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Baseball Stadium Effects on Hitters

Dear Joe,

Of all the great hitter in the past, there is so much speculation about how much they were aided by their home field. Two players I am wondering about are Mel Ott and Chuck Klein. Both homerun hitting lefties who played their home games, and enjoyed most of their success, in fields with short RF fences. What part, if any, do you think these parks played in these players careers?

Thanks for your time,

Morgan D.

Joe Mock's Response


Thanks for writing me at the Baseball Guru. A lot has been written about Mel Ott and how his hitting stats were probably aided by his home park, so I decided to delve first into Chuck Klein. As you probably know, his career looks like this:

Years Team Home park

1928 through 1933 Phils Baker Bowl

1934 through mid '36 Cubs Wrigley

mid '36 through mid '38 Phils Baker Bowl

mid '38 through mid '39 Phils Shibe Park

mid '39 through end '39 Pirates Forbes Field

1940 through 1944 Phils Shibe Park

All of this moving around makes analysis tricky (the Phils did keep trading to get him back, didn't they!). And the stats I looked at didn't differentiate between home and away ... so let's make the following assumptions:

That playing half of his games in his home park affected his overall stats uniformly Total bases would be a good way to see how his hitting stats varied At bats divided by total bases should be a good barometer to use (one could also use AB/HR or any of a number of other comparisons)

Years At bats Total bases AB/TB

1928 through 1933 3367 2128 1.58

1934 through mid '36 978 486 2.01

mid '36 through mid '38 1127 538 2.09

mid '38 through mid '39 276 97 2.84

mid '39 through end '39 270 138 1.96

1940 through 1944 468 134 3.49

Keep in mind that "lower is better" when looking at AB/TB - just as a lower AB/HR ratio is better.

Clearly, in the twilight of Klein's career - which I would say is his final stint with the Phils, 1940 on - his hitting prowess was way down. And I don't think it would have mattered where he played. So let's look at 1928 through 1939, OK?

Baker Bowl is his home park (two stints): 4494 ABs, 2666 TBs = 1.68

Wrigley is his home park: 978 ABs, 486 TBs = 2.01

Shibe is his home park (prior to 1940): 276 ABs, 97 TBs = 2.84

Forbes Field is his home park: 270 ABs, 138 TBs = 1.96

So while Baker Bowl (408 to center, 300 to right center, 280 to right) was his home park, Klein had his best hitting years. Next was his time at Forbes (435 to center, 408 to right center, 300 to right), even though it was fairly late in his career. Next was Wrigley (436 to center, 363 to right center, 321 to right) and last was Shibe (468 to center, 400 to right center, 331 to right). Of course, unlike today, outfield dimensions changed constantly in the old days. I made my best guess as to the dimensions of these parks at the time Klein played there.

And his early years at Baker Bowl, before going to the Cubs in 1934, were his best years of all. By the way, he hit 64% (191 out of 300) of his career home runs during those first six seasons of his career, while having only 52% of his at bats. Now *that's* noteworthy. If you have a breakdown of home versus away, you could do a more accurate job of this.

The amazing 5'9" dynamo named Mel Ott, of course, never had a home field *other than* the Polo Grounds, playing his entire career for the Giants. That makes this kind of comparison invalid. However, if you can pinpoint home-versus-away batting stats, I'm sure there will be a clear difference. Regardless, he remains one of the most amazing sluggers of all time.

-- Joe Mock, Webmaster of BASEBALLPARKS.COM and the Grand Slam Mall
Ballpark guru at Baseball Guru
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