The Bradenton Marauders Offense – Is it the park or the players?

Ahoy maties -- I may inflate stats

As we head into the final week of minor league baseball (wiping a single tear from my cheek), the Bradenton Marauders hitters are comfortably leading the Florida State League in both batting average (.277 to .269 in 2nd place) and OPS (778 to 752).  They are also leading the league in runs scored (narrowly by 3 in front of Dunedin) and 3rd in homers (96).

What I’m wondering though is if McKechnie Field is assisting in this offensive outburst or if the Marauders just have a great group of talented hitters.  As most of you know, McKechnie is the major league Pirates spring training park.  It is routine to see many wind-aided homers during spring training.  It seems as if during the first couple of months of both years, the winds provide an offensive environment for the Marauders as well.  Things settle down somewhat once the oppressive humidity comes into the area in late May/early June.

The Marauders have only been using the park for 2 seasons, but already some stats are starting to crystallize.  As per, McKechnie Field has a park factor of 132 (normal is 100) for left-handed batters hitting homers and 105 park factor for right-handed batters.  Obviously, the LHB mark of 132 is an eye-opener.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 Marauder hitters, in terms of OPS, to see if there is a discernible home/road split:

Grossman (931 OPS home, 830 OPS road — 6 HR home, 7 HR road)

Cabrera (930 OPS home, 807 OPS road — 2 HR home, 0 HR road)

Santos (949 OPS home, 752 OPS road — 4 HR home, 2 HR road)

Cunningham (957 OPS home, 742 OPS road — 9 HR home, 6 HR road)

E. Gonzalez (867 OPS home, 790 OPS road — 4 HR home, 1 HR road)

You expect there to be a slight home advantage, but everyone except Elevys Gonzalez had a severe home/road split.  Curiously, Grossman’s power was even, though.

Perhaps 2012 will be the real 2-part test of the theory that McKechnie is a hitting environment.  Test one will be when all 5 of these guys graduate to Altoona’s Blair County Ballpark.  Again using, Blair County Ballpark is death to home runs in general, but especially left-handed batters.  The park factors in Altoona are a dead-ball era-esque 64 for left-handed batters and 80 for right-handed batters.

Keep in mind that Grossman, Cabrera, and E. Gonzalez are all switch hitters and have better power splits while hitting left-handed.  Grossman hit 11 of his 13 homers as a lefty, Cabrera hit both of his left-handed and more power in general from that side, and Gonzalez hit 3 of his 5 from the sinister side (but does have better extra-base power as a righty).

Taking a look at the top 5 Curve hitters, in terms of OPS, here’s their home/road splits:

Marte (785 OPS home, 952 OPS road — 4 HR home, 8 HR road)

Mercer (1003 OPS home, 666 OPS road — 9 HR home, 4 HR road)

Holt (718 OPS home, 765 OPS road — 0 HR home, 1 HR road)

Farrell (701 OPS home, 773 OPS road — 2 HR home, 3 HR road)

Curry (625 OPS home, 816 OPS road — 2 HR home, 4 HR road)

Aside from Mercer, the other 4 all performed better on the road than at Blair County Ballpark, in a league that is seen generally as a pretty fair balance between hitter and pitcher-friendly parks.

The second part of the test will be when the 2011 WV Power hitters graduate to Bradenton in 2012.  After Matt Curry left, to be polite, there wasn’t a whole lot of ferocious hitters left for the Power.  Here’s the top 5 Power hitters with their home/road splits:

Grovatt (782 OPS home, 794 OPS road — 6 HR home, 2 HR road)

Howard (804 OPS home, 729 OPS road — 4 HR home, 2 HR road)

Maggi (636 OPS home, 779 OPS road — 0 HR home, 3 HR road)

Vasquez (763 OPS home, 628 OPS road — 3 HR home, 0 HR road)

Rojas (617 OPS home, 675 OPS road — 1 HR home, 4 HR road)

This group of 5 was more of a mixed bag, so it will be interesting to see if some of these pedestrian OPS numbers jump up into the high 800’s/mid 900’s we saw with some of the Marauders at home this year.

The takeaway from this article, if there actually is one, is to not freak out if Grossman and Friends have poor power numbers and OPS numbers in 2012 at home.  It may not be that they are flash-in-the-pan prospects, but rather a blend of McKechnie slightly inflating their 2011 stats while Blair County slightly deflates their 2012 stats.  If the Bradenton group drops a touch in 2012 at Altoona, while the Power group jumps up in 2012 at Bradenton, it may be time to consider Bradenton a true “hitters park”.

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