Prospect Evaluation Primer: Park Factors

James Johnson likes his home park

After discussing some concepts in general, we take a closer look at how park factors specifically impact Orioles prospects.

In our last installment of Prospect Evaluation Primer, we discussed why it was important to consider league and park context when looking at raw statistics. In the final installment, we'll discuss exactly what that context is for each minor league team in the Orioles' system.

I should note that we are really dealing with two issues here. The first is league context or, more plainly, the average rate statistics for players in each league. Within that context, we can then look at park factors that are of special interest when looking at players in the O's system.

Park factors are listed where 100 is league average. If a park has a home run (HR) factor of 110, that means that it allows 10% more home runs than league average. Note that the same park factors in different leagues do not necessarily indicate similar offensive environments. All park factors are the weighted three year means from the 2003-2005 seasons and all league statistics are as of this writing.

Ottawa Lynx (AAA-International League)

The International League is hitting .259/.328/.388 as a whole. That's 40 points of OPS less than the cross-town Pacific Coast League. The average pitcher is striking out 6.9 batters per 9 innings while walking 3.2/9 ip.

Overall, Lynx Stadium is exactly neutral, with a Run factor of 100. Interestingly, it's HR factor is low at 93, but so is the K factor at 91.

Bowie Baysox (AA-Eastern League)

Eastern League games are not much more fun to watch, with a composite batting line of .252/.322/.381. Perhaps that's due to the existence of a few more high end pitching prospects, though; EL pitchers rack up 7.4 K/9 while allowing 3.1 BB/9.

Prince George's Stadium is a miserable place to hit. Even within the feeble offensive environment of the Eastern League, Bowie stands out with it's Run factor of 85. That's one of the most extreme pitcher's parks in the minor leagues, folks. This doesn't explain away Jeff Fiorentino's sub-.700 OPS, but it does provide some perspective.

Frederick Keys (HiA-Carolina League)

The Carolina League boasts a slightly less underwhelming composite batting line of .255/.334/.378. CL pitchers have registered 7.1 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9.

Harry Grove Stadium helps keep things interesting with a 107 Run factor. While doubles are hard to come by (87), home runs are launched at a surprising rate of 147.

Delmarva Shorebirds (LoA-South Atlantic League)

Sally Leaguers are bopping to the tune of .256/.332/.378, very similar to Carolina Leaguers. What is interesting is that Sally League pitchers are actually missing more bats (7.6 K/9) and giving up fewer free passes (3.5 BB/9) than their CL counterparts.

Arthur W. Perdue Stadium is not nearly as quirky as you might expect from it's namesake. Like Ottawa, it has a Run factor of exactly 100. Historically, however, pitchers have given up more free passes (113) and registered more K's (107) at Delmarva than in other SAL parks.

Aberdeen Ironbirds (SS-New York-Penn League)

As a whole, the NY-P League is "hitting" .244/.314/.337. Pitchers average 7.5 K/9 and only 2.9 BB/9. Clearly, this is a great environment for pitching.

Beyond just the league context, Ripken Stadium has a Run factor of 91. That should certainly make for some low scoring games.

Bluefield Orioles (Rookie- Appalachian League)

Bluefield park factors are not available at the moment, but the league is hitting .252/.333/.367 as a whole. Pitchers tend to keep the ball out of play as much as possible, with 7.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9.

The Baltimore system is generally pitcher-friendly, which helps exaggerate the perception that the O's have many more pitching prospects than hitting prospects. And now that we have a proper frame of reference, it should be clearer why a specific batting line can be impressive in one park/level and not another.

This wraps up our Prospect Evaluation Primer series. Hopefully, this has afforded you an opportunity to better understand my methodologies going forward. Tomorrow, I'm off to Aberdeen and we'll begin looking at specific prospects; with some player interviews, pictures and other goodies.

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