SBC Park - A Hitter's Park?

There has been a lot of questioning of the Giants this year by fans. It started with "Why sign Tucker and lose a draft pick?" and the latest is "Why don't the Giants get any bullpen help?" Many of the questions have revolved around the pitching, but the biggest question that to me has been unasked is, "Why is SBC a hitter's park while PBP is a pitcher's park?"

I did not come to this discovery through any great insight. I happened to read a local columnist writing about how the Giants would have a better chance at winning the World Series by having a pitcher's park rather than a hitter's park. So I decided to check out the numbers for this year, looking at the home and away splits on Yahoo, knowing from Bill James annual stats book that PBP was a severe pitcher's park the past two seasons, though declining in 2003 relative to 2002. And as Gomer Pyle would say, "Shazam, Shazam, Shazam, Golllee!" when I looked at the numbers.

Yes, why is our pretty pitcher's park by McCovey's Cove now a big bad bandbox? I am as shocked by this statement as any other Giants fan would be after four glorious lopsided production between home and away, where the Giants had a home advantage in terms of a pitcher's park, even though I'm aware of the downtrend (or rather uptrend) in the home vs. away stats, making the stats more even, though still decidedly a pitcher's park. But the numbers this year is startling.

The Numbers Says It All (Sort Of)

Well, startling when viewing the Giants offense, as the pitching staff's numbers aren't that skewed. First off, the difference in hitting is staggering. At SBC, the Giants are hitting .283/.370/.462/.832 in 67 games vs. .254/.343/.410/.752 in 66 games away(games as of August 30, 2004). However, the Giants lack of clutch hitting manifests itself in just a minor difference in runs scored, though it is still higher at SBC than away, with 5.24 runs scored at home and 5.18 runs scored away.

And it is not just Bonds doing better at SBC than on the road, there are a wide majority of hitters doing well at home. Here's the home and away stats, by hitter, as of August 30, 2004 (stats from Yahoo Sports):


In all, eight players have stats much better at SBC, two are about even (+/- .050), and two are much better on the road, out of the 12 regular players with over 100 at-bats. And one of the better aways is now not on the team - Neifi Perez.

The pitching has been not as lopsided as the hitters but still they have been slightly better on the road than at home (better before getting whacked by Atlanta). Batting average against for Giants pitchers was .275 at home vs. .271 on the road. That results in 9.7 hits per 9 innings at home vs. 9.4 hits on the road, when accounting for the effects of wins at home and extra inning games.

The ERA is 4.61 at home and 4.51 on the road. Including unearned runs, the Giants' opponents have scored an average of 5.10 runs at SBC and 4.92 runs away from SBC per (Note that this means that our defense has costed the Giants more runs at home, with the Giants giving up 0.49 unearned runs at home and giving up 0.41 runs on the road). WHIP of 1.43 at home vs. 1.46 away is pretty much a dead-heat, as the away average was lower until the Braves brought it back over the home figure.

Here's how the numbers look for the pitchers (ERA/WHIP/BAA):


Using WHIP as the key comparison stat but with BAA as a factor, eight pitchers have better stats away from SBC and five have better stats at SBC. And as noted above, overall the Giants pitchers have been slightly better on the road by most measures. WHIP, as noted above, is about the same home and away, though slightly higher on the road.

So What's The Big Deal?

There is nothing really to do about this but to observe that the general conception that PBP, now SBC Park, is a pitcher's park is not necessarily true always. For the pitchers, it is generally neutral this year, while for the hitters, it is decidedly in favor of home games. Perhaps this imbalance is partially a result of playing more games in pitching friendly visiting parks, like it was for the Kansas City Royals over the past five seasons, but the Giants' .283/.370/.462/.832 at home does not really scream pitcher's park, no matter what parks they play in for away games.

Despite the change in how the Giants home park plays, the net results are still about the same as when the park was named Pacific Bell Park: the Giants have a home advantage that they capitalize on. Their home record is 38-29 whereas their road record is 34-32. Based on the run production numbers above, it looks like the Giants are "lucky" to have such a high winning percentage at home, because if the runs were more evenly distributed, they should have close to a .500 record at home right now. Apparently there has been quite a few blow-outs at SBC coupled with a number of close wins. But whatever the reason, the Giants have kept their home advantage despite the change in how their park plays.

Perhaps it is just an aberration of only this season - especially as it concerns JT Snow! - or maybe the start of a new weather pattern that apparently affects how baseball is played at SBC Park (the San Francisco Bay Area has been particularly warm this summer). Or some other factor that I cannot think of. In any case, any decisions made regarding the Giants roster - like getting pitchers with flyball tendencies or batters who are gap hitters - should not include into the equation whether SBC Park is a pitcher's park or not, because apparently the foregone conclusion that it IS a pitcher's park is not so definitive based on the stats above.

Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fanatic's View' for when the mood and muse strikes him. He wants to teach and share his love of baseball and, in particular, his love for the San Francisco Giants. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player and should be in Cooperstown. Please feel free to e-mail him at (remove the "nospam." if you wish to e-mail me) if you have a question or comment.

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