Change in Parks Hurt Jordan Lyles and Jason Vargas

Looks like we’ll have to wait a little while longer until the real exciting blockbuster trades are made. In the meantime, a pair of lower impact moves were completed involving starting pitchers Jordan Lyles and Jason Vargas. Unfortunately, the park factors suggest both are going to be hurt by their new home digs. Let’s get to the comparisons.

Jordan Lyles Park Factor Comparison
Team 3yr 1yr 1B 2B 3B HR SO BB LD IFFB FIP
Pirates 97 94 102 101 95 93 97 100 103 99 99
Brewers 101 101 98 100 94 107 102 100 100 97 102

The comparison between PNC Park (Pirates) and Miller Park (Brewers) appears pretty mixed at first glance, with both parks proving more pitcher friendly in five categories. But a deeper look reveals that it’s PNC that leads in the most important factors.

Overall, we find that using both three year and one year park factors, PNC has been quite pitcher friendly, while Miller has inflated offense marginally. Interestingly, Miller has been more favorable for each hit type that doesn’t leave the park. But that’s the rub — the most significant gap comes from the home run park factor. Last season, Miller was the fifth best park for homers, while PNC was tied for fourth worst. That’s an enormous swing.

Since Lyles has been a slight fly ball pitcher the last two seasons, he’s going to get hurt more than a ground ball pitcher. However, he has already allowed an inflated 18.2% HR/FB rate, so the park switch doesn’t mean it’s going to get worse. Instead, we need to compare what he was projected to post had he stayed in Pittsburgh, which would surely have been lower. The rest of season home run projection rises in Milwaukee now, so he merely has a lesser chance to improve his HR/FB rate fortunes in his new home.

The good news is Miller’s better strikeout factor could help offset the tougher home run environment, while the neutral line drive factor could help his BABIP, especially given the more favorable factors for the other hit types.

On the whole, the move is a clear negative for Lyles as there’s no disputing that Miller Park is more hitter friendly than PNC Park. That said, with a SIERA nearly a full run below his actual ERA, he should still enjoy a better rest of the season than his first four months.

Jason Vargas Park Factor Comparison
Team 3yr 1yr 1B 2B 3B HR SO BB LD IFFB FIP
Mets 93 87 95 94 86 97 101 100 97 109 98
Phillies 99 102 98 96 94 109 105 100 97 109 102

It’s almost a clean sweep! Amazingly, Citi Field (Mets) trounces Citizens Bank Park (CBP, Phillies), proving more pitcher friendly seven metrics, versus just one for the latter. The only metric CBP was more pitcher friendly last year, and it’s an important one, is strikeouts. That represents a needed boost for a guy who just once has posted a strikeout rate above the league average.

Unfortunately, the park factors suggest more hits on balls in play and significantly more homers allowed. That’s a major problem because Vargas has enjoyed a suppressed .253 BABIP so far, so there’s an immense amount of downside. That downside was already a risk had he stayed with the Mets, but now it’s grown in a less pitcher friendly park.

Since he’s a fly ball pitcher with a low strikeout rate, he’s going to potentially get crushed by the homer happy environment at CBP. What’s amazing is that I’m pretty sure he has pitched on teams in pitcher friendly home parks his entire career, so although his career HR/FB rate is just below 10%, much of that could be a result of where he has pitched, rather than any sort of skill at suppressing homers on fly balls. What happens over two months in Philadelphia and a handful of starts won’t prove anything, but there’s serious risk of a serious homers allowed total.

Overall, the switch in home parks is clearly a major negative. When you consider that Vargas’ skills are already weak, his SIERA sits above 5.00 and he is outperforming that mark by more than a run, you can imagine the potential destruction he could do to your ratios. I wouldn’t have wanted to own him in an NL-Only league with the Mets, and now with the Phillies, I wouldn’t touch him in anything but a Phillies-only league or one that rewards bad pitching performances.

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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Yes, but in Vargas’s case, does the improvement in defence behind him make up for the park switch?