Friday, August 11, 2006

Dodd Stadium Must Die!

I have been debating with some other fans about what this year's stats say about the prospect status of Travis Ishikawa. On the face of it, he has horrible stats, his peripherals have gotten worse and his power has disappeared. So I can see why people think that just from looking at his overall stats. But you know me, I had to dig deeper.

Ishikawa: Exposed or What?

I looked at his stats and realized that his home stats and road stats tell two different stories. So I looked at other splits and realized that his home park, Dodd Stadium, greatly affected his power numbers (as of 8/10/2006):

Home: .212/.289/.314/.603; 48 AB/HR; 102 ISO
Road: .248/.337/.484/.821; 22 AB/HR; 236 ISO
Overall: .231/.315/.403/.719; 29 AB/HR; 172 ISO

Defenders (hitters):
Home: .228/.294/.316/.610; 82 AB/HR; 88 ISO
Road: .233/.305/.365/.670; 47 AB/HR; 132 ISO

Defenders (pitchers' stats given up):
Home: .249/.311/.340/.651; 79 AB/HR; 91 ISO
Road: .257/.316/.378/.694; 60 AB/HR; 121 ISO

Eastern League (hitters):
Home: .259/.328/.391/.719; 44 AB/HR; 132 ISO
Road: .246/.317/.372/.689; 45 AB/HR; 126 ISO

So which is the real Ishikawa? The 20 HR power that he appears to have dropped to in AA overall, making one think that perhaps he's regressing as he faces better talent? Or the 27 HR power (in 600 AB) that he has on the road, which is close to his averages the previous two seasons for HR (26 AB/HR in 2004; 20 AB/HR in 2005)? Is he the sad sack hitter at home with an ISO of 102 or the power hitter on the road, with a monster 236 ISO? (for comparison, David Wright's ISO is 235; last season, ISO was 250 in San Jose for Ishikawa)

Clearly, playing at home in Dodd Stadium has a deleterious effect on the HR hitting of any player who hits there. The hitter's stats show it: The hitters hit 43% less HR at home than on the road. The pitcher's stats show it: the pitchers give up 24% less HR. And as we can see with the league stats, clearly the league's average is very nearly that of the Defenders' hitter's overall averages: .246/.317/.372/.689 and 45 AB/HR vs. .233/.305/.365/.670 and 47 AB/HR. And yet the stats are that much worse at home in Dodd's Stadium.

And it is not like HRs becomes doubles in this park, they mainly turn into outs and singles, as this park kills extra-base hits and that's one of the main value of our best young hitters, their raw power and extra-base hit tendencies, here's Ishikawa's counting stats for this season:

stat- home- road
AB - 137 - 153
1B - 22 - 19
2B - 3 - 9
3B - 1 - 3
HR - 3 - 7

Even given small samples, it is clear that his extra base power is halved - for whatever reason - at Dodd vs. his road numbers, resulting three of them becoming singles. No extra doubles from the homers lost, no extra triples, just outs and singles, and doubles and triples were lost as well, there was a drop across the board.

Thus, looking at his stats for this year for an indication of whether he has progressed, regressed, or doing about the same, relative to his career for now, I think you need to look only at his road stats because Dodd is doing something to his numbers. And based on his road numbers, he is hitting about the same as before, only with less walks, which is troubling, so he clearly regressed some, and that's a disappointment, but he isn't doing as badly as most people think he is by only looking at his overall numbers.

It's Dodd's skewing his home results, first, a pitchers league, second. And looking only at his road results, he is not doing that badly versus the league average, he is above it, in terms of OPS and SLG. In fact, in both cases, he is significantly better than the league average.

Other Defenders' Hitting Splits

In case anyone thought that Ishikawa was some sort of fluke split, I took a look at some of the other key hitters in their lineup (first year in AA and similar age to Ishikawa):

Eddy Martinez-Esteve:
Home: .280/.309/.420/.729; 0 HR in 50 AB; 140 ISO
Road: .275/.326/.500/.826; 20 AB/HR; 225 ISO
Career: .317/.420/.510/.930; 36 AB/HR; 193 ISO

Nate Schierholtz:
Home: .211/.283/.300/.583; 90 AB/HR; 89 ISO
Road: .279/.338/.489/.828; 27 AB/HR; 210 ISO
Career: .311/.361/.511/.872; 32 AB/HR; 200 ISO

Jake Wald:
Home: .192/.280/.231/.511; 0 HR in 156 AB; 39 ISO
Road: .221/.303/.333/.636; 65 AB/HR; 112 ISO
Career: .237/.315/.351/.666; 53 AB/HR; 114 ISO

Schierholtz, who is probably the closest comparison because they are about the same age and they both are left-handed hitters, and they both hit for HR power in their careers so far, shows the same dichotomy that Ishikawa showed, very weak at home, strong on the road. In both case, the HR rate and the ISO for the road is closer to their career rates than their home rates. There must be something about the configuration that affects left-handed hitters adversely (EME and Wald are RHH).

