What The Hell Are Sabermetrics?!?

By August 1, 2014 MLB No Comments
Cespedes

Line Driving to Less Power: The Effect of Fenway Park on Yoenis Cespedes

Analysis by John Hoey

The trade deadline has come and gone and after one of the most exciting deadline days in decades, one of the big moves was the Boston Red Sox trading Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.  Cespedes has garnered a lot of attention this year for his unbelievable throws as well as his second consecutive win in the Home Run Derby.  He no doubt brings another lethal power bat to compliment David Ortiz in the Red Sox lineup.  I have seen dozens of tweets and several articles already about how his numbers will only improve now that he is leaving the pitcher friendly Oakland Coliseum for Fenway Park.  Not for the sole purpose of being contrarian, but I have taken the opposite stance based on cold hard sabermetric stats and historical player reference. I have taken a look at some of these statistics on Cespedes (specifically line drive rate, types of balls he hits for home runs, and fly ball home run rate) and I have found that the short distance and thirty seven foot wall in left field may not benefit the type of hitter that Cespedes is.  Before you Boston fans start destroying me on twitter @JohnnyCrashMLB (shameless plug), take a look at what I am talking about, I have even used an old fan favorite in Beantown as a comparison.

The most valuable part of Yoenis Cespedes, especially for fantasy baseball purposes, is his raw power.  He hits to all fields with authority, and his shots over the fence are typically not of the cheap variety.  Since this is his most valuable element, I will be focusing on his power and why his power pulling the ball may be affected by Fenway Park.  First here is a breakdown of Cespedes’ home runs this season by location and type of hit.

2014 HOME RUNS LEFT FIELD CENTER FIELD RIGHT FIELD
DEEP FLY BALL 5 5 1
LINE DRIVE 2 2 2

 

Cespedes hits most of his Home Runs to left field, left center, and dead center.  Yes, deep center in Fenway reaches 420 feet, twenty feet deeper than Oakland Coliseum, but I’m not as concerned about that as I am concerned about his line drive tendencies.  For his career, twenty one of Cespedes’ sixty six home runs were line drives for a home run line drive rate of thirty two percent.  So basically every one out of three home runs he hits is a line drive.  While plenty of these will sail well far enough into the night in Oakland, the thirty seven foot beast affectionately known in Boston as “The Green Monster” will eat those up and transform them into long singles.  Nearly half of his line drive home runs have gone to dead left field.

Since his arrival in 2012, Cespedes’ line drive rate has been increasing each season, and currently sits at twenty seven percent for 2014.  For general hitting purposes this is great news as it shows he is making incredible contact and driving the ball.  However, if his line drive rate continues to increase, his home run and extra base total on balls to the left side will decrease.

SEASON LINE DRIVE RATE HR/FB RATE
2012 19% 12.6%
2013 22% 13.3%
2014 27% 9.8%

Cespedes’ increase in line drives has already started to affect his home run percentage on balls in the air.  Now imagine how much lower that percentage would be if half of those at bats were in Fenway Park with a thirty seven foot wall smacking them out of the sky.

Are you still no on board with what I’m saying?  That’ fine.  Let me use history as an example.  Another famous Red Sox right handed power hitter from a little while back named Manny Ramirez, had a mean average line drive rate of twenty three percent while with the Red Sox from 2001 to 2008 and you’re going to be shocked how many line drive home runs he hit at Fenway Park out of his 142 Fenway home runs? Three. Not twenty three… three.

MANNY RAMIREZ FLY BALL LINE DRIVE LINE DRIVE RATE
HOME RUNS AT FENWAY PARK 139 3 23%

I understand Manny Ramirez was more of a fly ball hitter than anything but the line drive rate is very good and only four points lower than Cespedes’ 2014 mark, which may still be on the rise.

THE BOTTOM LINE: I love watching Cespedes play.  I can watch him throw guys out all day and murder baseballs into third decks.  He is a fear inducing hitter and will help the Red Sox drive in runs.  However I strongly believe based on historical reference and sabermetrics that his home run and extra base hit totals will be affected by Fenway due to how hard he hits the ball to left field and his increasing line drive rate.  In addition to his propensity to find himself on the DL and his low on base percentage, I am going in to the rest of 2014 and 2015 deeming Yoenis Cespedes an overvalued fantasy baseball pick.  Flashy plays, home run derby titles, and raw power are awesome from a baseball fan perspective, but they don’t win you fantasy baseball championships.

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