Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cameron all about defense on the road

Playing newly signed outfielder Mike Cameron in front of the Green Monster, pundits have been saying all day, makes little to no sense. There's less ground to cover. There are fewer outs to make. There's simply less defense to play.

Theo Epstein didn't sign Cameron, however, to patrol left field at Fenway Park.

Epstein signed Cameron to patrol left field everywhere else.

Fenway Park is a park built for bats. There's no question about that. In case there is a question, in fact, here's a look at where Fenway Park has ranked across the major leagues in terms of hitters' OPS in the last few seasons:

1. Camden Yards, .810
2. Coors Field, .800
3. Fenway Park, .798

1. Rangers Ballpark, .846
2. Comerica Park, .806
3. Camden Yards, .795
4. Coors Field, .790
5. Fenway Park, .781

1. Citizens Bank Park, .824
2. Coors Field, .809
3. Dolphin Stadium, .802
4. Yankee Stadium, .798
5. Comerica Park, .795
6. Great American Ballpark, .790
7. Fenway Park, .785

1. Kauffman Stadium, .819
2. Coors Field, .814
3. Citizens Bank Park, .813
4. Great American Ballpark. .802
5. Chase Field, .800
6. Comiskey Park, .797
7. Camden Yards, .797
8. Rogers Centre, .793
9. Fenway Park, .788

1. Great American Ballpark, .832
2. Coors Field, .824
3. Rangers Ballpark, .808
4. Citizens Bank Park, .793
5. Fenway Park, .793

1. Coors Field, .885
2. Comiskey Park, .822
3. Rangers Ballpark, .804
4. Fenway Park, .803

And so on.

(These numbers do have to be taken with something of a grain of salt. The team that plays its home games at a certain stadium will always have quite a bit to do with the above numbers, and the Red Sox have had an elite run-scoring lineup for most of the decade. But the home team only gets half the at-bats at each stadium -- and the Red Sox scored more runs at home than on the road in each of the above seasons, often by a wide margin.)

It shouldn't be a surprise that the Red Sox OPS'ed .862 at Fenway Park last season and .753 on the road.

What might be surprising, though, is this: Red Sox pitchers saw opponents accumulate an OPS of .736 at Fenway Park last season and .779 on the road. Red Sox pitchers had an ERA of 4.07 at home and 4.64 on the road. Red Sox pitchers saw their opponents' batting average on balls in play hold relatively steady at .307 at home but jump up to .318 on the road.

When Red Sox pitchers escaped Fenway Park, a hitters' paradise, they actually pitched a little bit worse.

Maybe it's the discomfort of hotel beds. Maybe it's a bad bounce or two on an unfamiliar infield. Maybe it's an issue with sight lines or backdrops or fans hollering obscenities as pitchers are going into their windups.

That opponents' BABIP number in particular provides a clue: Maybe the Red Sox just haven't been built to play defense away from Fenway Park. Only two teams in the major leagues -- Toronto and Washington -- had a higher opponents' BABIP on the road last season than the Red Sox.

Maybe it's luck. Maybe it's defense.

Enter Mike Cameron.

Left field at Fenway Park measures 315 feet down the line and 379 feet in left-center field, almost dead center field, where the Green Monster meets Bernie Carbo's favorite fence. Compare that to a couple of left fields the Red Sox often see:
* Yankee Stadium: 318 feet down the line and 399 to left-center;
* Camden Yards: 333 feet down the line and 410 to left-center;
* Rogers Centre: 328 feet down the line and 375 to straightaway left;
* Tropicana Field: 315 feet down the line and 410 to left-center;
* Angel Stadium: 330 feet down the line and 387 to left-center.

The Red Sox don't need an elite left fielder at Fenway Park.

They do, however, need an elite left fielder if they want to win on the road -- and a couple of extra wins on the road would have made a tremendous difference for the Red Sox both during the regular season and during the playoffs. Cameron, by all accounts, an elite outfielder who ought to be the perfect fit in left field.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Fenway might be a hitter's park, but you need to be good to be able to play the Monster. Bay never did it well; to be honest I think Manny was better at it, although still not very good. You need a talented left fielder at Fenway, something we obviously haven't had in a while.