Yesterday, the Giants decided that Pablo Sandoval wasn’t actually the answer at third base for them in 2018 and traded for Rays-lifer Evan Longoria. Now, Longoria’s chances of rebounding in the home run category have just gone splat. While he has posted HR/FB rates in the mid-to-high teens for most of his career, that mark dipped just below 11% in 2014 and 2015, before rebounding back into the mid-teens in 2016, en route to a career high homer total. The rebound was short-lived though, as his HR/FB rate fell back down to just 10.5% — a career low — this season. Given that he’s not so totally over the hill and he has shown strong power skills as recently as that 2016 season, you had to have figured some sort of dead cat bounce. But now, that bounce is far less likely to occur.
Let’s compare park factors. Since one year factors could be fickle and don’t necessarily tell us the true affect a ballpark has on a specific metric, I decided to use a weighted three season factor for Longoria’s destination, AT&T Park. That acts as a projection for the park’s 2018 factor. On the other hand, I will simply present the 2017 park factors for Tropicana Field, as all we care about is how it actually played this season to compare to how AT&T is likely to play next year.
Well, isn’t this interesting. Though I probably wouldn’t have guessed it, AT&T appears to be slightly less pitcher friendly than Tropicana overall! It’s a bit better for singles and doubles, while the triples factors are identical. But check out that huge disparity in home run factors.
Given that gap, it’s hard to believe that AT&T is less pitcher friendly, but that’s what the data says. And since home runs are a category, while singles and doubles are not, this move takes a massive bite out of Longoria’s already deflated value.
The good news is that his BABIP should benefit from the additional singles and doubles, which he could certainly use coming off the second lowest BABIP of his career. But that wouldn’t necessarily boost his batting average if his home run total takes a hit.
The other concern relates to his strikeout rate. He just posted the best Contact% and lowest strikeout rate of his career, which doesn’t normally happen during a player’s age 31 season. So park switch or not, you would have to assume the strikeout rate is headed back toward his career average. The good news though is that Tropicana actually significantly inflated strikeouts in 2017, while AT&T figures to only marginal boost them.
The park switch shouldn’t actually kill Longoria’s offensive output, but instead just rejigger it toward a different path of production. As a fantasy owner, though, a similar wOBA alone doesn’t guarantee he’s going to hold his value given that home runs plays such a vital role in a hitter’s fantasy value.
The switch in teams shouldn’t affect his runs batted in or runs scored totals much as both offense were expected to be below average and he was going to hit in the middle of either lineup. The one way he could surprise is to push his FB% back into the 40% range, as it dropped below that level for the first time this season. He’ll actually need to do that to ensure his home run total remains at least 20, as the new park puts his HR/FB rate at serious risk of dropping into the single digits.
Overall, this trade seemed to do nothing positive for any players’ fantasy values, as Longoria loses value, Ryan Schimpf still remains without an obvious starting gig, and Christian Arroyo’s lack of power and speed means that even if he now might actually have a job, it barely matters.
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.