Ryan Ludwick was traded from the Padres to the Pirates on Sunday. Once you get past the surprise that the Buccos were buyers, there are another three levels of analysis to go, at least. The prognosis for the player is not incredibly predictable.
The easy answer is that Ludwick will enjoy moving out of PetCo. Since moving to the Padres at last year’s deadline, Ludwick has enjoyed the worst ISO of his career. The drop, about fifty points, could be attributable to the home park. ESPN’s park factors have San Diego as suppressing home runs by 11.5% over the past two years. On first blush, this easy analysis makes sense.
But there are more than a few problems with this idea.
First, Ludwick has been terrible away from home as well. His .689 OPS away from home won’t get any fantasy owners hot and bothered. There isn’t an obvious scapegoat in his statistics, but Ludwick has been in a general decline since 2008. Especially his home runs per fly ball have taken a hit, dropping almost every year. The 33-year-old is in a power decline.
Second, the park factors themselves are not so clear-cut. While PetCo does suppress left-handed home runs by a whopping 41%, the park only suppresses right-handed home runs by 5%. Doubles do take a 28% hit, so on some level Ludwick has been hurt by the park. In Pittsburgh, Ludwick won’t find a park any more forgiving for home runs (-27%). At least doubles will be augmented by 4% – there’s a chance a few more doubles fall into that large Pirate outfield.
But once you notice those doubles, you swing back around to the original prognosis. Offense, as measured by wOBA, is suppressed 8-10% in PetCo. The Pittsburgh park only suppresses offense 0-2%. Ludwick will get a boost with the move. It might not come with home runs, but a few more doubles will help boost that sub-.240 batting average.
So now we have a player that is three years removed from his career year. He’s never hit more than 22 home runs or shown a batting average better than .267 in seasons if you remove that career year. He’s in his mid thirties, and he’s moving from one pitcher’s park to another.
Is it super exciting that he’s moving from a park that is clearly a pitcher’s park to one that is more neutral? Maybe. But an 8% boost is not going to make this player a mixed league player. Don’t get too excited about Ludwick’s new digs — he’s still only a National League (only) outfielder.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.