After spending his first nine seasons in Pittsburgh, Andrew McCutchen will now be joining his fourth team in two years. McCutchen agreed to a three-year deal with the Phillies, likely spoiling Roman Quinn’s sleeper hype. Having played the vast majority of his career in home parks that seriously favored pitchers, will the move to Citizens Bank Park boost his offense? Let’s check the park factors.
Having recorded just about 17% of his 2018 plate appearances with the Yankees, the park factor comparison will only include San Francisco’s AT&T Park.
Let’s start with the discipline metrics, the strikeout and walk factors. While AT&T is neutral, Citizens Bank actually inflates strikeouts by 8% (remember that these factors are cut in half to account for the number of home games). McCutchen has never suffered through strikeout issues and has posted a better than league average rate nearly every season of his career. However, he is coming off a career worst mark and given his age, we can’t automatically assume he’ll rebound. Then again, his SwStk% stood at his best mark since 2011, so at least we know he isn’t suddenly swinging and missing more than ever. The park switch is going to make it a little bit tougher for him to get his strikeout rate back under 20%. The walk rate factor doesn’t need to be discussed as they are identical in each park.
Moving along to the batted ball type factors, we find that line drives are suppressed a bit in both parks by almost the same rate. The big difference comes in the IFFB (pop-up) rate, where AT&T reduced the batted ball type by 4%, while Citizens Bank boosted it by a whopping 16%. That’s a drastic swing. Luckily, McCutchen has posted a double digit IFFB% just twice in his career and has typically posted marks below the league average. Perhaps the park switch adds one or two additional pop-ups, which isn’t a big deal.
Finally, we get to the hits. The singles and doubles factors are identical and super close, respectively, so we can ignore those. The major differences come from the triple and home run factors. AT&T’s expansive right field is a triples hitter’s paradise, as it increased right-handed triples by 22% in 2017. On the other hand, Citizens Bank isn’t a favorite of triples hitters, suppressing them by 10%. Though he’s not the speedster he once was, McCutchen still possesses respectable enough speed and he has hit exactly three triples in three of the last four seasons. The park switch might cost him a triple, at most, so no big deal.
Lastly, the home run park factor swing is gigantic. Guess what…this was literally the best possible pair of parks for a home run boost. In 2017, AT&T ranked dead last in right-handed home run factor, while Citizens Bank was first. Outside of spikes in 2012 and 2017, McCutchen’s HR/FB rate has been remarkably consistent, sitting between 12.2% and 13.7% every season since 2011. This move should provide a nice boost and he should be able to post his third highest HR/FB rate, at the very least.
Surprise! Would you have guessed that Citizens Bank actually played as slightly pitcher friendly overall in 2017?! And would you have guessed that AT&T wasn’t actually a nightmare for hitters, just for home run hitters? So overall, AT&T wasn’t that much more pitcher friendly than Citizens Bank was in 2017. However, when breaking down the components, the most important change in factors is clearly home runs, which McCutchen should greatly benefit from.
This is a pretty good move for McCutchen’s fantasy value, though how often he’ll run will also drive his earnings.
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.