Yesterday The Hardball Times published my article about estimating the home run rate of SunTrust Park. You can read that article here. Today I will publish a snippet regarding Freddie Freeman which was left on the editing room floor.
You may be interested in reading another piece I wrote about Freeman on Rotographs, which sought to address a similar concern, albeit prior to finalizing the data for SunTrust Park. I recommend reading both of these articles prior to reading this one.
How It May Impact Freddie Freeman
You can’t talk about the Braves without mentioning Freddie Freeman, especially when they bring in the right field fences. Freeman is the most prolific left handed power hitter on the team. However, Freeman has never been a pull hitter, instead displaying power to all fields.
I took all of Freeman's batted ball data and—using xStats—determined his expected home run totals to each section of Turner Field over the prior two seasons, along with a projection for 2017 in SunTrust Park. You can see the results in the chart below.
Indeed, he seems to have more home runs in SunTrust, 21.7 as opposed to the 20.6 in 2016. While the difference is projected to come from right field, I'd hardly say one home run is the boost many people expected to see for Freeman after moving in the fences between 13 and 18 feet.
The cut off for what may be considered center field or the gaps is a bit arbitrary, so the exact locations of these balls might be fungible. My models for SunTrust Park claims 25% of Freeman’s balls hit above 87 mph with a launch angle greater than 15 degrees will be home runs. Last season, in Turner Field, 23% of those balls expected home runs—meaning they would have left a neutral ballpark—and 17% were actual home runs. So, in his home games, that is a 8% increase in expected home run totals, and a 47% increase from his actual 2016 home run total.
This means Freeman will be disproportionately helped by the new ballpark, but only by a small margin. The bigger difference in performance will come from leaving Turner Field, which held him back significantly.
Last season he also hit 19 home runs on the road, versus his 15 at home. In other words, he hit roughly 26% more home runs on the road. This is roughly on par with where Turner Field home run rates compared to league average home run rates.
Turner Field was 29% below average, so with 15 home runs there, you’d expect roughly 19.4 home runs on the road. Obviously you can't hit .4 of a home run, so 19 is the closest integer.
Long story short, you could expect Freeman to hit about 19% more home runs during a season while calling SunTrust Park his home.
Granted, there is a very real possibility that Freeman could adapt to pull the ball more in order to take advantage of the right field wall. The right field dimensions are especially friendly for high fly balls down the line, which may be an alluring target for any left handed batter on the team.