It could also be that it is the road numbers that are off and that their home numbers are closer to reality. But then I think when I add the fact that his numbers on the road is very similar to his career numbers, I think that is the tipping point where you say that there's something fishy about their home stats that we should eliminate for proper analysis of an indication of what their future in baseball is.

Dodd Stadium Must Die! Long Live Dodd Stadium!

As I tried to show here, the Defender's home turf is not very conducive to HR hitting.
Fortunately the Giants have recognized this and have requested that the field configuration be improved such that the park plays about league average. However, they don't want to pay for it and neither does the new owners of the Defenders. So the owners are trying to get the city to pay for it because it was time to resod the field anyway and the city pays for the resodding, whereas if the fences were moved, the team would be responsible for those costs. The owners of the Defenders want to leverage the resodding opportunity in order to reconfigure the ballpark so that the park will play closer to what the league average is, the way the Giants want it.


It appears the Giants tinkered with their pitching rotation to put their three best pitchers currently against the D-gers - Lowry, Cain, Schmidt. They have Hendrickson, Penny, and Maddux pitching - Maddux vs. Schmidt should be quite a show, as will Penny vs. Cain, hopefully Lowry can lead the way by beating Hendrickson, who is only 1-4 with the D-gers and has a 4.83 ERA with 1.63 WHIP and only 21 K in 41 IP plus 17 BB, horrible!

This is a critical series because if the Giants get swept, they are 7.5 games back and can pretty much forget about the playoffs, but if they sweep, they move back to only 1.5 games back. That is six games of swing, potentially. I assume Bonds will try to play all three games, given this importance.

Go Giants!


  1. Given the stories that have been told about AT&T/SBC/PacBell's impact on JT Snow's power, would Ishikawa's and Schierholtz's number at Dodd be more indictative of their potential performance as SF Giants? Also, I read awhile back that Ishikawa had an altercation with the Defender's Manager over a drop pop up between Ishikawa and the catcher. I think that Machemer thought Ishikawa should have caught the ball, and obviously, Ishikawa thought otherwise. I wondered whether this incident has anything to do with Santos being called up instead of Ishikawa, and whether this will cause Ishikawa to be placed on the trading block. I hope I am making ado about nothing...

  2. I buy your argument about power, but I am more concerned about the on the road BA of 248 - against AA pitching. Don't you take off about 30 points to compare to the majors? It is looking Niekro-esque.

  3. Thanks for the comment, good questions and comments.

    I agree that SF's home park will affect Ishikawa's and Schierholtz's numbers in SF and Dodd's numbers could be more indicative of how they will do in SF.

    However, they need to get to SF first and if people buy wholesale the reduced performance of both of them in AA, attributing it to hitting a ceiling or the league catching up with them, then what if it is decided by Giants management to leave them there another year to season them?

    Look at poor Mike Cervanek. He played 3-4 seasons in that ghetto before finally getting promoted to AAA where he did OK. Ortmeier had to play two years there, who knows what that park did to his confidence as a hitter. I don't want Ishikawa or Schierholtz's development path to be stalled by their "failure" in AA to perform, they pretty much hit about as well as could be expected of them - ON THE ROAD - so they earned their way to AAA for 2007, not another year there.

    And thanks for the FYI on that altercation, didn't hear about it. I don't think that was it - Sabean, of course, knew he was working on a deal for a 1B, which could happen anytime, so why drag Ishikawa cross country for maybe a one day call up, just pull the guy down the I-5 and have him drive up for his cup of coffee. Plus Sabean seems to be a nice man, it gave Santos a reward for signing up with the Giants, his first major league call-up.

    I would not fear Ishikawa getting traded, Hillenbrand is not a long term solution for 1B, he's probably only going to get two year deals and the Giants probably want to sign him up to their usual journeyman special: one year plus option year. That covers Ishikawa being ready next year or the year after that.

    I would only worry about Ishikawa getting traded if we sign or trade for a long-term solution at 1B, but those are hard to come by and I don't think there's any premier ones on the free agent market this coming off-season.

