Listen to Ozzie, Don't Move the Marlins Park Fences

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Should the Marlins move in the fences at Marlins Park? Ozzie Guillen says no:
"We are not going to move the fence. That's it," he said. "If you want to be the hitting coach here and the fence is too far, go home. If you don't want to play here because the fence is too far, go home.

"I guarantee you – if you give them $100 million, they will play here. If you don't have a job, they will play here. That’s a bunch of [bleep]. We don't have home run hitters and the one [Mike Stanton] we have has 34. I don't see any [other] guy hitting 40 home runs – maybe Carlos Lee 30 years ago.

"We're not in last place because this ballpark's big. We’re in last place because we're bad – from the top to bottom, myself included." OK then. By the way, the Marlins have hit 30 more homers on the road than at home.
We agree with Ozzie, though not quite for the same reason. He is right to point out that Stanton is the only true power hitter on this team (though to be fair, only 13 of his 34 home runs have come at Marlins Park), so it's not like the stadium is preventing Jose Reyes from hitting 30 homeres.

But it is very difficult to argue that Marlins Park has not suppressed home run numbers. Instead of looking at the home run totals, as the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson did above, let's look at some other stats that use rates instead of counting.

At home, 7.1% of Marlins fly balls are leaving the park (all stats via FanGraphs). Only the San Francisco Giants have a lower HR/FB% at home (3.8%). Other teams at the bottom of the HR/FB% standings include all the usual big-ballpark suspects: Seattle, San Diego, the Mets, and (for some reason) the Dodgers. For comparison,  On the road, the Marlins HR/FB% jumps to 12.3%, better than all but 7 teams.

Is one season enough of a sample size to tell? @BoobiesNStanton and I argued about this over Twitter a few weeks ago; I say yes. The Marlins have hit 706 fly balls at home, and 642 fly balls on the road. That is a significant sample, but not enough for statistical significance (for a representative sample of a population that is within a 5% margin of error, you need roughly 1,050 data points).

So here I concede to Boobies and say that our sample size is not large enough - unless you count the plate appearances of visiting teams at Marlins Park and the Marlins' road opponents in the appropriate buckets. That would most likely put us over the 1,050 FB threshold, but I am tabling that project until the offseason.

Regardless of the whether Marlins Park suppresses home run numbers, I still say the team should leave the fences where they are. If the Marlins are hitting fewer home runs at home, so too are their opponents most likely. I would rather see the front office build a team that is best suited to Marlins Park rather than rejigger Marlins Park every few years to suit the needs of the team.

Additionally, though I will not attempt to statistically test this theory at the moment, I suspect the expansive outfield at Marlins Park provides other benefits, namely, a preponderance of triples and doubles. The Marlins have hit 21 triples and 121 doubles in 2709 home plate appearances at home, versus 16 triples and 125 doubles in 2878 plate appearances on the road. This benefit probably does not outweigh the reduction in home runs, but should be taken into consideration. I will take a deeper look at this during the offseason as well.


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