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Tropicana Field Finds Southpaws Sexy

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This started as something else and ended weirdly. I wanted to edit the first part out, but I think the information is still a bit interesting. Maybe not.

Pat Burrell's Rays career is a nearing the 120 plate appearance mark. His slash line is what you would expect from him, at least until you get to the slugging part. Everyone knows we didn't bring him in to have a 0.061 ISO, and while I highly, highly doubt Burrell suddenly lost all of his power, I did go in search of similar collapses.

Carl Yastrzemski (1971) Age 31

Prior three seasons: .294/.413/.532

Season in question .254/.381/.392

Next three seasons: .288/.395/.435

Phil Nevin (2002) Age31

Prior three seasons: .295/.373/.556

Season in question: .285/.344/.413

Next three seasons: .270/.336/.454

John Mayberry (1976) Age 27

Prior three seasons: .270/.400/.488

Season in question: .232/.322/.342

Next three seasons: .250/.345/.424

Matt Williams (1996) Age 30

Prior three seasons: .294/.339/.595

Season in question:  .302/.367/.510

Next three seasons:  .279/.326/.491

Billy Williams (1973) Age 35

Prior three seasons: .319/.390/.566

Season in question: .288/.369/.438

Next three seasons: .246/.348/.408

Rogers Maris (1962) Age 27

Prior three seasons: .275/.368/.563

Season in question: .256/.356/.485

Next three seasons: .269/.346/.542

All of these players were amongst the top 10 drops and very few recovered fully. There is some good news. Adrian Beltre is listed, but he's been a very valuable player, and part of the reason for his change is the ballpark he plays in. J.D. Drew had a rough 2002. Reggie Jackson is listed twice in the top 25, about 13 years apart.  And so on.

Even if you are extremely pessimistic about Burrell and think he'll become the biggest drop in history, that's around -0.160, meaning his ISO will raise 0.030 points the rest of the way. ZiPS says .205 the rest of the way and .163 overall. Given the missed month and impeded presence of a stiff neck for most of the first month, that seems fair.

Let's go back to Adrian Beltre for a moment. I mentioned his home park, Safeco Field, hurting him. You see, Safeco suppresses right-handed power and Beltre guessed it, a right-handed power hitter.  Could Tropicana Field have a similar effect on right-handed hitters?

Look at a few of the career Rays and their home/away splits:

                Home                                    Away

Iwamura: .298/.374/.404               .269/.340/.387

Crawford:  .306/.343/.450             .285/.324/.422

Longoria:  .263/.337/.525              .304/.379/.573

Upton:  .261/.354/.407                   .276/.364/.411

Only four cases but the lefties hit better at home and the righties hit better on the road.  How about for Carlos Pena?

2007       .305/.425/.678                   .261/.398/.580

2008       .254/.408/.504                   .240/.347/.484

Most players hit better at home, so that's not a huge surprise. The split dynamic at work here is a bit of a surprise though. The Trop has equal dimensions to left and right center, and down the left field line is actually a few feet fewer than down the right field line.  Maybe it has something to do with the AC unit or whatever. Baseball Musings day-by-day database allowed me to compare hitters throughout Rays history at home versus on the road. I chose to use the last three seasons (meaning 2006-2008).

On the road

LHB .256/.327/.417

RHB .260/.319/.416

At home

LHB .271/.349/.441

RHB .259/.328/.429

Not quite as exaggerated as the individual splits made it out to be. Right-handed batters gain 0.022 OPS points at the Trop compared to their road voyages and left-handers gain 0.046 OPS points. I checked the entire ML seeing what the average home/road split was and found this:

2008: 0.039 OPS points gained

2007: 0.027 OPS points gained

2006: 0.033 OPS points gained

From there I compared all the hitters who played at the Trop in a road game:

LHB .269/.340/.433

RHB .262/.332/.421

Those same batters, at home, versus the Rays:

LHB .289/.364/.458

RHB: .286/.349/.463

No surprise. The Trop has been a pretty neutral park for the most part, so gaining OPS points on the road is nothing new. Lefties gained 0.049 OPS points at their home parks and righties gained 0.059.

Left-handed hitters are better at the Trop. Why? I don't know. This shouldn't mean the Rays go out and field nine lefties everyday because, well, they can't.  Matt Joyce, Carl Crawford, Reid Brignac, Carlos Pena, and any number of switch hitters work, but you can't put a left-handed thrower at very many positions.

Some are going to use this information against the Rays signing of Pat Burrell, but hey, they tried signing Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi was almost certainly Oakland bound, and Adam Dunn is in denial of his own defensive limitations. I don't think the splits should be enough to say "TRADE EVAN LONGORIA FOR AN EQUALLY TALENTED LEFT-HANDED BAT PRONTO!", but when the Rays look to add a hitter, say a catcher, it's probably going to be worth their while to look for one who bats left-handed. Like, say, Jeff Clement.