Zack Cozart Heads West

So the Angels are apparently going for it all, eh? First, they signed Shohei Otani, then traded for Ian Kinsler, and have now signed Zack Cozart, who figures to play third base with defensive stud Andrelton Simmons entrenched at shortstop. Moving out of the perceived hitter friendly Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and into an environment perceived to be far more favorable for pitchers, let’s find out how the relevant park factors may impact Cozart’s performance.

2017 Park Factor Comparison
Park Name R 1B 2B 3B HR GB FB LD K BB
Angel Stadium of Anaheim 92 99 82 50 105 101 100 100 101 95
Great American Ball Park (GABP) 97 94 113 101 105 93 88 114 109 98
The more hitter friendly park is highlighted

Though overall, the table does confirm our perception, there are definitely some surprises. First, is the runs scored factor. Who know that GABP actually suppressed run scoring in 2017?! That means that Cozart’s new park doesn’t represent as significant a downgrade as you may have expected on total offense.

Now let’s dive into the individual hit types. Angel Stadium is just about neutral for singles, while GABP actually reduces them. On the other hand, Angel Stadium drastically reduced doubles and was nearly impossible to hit a triple in. That compares with GABP which inflated both hit types. That’s going to have the effect of reducing Cozart’s isolated slugging percentage, but BABIP will likely not be affected much given the increase in singles rate in his new park.

Another surprise comes in the home run factor. We knew that GABP inflated home runs, which we see here, but Angel Stadium did too?! Going back in the Statcorner park factors, you see that Angel Stadium didn’t always inflate homers, it has only been for the last two seasons. I’m not sure if anything changed at the stadium or if changes in other stadiums made Angel Stadium more home run friendly from a relative perspective. Whatever the cause, it means Cozart shouldn’t see much, if any, change in his HR/FB rate projection due to the park switch.

Angel Stadium is just about neutral for all three batted ball types, while GABP suppresses both grounders and fly balls, but inflates line drives. That could result in more fly balls and fewer line drives for Cozart, which would hamper his BABIP. And since he has only posted a BABIP above .285 once in his career (this season), he can’t really afford for his home park to suffocate his mark even further.

For whatever reason, GABP greatly increased strikeouts this year, while Angel Stadium was essentially neutral. Cozart has posted excellent strikeouts throughout his career, and a park less strikeout happy is always a good thing for a hitter. The walk rates aren’t that different, but it’s worth just nothing that GABP suppressed walks slightly less than Angel Stadium.

A discussion of walk rate park factors is a good segue into Cozart’s walk rate surge. That mark spiked from consistently below league average (but on a three season rise), to the double digits for the first time, well above the average. It’s easy to see how he accomplished this — fewer swings on pitches both inside and outside the strike zone. Amazingly, his overall Swing% has remained super consistent, sitting between 47% and 48.4% from 2013 through 2016. This season, that mark dropped all the way to 40.9%, the first time since 2012 it has slipped below the league average. He even coupled the lower Swing% with a career low SwStk%.

The surge in walk rate that was supported by his underlying skills, along with his highest Brls/BBE of the Statcast era, validates his breakout season (though to be fair, both his xBABIP and xHR/FB suggest some good fortune was involved). However, he’s already 32, so how much of these gains are sustainable? Furthermore, he has dealt with injury issues his last three seasons, is joining a new team and league, and will be trying to learn a position he has never played in the Majors, and according to his minor league fielding data here, has never even played professionally at all. But he will be joining what should be a very strong offense, so his runs scored and runs batted in totals should benefit. That said, I’m not too excited here as an AL-Only league owner and he probably won’t be much more than a bottom level option in 12-team mixed leagues.

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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6 years ago

I think more than anything this article is indicative of why we don’t use 1 year park factors.

6 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

To emphasize the point, using 2015 handedness factors posted on FG (the most recent on the site), GABP rated a 115, while Angel Stadium, a 95. Both for righties, of course.

6 years ago
Reply to  mikejunt

The state of the ball makes this even harder to deal with, as some of these 1-year park changes might be real (assuming the ball doesn’t suddenly revert). The task of doing park factors for the next 2-3 years is going to be awful.