George Springer Signs With Blue Jays

On Tuesday, it was reported that George Springer agreed to sign with the Blue Jays, finally marking the first big free agent signing of the offseason. Springer has spent his entire career in Houston, where has surprisingly posted a lower wOBA than in away parks. Let’s check out the park factors to see if the change in home park might affect his results.

Park Factor Comparison
Park AVG 1B 2B 3B HR SLG wOBAcon RBIcon
Minute Maid Park (HOU) 101 99 102 67 116 105 103 108
Rogers Centre (TOR) 99 97 106 69 105 101 100 102

We’ll start with the AVG factor, which is something Springer could use a boost in considering he sports a meh .270 career mark. Rogers has slightly suppressed batting average, while Minute Maid has slightly boosted it. Since debuting in 2014 as a strikeout machine who struggled to make contact, Springer has made amazing improvements to his contact skills. He reduced his strikeout rates to the low-to-mid 20% range the next two seasons, but hasn’t posted a strikeout rate higher than his 2019 mark of 20.3% since then. That’s quite impressive, especially since he didn’t have to sacrifice power to do so. Clearly, he’s no longer in need of a park-assisted strikeout rate improvement.

On the other hand, his BABIP hasn’t strayed too far from the league average. His career mark stands at .306, but he’s only posted a mark above .317 once (in 2015), and his .259 mark in the short 2020 season was his lowest since his .294 debut. Outside of those two seasons, his BABIP marks have remained remarkably consistent. With both speed and power, you would figure he would luck into some more inflated BABIPs than he has. Unlike for strikeout rate, he could certainly use a park-assisted BABIP boost. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Rogers is the park to do it.

Unsurprisingly, Rogers suppresses singles, which matches up with its effect on batting average. This compares to a less suppressive singles environment at Minute Maid. Both parks increase doubles, but Rogers is more favorable. Springer hasn’t been a big doubles hitter through his career, so there’s some room for upside here and Rogers could potentially add an extra double or two. Springer has only hit 13 triples in his career, and the two parks dramatically reduce the hit type, so we can ignore those effects.

Moving along, we find that there’s a more significant gap in home run factors than I would have guessed. Rogers does indeed inflate right-handed home runs, which is what I thought, but it hasn’t done so to nearly the same degree as Minute Maid. That’s surprising. At the very least, I thought the two parks would be close together, with perhaps Rogers holding a slight advantage. Interestingly, Springer’s home/away HR/FB rate split doesn’t actually match with the big HR park factor in Minute Maid. His home HR/FB rate is higher than his away mark, but only slightly so, more typical of a neutral park in which the hitter enjoys a home field advantage and he hits a bit better there. It’s possible that Springer’s batted ball direction doesn’t match the average right-handed batter in which the park factor is based on. I don’t know the answer, but the park switch certainly doesn’t look like a positive. Perhaps it’s just not a major negative like the park factors suggest.

Thanks to the HR park factor gap, Rogers is only slightly favorable for SLG, while Minute Maid is more so. We know that the factors suggest Springer would gain a double or two, but lose a couple of home runs, more than offsetting the increase in doubles. Because of the lower AVG and SLG factors, it’s no surprise to see that Rogers is completely neutral for wOBAcon, while Minute Maid is favorable. Last, we find an even larger gap in RBIcon, with Rogers being slightly favorable, but Minute Maid being quite favorable.

Every hitter is affected differently by their home park, so we can’t blindly take these factors at face value. This is especially true when we see some of Springer’s home/away splits throughout his career, which casts doubt as to how he was specifically impacted by his home park. That said, it’s hard to argue that the park switch is a positive for his fantasy value. I could probably believe an argument that it’s only slightly negative, and not nearly as much as these park factors suggest. Either way, the park switch either has a small, negative effect (maybe a buck of fantasy value) or a meaningful, but not dramatic, negative effect (maybe three to four bucks of fantasy value) on Springer’s fantasy value.

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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1 year ago

To what extent would home field features like certain garbage receptacles change these park factors for houston?

I’m guessing these are 3 year factors so this would be from data after the pitch stealing supposedly stopped. However, if the scheme went on until they were caught I imagine these park factors could be inflated

Joe Wilkeymember
1 year ago
Reply to  viceroy

It has nothing to do with that. If you look at all fly balls and line drives by away RHB over the Statcast era (2015-2020), Minute Maid has a whopping +0.044 xwOBA-wOBA, second only to Coors. Rogers Centre is 14th, with a nearly neutral +0.001. This is mostly driven by the Crawford Boxes. If you break it down further, away RHB pulled FB+LD have an astronomical +0.260 xwOBA-wOBA, 20 points higher than Fenway, which also has a rather unique feature in left field, and 79 points higher than third place (Citi Field). Rogers Centre is actually fifth in this category at +0.174.

Now, applying this to Springer, his air ball distribution is pretty consistent, with the notable exception of last year. His FB+LD distribution was pretty close to league average every year from 2016-2019 (29% Pull/36% Center/35% Oppo). His pulled FB+LD% jumped to nearly 35% in 2020, and his Oppo% dropped to 22.4%. If 2020 Springer shows up, I would expect a small but noticeable decline in his power numbers. If 2016-2019 Springer shows up, I would expect an smaller decline, since biggest difference from park to park is to his pull field.

1 year ago
Reply to  Joe Wilkey

Nice. General park factors always seems sort of lazy as batted ball distribution for everyone isn’t the same…see DJM and yankee stadium

Joe Wilkeymember
1 year ago
Reply to  carter

So I’ve kinda looked into this, and the general park factors are actually pretty good at estimating effects for the majority of players in the majority of stadiums. You will get the occasional LeMahieu/Judge at Yankee Stadium or LHB who go the opposite way more than normal in places like Minute Maid or Fenway, but they’re generally good enough.

I feel like Statcast could really improve their xwOBA process, because my understanding is that it doesn’t really account for pull/center/oppo, which makes a big difference in batted ball quality.