I am a Cardinals (and baseball for that matter) news junkie. I read newspaper articles on the Cards from all around the nation with the help of a personalized Google news search. I read pretty much every story posted on the Cardinals’ MLB site and the St. Louis Post Dispatch site. I watch an unhealthy amount of ESPN, especially Baseball Tonight, and I even try to endure the Cards pregame and postgame shows as often as possible. (Watching them requires endurance because they include 5-10% informations and 90-95% useless chatter and commercials. No one’s fault really…just a necessary evil of cable TV I think.) There’s more, but you get the idea…
I tell you all of this not because I’m trying to prove I can regurgitate information provided by others and not as an attempt to impress you (as if it should or would) but because I’ve been hearing and reading one recurring thought.
Many people seem to believe that the new Busch Stadium has played a large part in Albert Pujols’ gaudy home run totals early on. On Baseball Tonight quite a while back Karl Ravach made an off-handed comment that went something like, “You think Albert’s gonna enjoy playing 81 games a year in that new park.” (By NO means a direct quote.) More recently it’s I read that sentiment echoed by a San Francisco Chronicle writer. My memory isn’t good enough to list other examples, but I assure you they exist.
Before I begin my attempt to discount that argument, I will say that it may very well prove to be true at some point in the future. At the end of the season, Pujols’ may have 15 more homers at home than on the road, and the evidence of a massive home field advantage may exist. But right now the “evidence” just doesn’t support the aforementioned assertion. It is simply too early for those types of comments.
I would love to provide a long, complicated list of that evidence right now, but it is actually all quite simple. As of the completion of Tuesday’s game against the Mets, the Cardinals’ first baseman has 12 homers and 31 RBI at Busch III and 7 round trippers and 17 RBI on the road. He has also played 23 games in St. Louis and just 15 in other cities (the team has played 16 on the road but Albert got a day off in Cincinnati). Considering he has 19 home runs in 38 games played, or exactly .5 homers per game, he should have four more homers at the new stadium but instead he has five. Oh, the discrepancy!
You could argue that his pace wouldn’t be what it is without him playing at the new Busch if you were determined to play devil’s advocate, so I continue. If Pujols is getting help from the new park than surely everyone else is as well, right? Well, as a team the Cardinals have hit 24 balls out of the park at home and 17 on the road. Less Pujols’ totals, and that means the rest of the Cards have hit 12 home runs at home and 10 on the road. Aside from the scary realization the Pujols has nearly out-homered his teammates, I think we can successfully lay to rest the belief that the current version of Busch stadium is inflating Albert Pujols’ numbers.
As always with baseball statistics, it is possible to go disappear even deeper in numbers that include ERAs and home run totals as compared to other parks, but again it is really still too early in the season for all of these numbers to be looked at on even terms. Feel free to explore them all you want and leave a comment, however.
More than defending Albert’s totals, which no one really seemed to be attacking in the first place, I want to defend new Busch as a fair field. I groan aloud just thinking about the so-call bandbox ballparks of the Cardinals’ Central Division competitors Houston and Cincinnati, and I know I am not alone. I have no desire to ever hear Busch mentioned in that group, and I don’t think anyone responsible for designing or building the stadium did either.
To summarize… It is not the park assisting Albert. It is Albert annihilating the park.