  4. Allfrank, the league itself is already a depressed league for hitting, compare the hitting lines for these Giants leagues:

    SAL: .256/.332/.378/.710; 51 AB/HR
    CAL: .274/.347/.409/.757; 45 AB/HR
    EL: .252/.322/.381/.704; 44 AB/HR
    PCL: .271/.342/.414/.756; 39 AB/HR

    Clearly the SAL and EL are pitchers leagues and the CAL and PCL are hitters leagues. So it is a number of points down already, how much, who knows? They have MLEs available with with Dodd's skewing, I don't exactly trust them.

    But for example, Ishikawa's stats translates to an MLE of .190/.255/.333/.588 and 33 AB/HR from his overall .231/.315/.403/.719 and 29 AB/HR (see MLB Splits: . If I adjusted his road numbers by the same subtractions, I would get: .207/.277/.414/.691 and 26 AB/HR or 23 HR in a 600 AB season. Heck of a difference ,eh?

    Ishikawa's probably never going to hit for a high average, though, that's been clear from his travails in the minors as he has struggled to tame his strikeouts (and failing so far still). I view his potential to be similar to a Rob Deer type: low average, high walks so therefore high OBP, lots of strikeouts and lots of power. Plus gold glove type defense.

    For an illustration of how power is sapped by AT&T Mays Field, I compiled Snow's HR stats off Yahoo for home and away the years he was still hitting for power on the road (people don't realize he still had 20 HR power still in 2004). From 2001-2004, Snow averaged 62 AB/HR at home vs. 31 AB/HR on the road. So his power was halved.

    And any park factor calculation that included Bonds' numbers got skewed, I believe. Last year, with little Bonds, Bill James book had the park factor at 75 for LHH hitting homers, but the year before with Bonds it was 92 and the year before that, even with Bonds, it was 75. Clearly, SF kills LHH's HR power.

    And yet, Felipe Crespo is unique in that he's one of the few LHH to have two splash HR and he hardly ever played for us. I'm hoping that because Travis can launch the homers high and up, his HR power will not be a neutralized as, say, Snow, whose HR power was probably more line drive derived than long fly ball derived.

    Hmm, I can retroactively take Barry's stats out of the park factors. Here are the new park factors for LHH in SF without Barry:

    Year - PF - PF (no Barry)
    2003 - 75 - 58
    2004 - 92 - 74
    2005 - 75 - 76

    So it looks like HR power is cut about 25% by the park.

  5. Martin, this was very useful and informative.
    I am interested in your thoughts on Barry's preciptous decline. He hit well over 300 in his 14 games last September, hit that monster HR in Philly.
    Now I see him taking first pitch fastballs for strikes (often the best pitch he sees). He doesn't seem to pull much down the line. And he doesn't seem to hit the ball squarley very often. I could understand losing his legs, losing his power, and there seems to be some power loss (but how to explain the monster shot in Philly?), but what explains the poor, inconsistent contact? And what happened to the left-center HR power? Thoughts?

  6. Thanks, allfrank, glad you like it.

    I'm not so good on the physical parts since I'm no expert in observing baseball skills, particularly to the detail you note about Bonds. I happened to see Ishikawa launch one and from watching baseball for a long while, I know that such power doesn't come randomly like that, he has serious power (but then you can see his HR numbers and see that too).

    That said, I can try to synthesize a "story" of what's happening to Bonds, based on what I've read and analyzing his stats. I'll try to give you an answer on this tomorrow.

    Initially thoughts is that he is 42 years old, it's going to happen at some point, even to him.

    To illustrate, Willie Mays power shrunk greatly from 1966 to 1967, going from 37 HR to 22 HR (or from 15 AB/HR to 22 AB/HR, or roughly a 33% drop in HR power), so a batter's skill can drop precipitously just in the off-season.

    I also cannot prove this, and not wanting to sound like a conspiracy, I think that umpires - generally - have been squeezing his strikezone this year, either purposefully or subconsciously, because they, like many baseball fans, think he cheated, think he purposefully cheated, think that he is getting away with it, and possibly want him punished in some way. And the only way umpires can acheive any sort of "justice" in their minds, given this scenario (and I think it is only human nature, hence why I don't want to call it a conspiracy), is to call the strikezone like they normally do it instead of giving him the benefit of a doubt - and maybe some will squeeze him further. That forces him into more counts that favor the pitcher, meaning the pitchers can be that much less predictable in what they throw, meaning he will make less consistent contact.

    In addition, pitcher don't have to throw down and away pitches as often to try to get a strike by him, if they can mix it up more, they can throw less of them and challenge him more because he wouldn't be expecting it. That would result in less left-center hits and HR (this is stretching my knowledge but I gave it a shot).



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