Max Scherzer Becomes a Texas Ranger

No, not the law enforcement agency whose members don cowboy hats! Yesterday, Max Scherzer was officially traded to the Rangers as perhaps the biggest name to be dealt before this year’s trade deadline. After spending two seasons with the Mets, how might the move to Globe Life Field (GLF) affect his results? Let’s consult the park factors and find out!

Park Factor Comparison
Park (Team) 1B 2B 3B HR SO BB GB FB LD IFFB FIP Basic
Citi Field (Mets) 96 91 84 97 102 99 97 100 93 103 97 93
Globe Life Field (Rangers) 100 100 97 101 100 102 100 102 102 98 101 100

Woah golly! It’s not often you see a clean sweep in a park factor comparison, but that’s exactly what we have here. Don’t forget also that years ago, the Rangers played in Globe Life Park (not to be confused with Globe Life Field, which opened in 2020), which was one of the better hitters parks in baseball. The sweep likely would have been significantly bigger back then, but the new park is much less hitter friendly and mostly neutral.

Let’s go factor by factor to determine how Scherzer’s results might be affected. We begin with the non-home run hit type factors, which of course all favor Citi. GLF is actually exactly neutral for both singles and doubles, the most frequent hit types, while Citi has suppressed both. Given his severe fly ball tendency, Scherzer has typically posted better than average BABIP marks. He holds a .288 career mark and is at just .281 this season. So a park that isn’t as friendly to hits could push up his BABIP and result in a bunch more hits falling in. Of course, as a high strikeout pitcher, that hit increase won’t be nearly as much as another more league average strikeout guy.

But perhaps the Rangers defense could offset the worse BABIP park? The team’s pitching staff owns the fourth lowest BABIP in baseball at .283, while the Mets rank 11th with a .292 mark. Of course, the specific pitchers on each team plays a role here, as does luck. But you figured over an entire pitching staff, a team BABIP will mostly come down to fielding ability, so this suggests the Rangers have been one of the best defensive teams in baseball at suppressing hits on balls in play. We could check some other defensive metrics to see if they tell the same story. Sure enough, the Rangers rank fifth in baseball in UZR/150, versus just 26th for the Mets. The Rangers also rank fourth in baseball in the Def metric, while the Mets are 26th again. No matter which metric you choose, the Rangers rank in the top five, while the Mets rank significantly worse. It’s pretty clear his fielding support should dramatically improve.

Moving along to home runs, Citi played pitcher friendly, while GLF has been slightly hitter friendly. Scherzer’s HR/FB rate actually sits at a career high right now, so on the one hand, moving to a better home run park is scary. But on the other hand, you would figure some regression to his mean over the rest of the way, so I’d guess he improves here whether he stayed in New York or not.

Next up are the plate discipline factors, strikeouts and walks. Here once again, Citi is slightly pitcher friendly, while GLF has been neutral. Scherzer’s strikeout rate currently sits at his lowest since all the way back in 2011. That’s driven by a decline in SwStk% to his lowest since 2014. It’s pretty clear that he’s lost some stuff, which isn’t so shocking given his advanced age. But still, he’s managed a 27.3% strikeout rate, which remains well above average. Given his history, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his strikeout rate rebound, so it’ll be difficult to parse out any park effects.

There’s a slightly larger gap in walk rate factors and here too, Scherzer has been slightly worse than usual. His 6.8% mark is well above his last two years and slightly above his 6.5% career mark. It’s possible he improves that over the rest of the season.

Next up are the batted ball type factors that matter. Scherzer has been an extreme fly ball pitcher for the majority of his career, which is why his home park’s home run factor has always been extremely important. His FB% is sitting at the second highest mark of his career, while his LD% has remained below 20%, which it’s done for most of his career as well. But a worse line drive factor isn’t great for his BABIP, and a better defense might not be able to gobble those up. Similarly, a worse IFFB factors means potentially fewer pop-ups, which is something he’s been quite adept at coaxing. That, too, could raise his BABIP.

Finally, we arrive at the summary factors, FIP and Basic. Not surprisingly, both suggest GLF has been a pretty neutral park, while Citi has been pitcher friendly. So from a strict home park perspective, this is clearly a negative move for Scherzer. However, he’s also getting a defensive upgrade and should enjoy significantly more run support, as the Rangers lead baseball in runs scored by a fair margin, averaging 5.77 runs per game, while the Mets at down at just 4.43 runs per game. The Rangers also rank second in baseball in wOBA versus just 17th for the Mets.

Overall, I think the upgrade in both defensive and offensive support probably more than offsets the slightly worse home park. I think this move does boost Scherzer’s fantasy value, though not significantly.

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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8 months ago

How does each park have a different walk-rate factor? I’ve never understood this one?