Busch Stadium III Has Established Itself as a Pitcher's Park

Elsa

As Busch Stadium III prepares for its ninth season hosting Cardinals home games in St. Louis, the ballpark has established itself as a pitching haven.

When the St. Louis Cardinals set out to build a new home stadium, they wanted an unassuming ballpark. Not a mallpark like the monstrosity in Houston. Nor one with odd dimensions that help or hinder batters or pitchers. The Cardinals wanted their new home to play neutral. The Busch Stadium III dimensions reflect this goal:

  • 335 feet to both foul poles
  • 375 to each gap
  • 400 to dead center

Did the Cardinals get the neutral playing field were after? After eight seasons in Busch Stadium III, it appears they didn't.

Fangraphs has developed park factors that are available in the "Guts!" portion of its website. A park factor of 100 is league average. The higher above 100 a stadium's park factor, the more hitter friendly it is in that category. The further below 100, the more pitcher friendly. The Cardinals were going for a park that played at about 100 in its park factors.

The following chart contains the Fangraphs park factors by handedness of the batter for Busch III. I've also included how Busch III ranks among the several stadia in each factor. The closer to one, the more hitter friendly the ranking.

FANGRAPHS PARK FACTORS BY HANDEDNESS FOR BUSCH STADIUM III

Year

LHB 1B

MLB

Rank

RHB

1B

MLB

Rank

LHB

2B

MLB

Rank

RHB

2B

MLB

Rank

LHB

3B

MLB

Rank

RHB

3B

MLB

Rank

LHB

HR

MLB Rank

RHB

HR

MLB Rank

2013

101

7*

99

15*

94

28

100

16*

97

21*

91

23*

94

23

90

28*

2012

101

7*

99

17*

94

27*

100

15*

97

20*

91

23*

94

21*

90

26*

2011

101

7*

99

17*

94

28*

100

14*

97

20*

91

24*

94

22*

90

27*

2010

100

12*

100

14*

92

29

100

13*

97

20*

93

21*

96

19*

90

27*

2009

101

6*

100

15*

92

29

99

15*

97

24*

96

17

93

26*

89

30

2008

102

5*

101

12*

94

28*

98

20*

97

25*

99

11*

94

24*

91

28*

2007

102

5

101

10*

94

28

98

18*

97

24*

99

13*

94

22*

91

28*

2006

102

3*

101

9*

94

28*

98

20*

97

26*

99

14

94

23*

91

27*

*Indicates Busch Stadium III was tied with at least one other ballpark.

A couple of observations.

  • Busch III is not an easy park to hit for extra bases in.
  • About the only friendliness Busch III offers batsmen is singles hitting, especially for lefthanders.
  • The harsh conditions for slugging at Busch III likely feeds its singles-friendliness a bit.

Breaking down Busch by hit type over the years seems to support this notion.

Busch III doesn't suppress hits. That is to say, there's no discernible trend that the St. Louis ballpark creates more outs on balls in play than average. In a given year, the BA for a split might dip below average (e.g., for RHB in 2013), but the opposite has occurred more often. That is, the BA at Busch III has been higher than the NL's overall BA. Busch doesn't suppress hits. It suppresses extra-base hits.

In order to get an idea of Busch's power suppression, we're going to use Isolated Power (ISO). Slugging percentage (SLG) is the traditional power statistic, but it includes singles. Because of this, I don't like using SLG when I'm attempting to gauge power-hitting. ISO is calculated using only doubles, triples, and homers. Therefore, it's more accurately captures power-hitting. This makes ISO a good choice to illustrate how harsh an environment Busch III is for extra-base hits.


In its inaugural season, Busch III was somewhat neutral from a power-hitting perspective. Extra-base hits crept up to approximately league-average in 2008 also. But ever since then, Busch III has held down power-hitting. Leading into 2013, batters' ISO at Busch III had crept upward a bit. Last season, though, saw a brutal downswing in power at the Cards' ballpark.

###

The Cardinals set out to build a stadium in Busch III that favored neither batters nor pitchers. The organization's goal is reflected in the unremarkable dimensions of the park's outfield wall. After eight seasons of hosting games at Busch III, it appears that the Cardinals failed. Instead of a neutral home park, they have a pitcher-friendly one.

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