Earlier in 2008 I was finding Citizens Bank Park was — numerically — playing less like the ridiculous hitters park most players claimed it was. Now that the season is finished, we can see if the Vault really is that great a hitters park, or if we’re just getting blown smoke.
First is ESPN’s Park Factor, which compares home stats to road stats:
Citizens Bank Park:
Runs: 1.029 [Slightly favors hitter] (15th)
Home runs: 1.022 [Slightly favors hitter] (11th)
Hits: 1.036 [Slightly favors hitter] (8th)
Park factor shows the Vault is not particularly a doubles or triples park. When runs are scored, it’s via the home run most prominently. According to ESPN, the only parks that seem to be higher hitters parks since 2004 are Wrigley Field, Coors Field, Rangers Ballpark, Comerica Park, Fenway Park, US Cellular Field and Great American Ballpark. Then, we can say Citizens is one of the better hitters parks in the league, but it’s impact is somewhat overrated.
Second is Baseball Reference’s Park Factors. Since opening, Citizens Bank Park has carried a factor of 105, before dipping slightly to a 103 in 2008 (over 100 favors hitters). This rating shows the Vault is more of a hitters park than ESPN says — only Fenway Park, Coors Field and Wrigley Field have higher or comparable overall factors since 2004.
So what’s the answer?
There are two major factors to thank for the idea that the Vault is a ridiculous hitters park.
One is the division. Shea Stadium, Turner Field, Dolphin Stadium and RFK Stadium/Nationals Park are four of the more pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. Shea last had a favorable hitter’s season in 1990; Turner started as a hitters park but has become more pitcher-friendly; Dolphin is notoriously pitcher-friendly; RFK was also a cavern, though Nationals Park showed to be a slight hitters park in 2008. Compared to rival parks, Citizens is excruciatingly hitter-first.
The other factor is Veterans Stadium. In its final years, the Vet was a haven for pitchers. The transition from Vet’s 2003 park factor of 0.900 runs (93 PF) to Citizens Bank Park’s 2004 factor of 1.024 runs (105 PF) is jarring.
Of course, between Baseball Reference and ESPN, you can say Citizens Bank Park is likely one of the top five hitters parks in baseball. It’s not Coors, Fenway and Wrigley, but these are three notorious longtime hitters parks that have become accepted in their extremities. (Vinny Castilla would not have hit 40 homers as a Phillie.) Sadly, we have to agree Citizens is a hitters park, but it’s not extreme, as some would like you to believe. It’s just simply a good place for home run hitters.