Michael Conforto Heads to West Coast

On Friday, the Giants signed Michael Conforto to a two-year, $36 contract, ending his tenure with the Mets. He didn’t play at all last year due to injury and ultimately failed to sign with a team. Since he played his entire career with the Mets, let’s compare the park factors of Citi Field with his new home field, Oracle Park. Obviously, no one know if his performance will be affected after recovering from shoulder surgery, so we’ll ignore that here and focus on the park switch.

Park Factor Comparison
Park (Team) 1B as L 2B as L 3B as L HR as L SO BB GB FB LD IFFB Basic
Citi Field (Mets) 98 91 86 95 102 99 97 100 93 103 93
Oracle Park (Giants) 99 104 113 87 100 100 102 96 98 96 98

Wow, this is not what I expected to see! Almost a complete sweep for Oracle as a more hitter friendly venue, or less pitcher friendly. Let’s review the individual factors.

We’ll begin with the hit type factors and singles. The two parks are quite similar here, both marginally suppressing the game’s most frequent hit type. Oracle is slightly less pitcher friendly though, giving it a slight BABIP advantage. Conforto’s career BABIP is just above the league average, sitting right at .300, though he’s only actually posted a mark above .300 once over a full season. His absurd .412 mark during the short 2020 season has really inflated his career mark, but obviously won’t happen again. During his career, he has posted a slightly higher home BABIP than away, which is typical, but maybe a bit surprising given the low hit type factors for Citi.

Moving on to the doubles and triples factor, we see a big advantage here for Oracle, certainly due to its larger right-center field dimensions. Conforto hasn’t been a big doubles guy throughout his career, so the move should help boost his total. He’s only hit four triples over his entire career, so it probably doesn’t matter what park he calls home.

Home run factors are next, and here we find the only factor in which Oracle is inferior for left-handed hitters. In fact, Oracle is the worst left-handed home run park in baseball…by a longshot. Citi Field isn’t exactly a favorable park for left-handed home runs, but it doesn’t hamper that nearly to the same degree as Oracle. Over his career, Conforto has actually posted a higher HR/FB rate at home, though not too significantly. Still, that’s impressive given the home run suppressing nature of the park. That said, there’s no doubt that his HR/FB rate, and ultimately his home run total, gets cut with the signing.

Now we hope over to the plate discipline factors, strikeouts and walks. The factors are fairly similar, but at neutral strikeout and walk factors, Oracle was actually better than Citi. Conforto has posted fairly close home/away splits in each of those metrics that you could chalk up to the “player play better at home” concept. I wouldn’t bother making any projection change due to the move.

Next up are the batted ball type factors. While the ground ball and fly ball factors don’t get any highlighting for one park being more favorable than the other, it doesn’t mean the park switch won’t affect the shape of Conforto’s performance. Oracle inflates grounders, especially compared to Citi, while it reduces flies. That’s not really the type of factor changes you want to see for a fly ball hitter with power.

The good news is, the remaining factors do favor Oracle and could boost Conforto’s production. While both parks suppressed line drives, Oracle did so less dramatically. All else being equal, a higher LD% should result in a higher BABIP, as they fall for hits most often of the three headline batted ball types. Furthermore, Oracle also suppresses pop-ups, while Citi inflated them. Conforto has kept his IFFB% in single digits for four seasons running now, so he doesn’t exactly need help here, but nevertheless, this is a positive. Fewer pop-ups, combined with the higher rate of line drives, is a major positive for BABIP.

Finally, we finish with the Basic run factor. Unsurprisingly, both parks are pitcher friendly, but Oracle is only marginally so, as much of that pitcher friendly HR factor is offset by a neutral-to-hitter friendly effect on BABIP. On the other hand, Citi is pitcher friendly for both BABIP and HR/FB rate, making it significantly pitcher friendly overall.

It’s pretty clear what effect the park switch should have on Conforto’s performance. The move is good for his BABIP and ability to get on base, but bad for his HR/FB rate. Because home runs are so important in fantasy, it’s possible this reduces his fantasy value, but it’s hard to tell without running a full before and after projection.

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

Ultimately with Conforto one just hopes the guy can put the bat on the ball and contribute consistently again. I bet a similar 2017 line but with only, say, 20 homers, would be a good get for the Giants and fantasy owners alike who took him really late.