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Is Seth Smith’s Power for Real?

February 17, 2012

There has been a lot of talk on Athletics related websites about Seth Smith possessing “real power” that will translate despite leaving Coors Field and entering the home run rebuking Coliseum. A blog commenter said yesterday,

“He doesn’t hit a ton of home runs, but the ones he does hit aren’t of the cheap, thin air of Denver variety. So, in regards to his confidence dipping because a ball dies on the warning track, he’ll still have at least 15-20, flying out of there.”

Using ESPN’s Home Run Tracker we have all the data on Smith’s home runs. What shocked me was this. In 2011, he hit home runs in just four ballparks, four. He had home runs unsurprisingly at Coors Field (nine), Great American Ballpark (three), Progressive Field (two) and PNC Park (one). Sort of strange, but none were on the marine layer affected west coast. Furthermore, aside from the one dinger at PNC Park (which would have been a home run at all but 29 stadiums), the others all came at stadiums that favor home runs with Coors being the 2nd best in 2011 homers, GABP being 3rd best and Progressive Field which is 12th.

Proving the effect of Denver’s thin-air to a degree is that of his home runs one mile high in Denver, 75.2% of them would be out of any ballpark in America, whereas 85.6% of the ones hit outside of Denver would’ve been out anywhere in the country. Meaning, that his home runs were amplified in Denver as they were home runs there, despite the fact they were less likely to be elsewhere.

When you look back at the rest of Smith’s career this doesn’t hold true. In 2010, Smith who had 12 of his 17 home runs come in Denver, would have had his Denver home runs land beyond the outfield fence in 87.5% of ballparks and that includes one serious outlier a September 8th home run off Bronson Arroyo that would’ve been a home run at Coors Field and Coors Field alone. Excluding that lone dinger, 95.5% of his home runs would’ve been out of any ballpark. In 2009, his home run split wasn’t as significant as he hit eight of 15 home runs in Denver when 93.8% of those home runs would’ve been gone anywhere else as well.

Last year’s numbers are very strange and though Smith has a home run at the Coliseum (coming in 2009 off of Trevor Cahill that barely cleared the right field fence), I would expect that hitting outside of Denver will effect his home run rate if he hits as he did last year and less like he did in years prior. However, when you go from a place that has a park factor for home runs of 1.354 to a place with a park factor for home runs .786 for 81 of your games, that will undoubtedly effect you.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dangerous Dean permalink
    February 20, 2012 11:46 am

    No doubt that park factors help or hurt players. I can’t fathom the concept that so few FO types seem to figure this in when signing players.

    I am looking at you, Chan Ho Park.

    But recent history suggests that it is a combination of park factor and protection (or lack thereof). See Matt Holliday.

    I do hope that Smith works out for you fellas (at least more when you play LAA than my Rangers). God knows you deserve some joy after suffering through the bad years.

    I expect his power to plummet, though, going from the most HR friendly park to one of the least.

    • February 22, 2012 1:54 pm

      If you an FO though it doesn’t matter really unless there is a major L/R split or something like in New York or Boston. In Oakland you assume everyone’s power numbers come down significantly. Maybe then you want more of a line drive guy that a towering HR dude, not sure it makes that significant a difference though right?

      But yes, I think your assessment re: park factor + protection is correct. But you also should know, Coors Field is not the most HR friendly, that would be that little band box you all have in Arlington!

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