After signing free agent Kole Calhoun, the Diamondbacks apparently weren’t done adding outfielders. On Monday, the team acquired Starling Marte for a pair of prospects. The knee-jerk reaction is that this must be a positive for Marte’s contribution on offense given the perception of PNC Park as an extremely pitcher friendly environment. Do the park factors confirm this sentiment?
Well then, I guess it isn’t a clean sweep like many may have guessed. Heck, I expected the gap to be wider, though it would have been if the Diamondbacks hadn’t installed the humidor to reduce offense.
Let’s start with the hit type factors. PNC Park (Pirates) leads marginally vs Chase Field (Diamondbacks) for both singles and doubles factors. PNC slightly inflates singles, while Chase is neutral, and the former is neutral for doubles, while the latter slightly reduces them. The differences here are tiny, but if all else were equal, this would result in a small negative for Marte’s BABIP. This is important because he has relied on an inflated mark for most of his career, as his BABIP stands at .342. Of course, it has been between just .312 and .324 over the last three seasons, and given his age, I would be more inclined to project somewhere in that range for 2020, rather than closer to his career average, regardless of park.
Chase remains one of the top triples parks in baseball, which for someone with excellent speed, is good news. But since triples are so infrequent to begin with, it would only add a triple, perhaps two, to Marte’s ledger. Maybe that would allow him to score an extra run or two?
We now move along to our favorite park factor, home runs. PNC is indeed a challenge to homer in as a right-handed hitter. In fact, its park factor was just higher than the Giants and Marlins, the teams tied for last in right-handed home run factor. So it had to get better for Marte, but now he merely moves to a park that plays just about neutral. Still, it’s a win. Unfortunately, Marte’s HR/FB rate has jumped up and down throughout his career, so it’s very difficult to project him, even if he remained on the Pirates. The move does give him a better chance of keeping his HR/FB rate above his 13.9% career average.
PNC reduced strikeouts, while Chase increased walks, so overall, the effect on Marte’s OBP essentially cancels each other out. Marte has reduced his strikeout for three straight seasons, which is surprising considering his SwStk% has been amazingly stable throughout his entire career, outside of a dip in 2017. He’s never been much of a walker though, but maybe age will change that.
Both parks inflated line drives, though Chase slightly more so, while PNC slightly reduced pop-ups, whereas Chase slightly increased them. Those two effects are close enough that we can ignore them.
Overall, we find the Basic park factors actually pretty close, with Chase playing neutral, and PNC only a marginal pitcher’s park. Remember though, the Basic factor, and everything to the right of the hit type factors, are for batters of both handedness, not just righties. So the true effect might be a bit different for a righty like Marte.
Since the majority of the factors were close, it really comes down to the home run factor. So it’s pretty clear that from a park perspective, this is a good move for Marte’s offensive output. But whether he hits 18 homers or 22 isn’t going to make much of a difference. The real question, as always, is going to be how often he steals. This was the first full season in his entire career he finished with fewer than 30 swipes. Does he rebound, stay the same, or see his steals continue to dwindle as age takes a bite out of his speed?
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.