Also Excited For Fish Tacos, Yu Darvish Heads to Padres As Well

Don’t you love it when an MLB team acts like a fantasy team and seemingly acquires or signs everyone good? It’s fun, right? If it wasn’t enough to trade for Blake Snell, sure, why not trade for Yu Darvish as well?! It was first reported on Monday night that the Padres agreed on a trade with the Cubs for Yu Darvish, after a three season run with the Cubs, in which he looked like a young future star improving each year. He was not a young star, of course, but his SIERA improved each season with the team, likely thanks to better health and a recapturing of the elite stuff that made him so exciting in his early years. Now moving to San Diego, let’s consult the park factors to see how the park switch might affect his results.

Park Factor Comparison
Park AVG 1B 2B 3B HR SLG wOBAcon RBIcon
Wrigley Field (Cubs) 98 99 94 109 97 98 98 97
Petco Park (Padres) 99 98 99 97 102 100 99 100

We’ll begin with the batting average factors, which are pretty close. However, Petco has suppressed it slightly less than Wrigley, though we can’t be sure if the primary driver of the suppression is from effects on strikeout rate, BABIP, a little of both, or something else. Darvish has been an elite strikeout pitcher throughout his career, as he sits with a 29.9% career mark, and has exceeded 30% five times. A park’s effect on strikeout rate would be important here given how heavily he relies on the strikeout.

Darvish’s BABIP has generally been at or below the league average, with only one season exceeding .300. His career mark of .288 is a bit below the league average, which generally hovers in the low-to-mid-.290 range. His batted ball distribution does not suggest a better than average BABIP, though, so he is either consistently allowing softer contact, has benefited from stronger than normal defense, a combination of both, or something else. Since his BABIP has only been slightly better than league average, he likely won’t be as reliant on a favorable BABIP factor change.

We move along to the hit type factors and start with singles. Surprisingly, they are the same numbers, but for the opposite parks as the AVG factor. That’s likely offset a bit by Petco suppressing doubles significantly less than Wrigley has. However, Petco does suppress triples, while Wrigley has significantly inflated them, but that type of hit is much rarer, so shouldn’t impact Darvish much. Overall, these hit type factors don’t give us much additional insight that we didn’t already glean from the AVG factor.

Rounding out the hit type factors is home runs. Did you expect Wrigley to be below 100, indicating it actually suppresses home runs? I didn’t! So Wrigley has actually been pitcher friendly, whereas Petco has boosted home runs. Finally, this is the first park factor we find that very clearly hurts Darvish’s projection. Darvish’s HR/FB rate has jumped all over the place throughout his career. Incredibly, his mark had risen every single year from 2014 to 2019 (except 2015, when he didn’t pitch as he was recovering from TJ surgery), jumping from 8.6% all the way up to an absurd 22.8%. Even with the high recent years, his career average sits at 13.6%, which likely isn’t that much higher than the league average over that period. Unfortunately, he seemingly goes to a less friendly home run park, so this move could result in an extra homer or two, which would spell a higher ERA and WHIP.

Because of the higher HR factor, Petco’s neutral SLG factor is slightly more hitter friendly than Wrigley’s, which reduces SLG. The additional doubles, to go along with the additional home runs, is a negative for Darvish’s ERA, and possibly WHIP, though it could merely result in a redistribution of hits, rather than more hits allowed.

Lastly, we finish up with the aggregate park factors, wOBAcon, or wOBA on contact, and RBIcon, an estimated of runs scored on contact. The two parks’ wOBAcon factors are identical to the AVG factors, with Petco suppressing the rate slightly less than Wrigley. The gap is wider for RBIcon, as Petco has been neutral, while Wrigley has suppressed it by three percent.

Overall, the park switch is a clear negative for Darvish, primarily driven by the uptick in HR park factor. More home runs would lead to a higher ERA and probably higher WHIP. However, the Padres offense was significantly better than the Cubs this season, so it’s possible Darvish benefits from better run support, giving him an extra win or two.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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OddBall Herrera
3 years ago

I *love* what the Padres are doing. Revenue uncertainty has created a buyers’ market for players on large contracts, and they are taking advantage.