The Rays offense has been anemic at home this season. Through 46 home games the Rays are hitting .228 and scoring just 3.4 runs per game. In 48 road games, things look much better scoring 5.4 runs per game with a team batting average of .258.
So what’s going? Most importantly, Tropicana Field is a pitcher’s park. In fact it is a pretty extreme pitcher’s park. According to ESPN.com, only AT&T Park in San Francisco is tougher when it comes to surrendering runs.
In a story for ESPN.com Bradley Woodrum argues that The Trop is a pitcher’s park because of the vast foul territory in the outfield. And certainly that is part of the issue. The Trop is one of the only ballparks that still has the bullpens on the field of play.
However, in the story for ESPN.com, Woodrum only looks at data since 2008. And that is only a part of the picture.
The Trop has not always been a pitcher’s park. And yet, the bullpens have always been on the field.
Here is a complete look at The Trop’s Park Factor since opening in 1998. You can read more about Park Factors here, but what is important is that 100 is average. Above 100 is a hitter’s park. Below 100 is a pitcher’s park. And 90 is an extreme pitcher’s park.
As we can see, for most of its history, The Trop was an average park, or even a hitter’s park. It was only in the last two years that it became an extreme pitcher’s park.
So what’s going on? The weather.
We spoke with several longtime season ticket holders, and all say the same thing. The Trop is a lot colder now than in year’s past.
Cold air is more dense and has more resistance. And a baseball will not travel as far in colder air.
Was Vince Naimoli just too cheap to run the air conditioning? Or did the Rays intentionally lower the temperature to play to the strengths of this ballclub (pitching and defense)? We don’t know, but both answers seem reasonable.
Whatever the reason, The Trop is now one of the toughest parks in baseball to score runs. And ironically, it appears that the weather is playing a factor.