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Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.

Andre Gide

French critic, essayist, & novelist


Part 1. Ballpark Adjustment Formulas Introduction

At a Pacific Northwest SABR meeting last year, Lenny Jacobson made a terrific and objective presentation about Bobby Grich. Grich’s high ranking among the all-time greats in a formula-based list was the trigger for Lenny’s analysis. Lenny concluded that the formula was flawed. A dissident in the audience said, “So, are you going to throw the baby out with the bath water?” That question stuck in my mind because I wasn’t smart enough to know the answer. It was resolved for me by the smartest person in the country, Marilyn vos Savant, who is listed in the "Guinness Book of World Records" Hall of Fame for "Highest IQ.” If you believe in any of baseball’s nouveau statistics, then I think you have to accept the similar IQ as valid.

Phil Waitley of Alliance, Ohio asked Marilyn, “Has there ever been an exception that actually does prove a rule? In other words, is this proverb really true?”

She replied, “I believe that the proverb ‘The exception proves the rule’ has become misunderstood over time. Maybe it became confused with ‘There is an exception to every rule.’ Anyway, few people now know that an early (and still correct) meaning of the verb "to prove’ is ‘to test.’ So the proverb may actually mean "The exception tests the rule:' And the rule may fail that test.”

On June 13, 2001, Ichiro was asked if he would alter his approach to hitting when playing in Coors Field or if it were his home park. He joshed, “I could hit more home runs playing here… but not if Gerald Perry was still my hitting coach.” He added, “You try to hit home runs, you take more risks at the plate.” At the time, I speculated about what would happen if Ichiro was traded for Juan Pierre. Pierre would move to an extreme pitchers’ park, Ichiro would move to an extreme hitters’ park. I figured Ichiro might hit a few more home runs and Pierre’s performance wouldn’t change. Pierre hit no HR in 714 at-bats at Coors Field through 2002. He was traded to an extreme pitchers’ park before the 2003 season and confirmed my expectation. When asked about it, Pierre said the move actually helped his hitting, because he hit line drives that carried to the outfield in Colorado and dropped for hits in Florida. Pierre is the exception that causes ballpark adjustment formulas to fail.

I admit that I’ve never understood the mathematical basis for ballpark adjustment formulas. No one has adequately explained how you can know that you are measuring the characteristics of the ballpark rather than the characteristics of the home team. In the past few seasons, Minnesota has fielded a team that seems to be incompatible with its ballpark. Because Twin hitters have little power and Twin pitchers don’t give up too many home runs, I believe formulas would falsely show that the Metrodome has changed characteristics. However, the broad consensus that PacBell has been a pitchers’ park caused me to study the Giants first. The numbers honestly reveal that the Giants hit more home runs on the road than in PacBell, but on the other hand, nearly every hitter who has had PacBell as a home park had the best year of his career there.




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