .000 (17)

    This place is about as neutral and predictable as they come. It's a little easier to hit for average here that for power, and despite the fences being closer to home in left field, righthanders struggle in the power department.
    The skinny: Because the Devil Rays can't hit and have a weak rotation, this is a good place to start visiting pitchers.
    Who wins: Aubrey Huff, Joe Kennedy
    Who loses: Victor Zambrano, Ben Grieve

    18. St. Louis, Busch Stadium

    Runs Home runs AVG
    -0.16 (18) +0.08 (12) -.005 (19)

    That 12th overall home run rating might be a bit misleading because power numbers at Busch have been on a steady decline during the last three seasons - from 220 homers hit there in 2000, to 174 in 2001 to 143 in 2002.
    The skinny: There have been no dimension changes, so we're a bit puzzled about the park's apparent loss of power. Meantime, batting-average and run-production indices have remained constant. Treat it as a moderate pitchers park.
    Who wins: Matt Morris, Jim Edmonds
    Who loses: Fernando Vina

    19. Milwaukee, Miller Park

    Runs Home runs AVG
    -0.29 (19) +0.12 (10) +.001 (14)

    Note: Figures represent 2001 and 2002 seasons.

    Is it a coincidence that the only two stadiums in baseball named after breweries have similar statistics? Probably not. Offensive numbers were down across the board during Miller's second season, so what you see above is an average of both seasons. It definitely favors lefthanded hitters in both the power and batting average categories.
    The skinny: Last year, we called Miller a slight hitters park. This year, we're saying it's a moderate pitchers park. In any event, it's safe to start your visiting pitchers here against a hapless Brewers team.
    Who wins: Richie Sexson, Ben Sheets
    Who loses: Mike DeJean




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