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.

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24 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I don't think that is a major part of it.

    Maybe it's colder at ground level? But at outfield, press, and upper box, it feels like its about 73... if it was much warmer than 75, there would be mass hysteria anyway.

    I don't know, I have never been to a game before '10, but that seems a little flimsy to me.

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  2. Chris Mooney says:

    Cork is absolutely right about the temp. I haev gone to 30 games a year every since '98. We always sit in 300 or 301 (upper deck behind home plate). And I'm telling you, that now it is much colder than it was under Naimoli. It is actually to the point that my wife now brings a jacket to every game. I have no idea if that is affecting the baseballs. But it is colder.

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  3. babo says:

    last night, Bossman's flyball down the left field line to the waring track with the bases loaded is out of here if the trop is not running up the AC bill and the night before sure seemed like Longo crushed a few that ended up falling a few feet short of going over the wall

    not saying the rays have done this intentionally but something like this can account for a very small difference and neither bossman nor longo missed each ball by much.
    last night, would have been nice to extend the lead to 8-1 and force girardi to burn of some of his bullpen arms

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  4. Michael says:

    Guys it's 72 degrees

    you realize that baseball is played in much much much colder places right?

    I appreciate that there is some impact on the ball from temperature

    but Tropicana Fields park score can also be severely impacted by the home teams own offensive proficiency

    This year we have a crappy offense

    And last year we had, despite a great running game which got us a ton of runs, a pretty bad offense that got no-hit what... two or three times? and dominated by Cliff Lee in the playoffs.

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  5. Jordi says:

    To test your theory I am bringing a thermometer to the next few games. I will tweet seat location and temperature.

    Although they say it is 72, it does get cold in the upper deck. But maybe that's from lack of body heat.

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  6. nate says:

    Actually the bullpen areas weren't always in the field of play. In 1998 they were behind the outfield walls

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  7. Rob says:

    We have season tickets in left field and it is friggin hot out there. We do notice, though, that when we move closer (usually near third base - ah the benefits of no fans in the park) the temp drops by at least 5 degrees.

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  8. KG says:

    Either way, as Prof pointed out, it can't be the foul territory. The offense was pretty horrible in some of those years that it was a batter's park.

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  9. Chris D says:

    Is there any way to split this up by home vs. visitor?

    The Trop is "mysteriously" a pitcher's park as soon as Upton starts playing a gold glove quality center field. Couldn't this basically just be attributed to putting better players on the field during the downswing (e.g. right/left fielders cheat to the lines a bit?).

    It could also be that the AL East is just better recently fielding and pitching-wise.

    For a true statistical analysis, you'd need to break down the #s by quality of fielders and pitchers on a team by team basis.

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    • KG says:

      But park factor is supposed to level that playing field (no pun intended). It compares how teams perform at the Trop vs how they play at other stadiums. And the Rays are trotting out the same pitchers and fielders on the road. And half of park is the opposing team and how they do at Trop compared to elsewhere. So Rays defense shouldn't be much of a factor.

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      • Chris D says:

        So according to ESPN, park factor is:
        PF: ((homeRS + homeRA)/(homeG)) / ((roadRS + roadRA)/(roadG))

        So this means that it's only looking at the Rays. And as we know the Rays do worse at home.

        However really what you want to also look at is oPF which ESPN doesn't seem to use.

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        • Cork Gaines says:

          The numbers used here are from Baseball-Reference. They use a more complicated formula that does include opponent runs scored and runs allowed home and road. It also uses average scoring in the league.

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  10. Section 118 says:

    Seems colder to me, but I might just be getting old.

    Also, somebody remind me. I have only been a season ticket holder for 5 years. Didn't the foul territory used to be bigger? Did it change when they added the table seating behind the bullpens?

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  11. Tom says:

    Cork, Since Park Factor compares the Trop to all other stadiums, is it possible the reason it is now more favorable to pitchers is because there have been more hitter friendly stadiums opened in the past few years?

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      Interesting question. If that was the case, we might expect to see a similar trend in other parks. I went and checked Minute Maid park. I wanted a park with a roof to try and eliminate the affect of weather that might vary from year-to-year. That park has been pretty consistent over last 5 years. If anything, it might be trending up a bit.

      Now that is just 1 park. I would want to look at a bunch of parks to know for sure.

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      • Tom says:

        Cork, Would it be different for Minute Maid since the Astros are in the NL? The Rays went from playing 9 games a season at the old yankee stadium to the new yankee stadium which is much more favorable for hitters.

        The Astros on the other hand went from Shea to Citifield (much more pitcher friendly).

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  12. Andrew says:

    I always found it cold in general at the trop, even during the Naimoli era, I usually sat in the 300s though, but I tend to get cold in 80 degrees or below indoor temp so might just be me.

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  13. Mike Moore says:

    Just throwing this out there. What if the Rays didn't necessarily make it colder (although I would NOT be shocked if Naimoli wanted to save a few bucks)? Instead, what if they just switched the direction of the air conditioners towards home plate? That could explain the pitchers park and it would explain why some people feel colder and others dont. Season ticket holders are typically between first base and third base, and if the air is being blown towards home plate, those are the fans that might feel a temp change.

    I know this is kinda out there, but it was just a thought. And while it might be unlikely, I also wouldn't put it past this front office to do everything they can to get that Extra 2%. Even if it means messing with the air flow.

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  14. Beazy says:

    The cold air saved the game tonight with the long fly out to win the game

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  15. Matt says:

    Now if only we had a super A/C system that could change the temperature in the stadium by 5 degrees during every inning split ;)

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  16. Kyle says:

    Maybe the reason The Trop was such a hitters park, even an average park, until recently is because of the visiting teams and our quality of play from '98-'07. We had zero bullpen; an 8 run lead in the 9th was no sure thing. Maybe those numbers which support The Trop being a hitters ballpark are inflated because of that.

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    • Cork Gaines says:

      That doesn't matter with these numbers. Park Factor compares how teams do in the Trop compared to other when they play in other stadiums in the same year.

      So take the same 25 players. How do they do at the Trop and how do they do everywhere else. And do same thing for the rest of the league.

      THAT YEAR, did guys hit better or worse at the Trop. Doesn't matter if they sucked or not.

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