Cleveland No Longer Rocks: Michael Brantley Lands in Houston

Yesterday, Indian-for-life Michael Brantley signed a two-year deal with the Astros. Paul Sporer analyzed the implications for the Astros. Now let’s find out how the change in parks might affect his performance.

2017 Park Factor Comparison
Team SO BB GB FB LD IFFB 1B 2B 3B HR Basic
Indians 100 100 101 97 101 92 103 107 83 105 104
Astros 103 99 100 98 98 100 98 95 107 103 96
Park factors are halved to account for away games

Wow, who would have guessed this would be such a rout for Progressive Field (Indians) versus Minute Maid Park (Astros)?! Progressive is friendlier for hitters in eight of nine categories!

Let’s start with the plate discipline metrics. While the walk rate factors are almost identical and therefore can be ignored, Progressive was neutral for strikeouts, while Minute Maid boosted them by 6%. The good news is that 6% for Brantley is far less alarming than if he was Joey Gallo. Brantley has remained one of the best contact hitters in baseball, as his career strikeout rate stands at just 10.7% and his high is only 15.3%. So sure, the higher strikeout factor ain’t positive, but it shouldn’t affect his value much.

Moving along to the batted ball type factors, we find that it’s also a clean sweep for Progressive. The park increased line drives by 2%, while Minute Maid suppressed them by 4%. Brantley has been a fantastic line drive hitter throughout his career, amazingly never posting a mark below 20.2% in any season and sporting a career mark of 23.1%. The worse line drive factor might affect him more than the higher strikeout factor.

Even more of a dramatic swing comes with IFFB, or pop-ups. Incredibly, he has only once posted a double digit IFFB% and then came over half a season. An increased mark could reduce his BABIP, which has remained above .300 every season of his career outside that year he posted the double digit IFFB%.

Next up are the hit factors and we finally get to a factor Minute Maid has the advantage in. But first, we find that Progressive boosted singles, while Minute Maid suppressed them (another negative for BABIP), while the same happened for doubles, but to an even greater degree. Brantley has always hit a lot of doubles, so a less friendly park factor is certainly going to hurt him.

The one factor Minute Maid actually owns the advantage is in triples. Brantley does hit triples, but he did only hit two this season, with a career high of four recorded in 2011 and 2012. The better triples factor isn’t going to move the needle and even one additional one is barely going to matter.

Both parks inflated home runs for left-handed hitters, but Progressive did so a bit more than Minute Maid. Brantley has remained pretty consistent in the HR/FB rate department, posted a mark between 9.9% and 10.9% in each of his last three seasons. He might take a small hit due to the park switch, but should still maintain a double digit mark.

Overall, Progressive was one of the better hitter parks, while Minute Maid surprisingly suppressed offense. Given the numerous disadvantages of Brantley’s new home digs, the park switch alone is clearly a negative. He could face a decline in BABIP, increase in strikeout rate, and small drop in HR/FB rate. Of course, it’s going to come down to health for him, but from a projection standpoint, the park switch results in a reduced forecast.

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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