Chris Sale’s Sox Change Color

Yesterday, we were treated to a thrilling blockbuster of a trade, the type that has probably become all too common in keeper leagues, in which a contending team gives up their top prospects, and a rebuilding team “dumps” their star(s) in return. You know by now that Chris Sale is heading to Beantown and will don a Red Sox uniform. Or perhaps you just heard that his socks have changed color, ya know, from white to red. Paul Sporer gave you a quick rundown on how the move is likely to affect Sale’s fantasy value, but I wanted to go through the park factors and get more specific. So let’s compare the relevant park factors and discuss how the park switch may impact his performance.

Red Sox vs White Sox Park Factors
Team Basic 1B as R 2B as R 3B as R HR as R SO BB GB FB LD IFFB FIP
White Sox 101 101 96 82 109 103 107 98 102 99 104 103
Red Sox 105 103 110 87 104 100 100 101 97 105 102 99

Boy oh boy, there are some stark differences in these park factors. First, I included only the hit type factors for right-handed batters. Sale has limited lefties to just a .239 wOBA and 2.47 xFIP throughout his career (versus .289/3.20 marks against righties), so park factors are going to have little impact when a left-handed batter is in the box.

Beginning with the hit types, Fenway Park is slightly more favorable for singles. Both parks inflate them, Fenway a little more so. But that is just a minor difference, especially compared to the massive gap in factors for doubles. Fenway is a doubles haven thanks to the Green Monster, which is not a good thing for Sale. Both parks suppressed triples to a significant degree, but U.S. Cellular (wait, it’s now called Guaranteed Rate Field?!?!!?) more so. What these three park factors suggest is that in a vacuum, Sale’s BABIP is going to rise.

Luckily, there is no reason to panic if you’re a Sale owner, because he’ll be leaving the fourth best park in baseball for right-handed homers, and moving to the 11th best park. Fenway still boosts righty home runs, but not nearly to the same degree. Guaranteed Rate Field (lol…I’m calling it GRF from now on) inflates homers by 18%, while Fenway by 8%. It’s not an enormous difference, but enough of a gap to offset the damage inflicted by the additional non-homer hits Fenway yields. And get this — Sale’s career home HR/FB rate sits at a lofty 14.1%, while his away mark is a much lower 8.1%. Just goes to show that even an elite pitcher like Sale isn’t immune to park factors.

Who knew that GRF increased strikeouts marginally and walks significantly?! Obviously, pitchers normally pitch better at home and post better peripherals. So it’s tough to take anything away from the fact that Sale’s career strikeout rate is slightly higher and walk rate slightly lower at home than away. Perhaps his walk rate would have been even lower if he had played in a more neutral park for walks, who knows. That said, it can’t be a bad thing that he’s moving to a park that’s neutral for walks.

Interestingly, GRF marginally boosts fly balls, while Fenway suppresses them. That’s probably a good thing to move to a park that reduces fly balls, though somehow Fenway manages to give back its advantage by increasing line drives by 10%! That ain’t good. Sale has been pretty league average in his career in line drive rate, so we’ll have to see whether the park will increase his LD%. Who knows what even contributes to that factor to begin with.

Weirdly, GRF increases FIP by 6%, whereas Fenway is almost neutral, but the Basic factor, which represents overall run scoring, indicates that Fenway is actually a more hitter friendly environment. That’s actually easy to explain and it has everything to do with that doubles rate, which is ignored in FIP, but accounted for in the Basic factor. However, Sale’s strikeout rate is so high that a slight increase in doubles rate isn’t going to impact him much. He’s better off in the park that is less favorable for home runs. So from a park perspective, I say this is a win for Sale’s value. It shouldn’t move the needle all that much, but a win nonetheless.

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.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

I’m sure he won’t mind having Benintendi, Bradley and Betts as outfielders, either. Not saying the fly-catchers in Chicago were bad, but you don’t get much better than that group.