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A Funny Thing Happened at Citizens Bank Park

Anyone else think Pedro Martinez's comments last week were notable?  Here's what he said after the Phillies came back from a 7-0 deficit to win 8-7 in 13 innings:   "In this stadium with this team, you just never know . . . . It's not the first time I've seen this."

Sure, we've heard that or a sentiment like it many times before, so it probably didn't phaze anyone that much.  After all, Citizens Bank Park is a massive hitters park where popups become home runs and pitchers leave with inflated ERAs.  Our own dajafi has given CBP a new acronym: OFJOAB, or Our Fucking Joke of a Ballpark.

Well, here's the thing: that's so 2007.  In 2008, CBP is the most neutral ballpark in the major leagues.  Yup, read that sentence again: Citizens Bank Park is the ballpark that inflates or deflates runs the least in all of the majors.

If you don't believe me, see for yourself here.  As of the games of September 2, CBP has a park factor of 1.019, which means that it inflates scoring by just under 2% compared to a neutral ballpark.  No other ballpark is closer to the neutral line of 1.000.  (Miller Park in Milwaukee is the next closest, at 0.978, meaning it deflates scoring by just over 2%.)

How is this possible?  In years past, the park was a huge home run hitters park.  And, in some years (though not all), it also favored doubles hitters.  But this year, a funny thing has happened.  Home runs are about neutral at CBP, with a home run factor of only 1.012 (increased by 1.2%).  But other extra base hits are extremely depressed.  Doubles are just over 9% below a neutral park, while triples are about 35% lower.

These numbers suggest that the small park is playing as one would think with doubles and triples -- the smaller outfield area meaning it's harder to get the ricochets or angles to get a double or triple.  But, with a small park one would think home runs would be up as they have in past years.  That's just not happening this year though.

Citizens Bank Park has changed.  It's obviously too early to tell if these changes are permanent and it's beyond my expertise to identify what exactly has caused these changes, but the park clearly is a different park this year.  CBP is the most neutral ballpark in baseball, and plays almost completely neutral for home runs.

I'm going to keep writing about this for a bit, with more information and more analysis to come.  But for now, it's important to focus on this completely under-reported story about how our joke of a ballpark is actually a completely different beast this year.