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The Truth About Space Coast

The conventional wisdom about Space Coast Stadium--the home of the Brevard County Manatees--is that it's a pitcher's park.  More specifically, it's "death to right-handed power."

The first assertion--that it's a pitcher's park--is easy to test.  Dan Szymborski's minor league park multipliers list Brevard with a run multiplier of 0.96, which translates to a run factor of 0.92 -- quite pitcher-friendly, but not historically so.  Surprisingly, Szym's HR multiplier is 1.04, indicating that hitters are more likely to go deep at Space Coast than elsewhere in the FSL.

Now, these factors are relative to the rest of the Florida State League, which is itself pitcher-friendly.  For hitters, the FSL and the California League--though both are Advanced A--are completely different levels.  The FSL is nearly as difficult as Double-A; the Cal league is barely more challenging than low A.  The Carolina league, also Advanced A, is in between, though much closer to the FSL.

Long story short: in the three year period 2005-07, Space Coast was  pitcher-friendly for an FSL park; it's quite pitcher-friendly compared to, say, an average Cal league park.

According to some numbers I just ran, it's quite a bit worse this year.  The run factor is about the same, at 0.94 -- 6% fewer runs are scored at Space Coast than in a neutral FSL park.  All extra-base hits, though, are off by about 15%.

Considering Handedness

As far as I know, no one has ever looked at righty/lefty specific park factors in the minor leagues.  It's important, as some minor league parks are quirkier than major league parks, both in dimensions and the immediate environment.  (Wind patterns make the difference in Brevard.)

I delved into the play-by-play that drives Minor League Splits to find the answer.

Looking only at 2008 results for the moment, the difference between righty batters at Space Coast and lefty batters at Space Coast is dramatic:

  • RHB: 0.83 run factor, 0.81 2B/3B factor, 0.69 HR factor
  • LHB: 1.19 run factor, 0.98 2B/3B factor, 1.21 HR factor

Since single-year handedness samples are even smaller than single-year overall samples, it's important that we use additional years of data.  Weighting the last three years 5/3/2 (with 2008 weighted 5), here are the equivalent results:

  • RHB: 0.88 run factor, 0.84 2B/3B factor, 0.77 HR factor
  • LHB: 1.05 run factor, 0.89 2B/3B factor, 1.00 HR factor

Not nearly as dramatic, but it continues to drive home the point about right-handed power.  The conventional wisdom is right on the money.  The FSL is a pitcher's league, and for righties, hitting at Space Coast is worse than MLBers have it at Petco.

The prospects this most strongly affects right now are Jonathan Lucroy, Brent Brewer, and Charlie FermaintTaylor Green and Stephen Chapman are the other hitters to watch on the Manatees, and both are lefties.