PROTRADE ranks players on the move

PROTRADE analyzes players on the move

"Location, location, location."
-- Old real estate agent's proverb

Most modern-day baseball fans understand ballpark factors -- the idea that some stadiums are more conducive toward scoring runs than others. This is an easy concept to grasp, and over the last 10 years, it has even permeated the most unlikely of spaces (which is to say, local radio call-in shows).

Unlike many ideas associated with objective analysis, park illusions always seem to play a tangible role in the game. After all, who hasn't yelled out in a fit of dire frustration, "That ball would be in the stands if this wasn't Dodger Stadium!"

The thing is, when it comes to forecasting athlete performance, most fans still underestimate just how much context can influence a player's statistics. From the league to the division to the city they call home, every bit of context has an effect on a player's ability -- both positively and negatively -- to produce.

As a result, the best baseball analysis factors in every one of these variables -- from place in the batting order to the manager's platoon preferences -- in order to get a complete look at how someone will perform. After all, if you're not accounting for how much easier it is to hit in the Great American Ball Park than Safeco Field, you're missing a pretty big piece of the puzzle. And when it comes to projecting a player's season numbers, it's the details that make the difference.

With that in mind, here are the Top 5 hitters switching locales this offseason, and how this change of scenery affects his newly-updated fantasy projection.

(Note: Statistical lines highlighted in yellow are 2007 projections with the player's previous team. Lines in bold are updated for his correct 2007 franchise.)

 J.D. Drew (RF, Boston Red Sox)
Year Team AVG HR RBI Runs SB
2006 LAD .283 20 100 84 2
2007 LAD .280 21 88 87 3
2007 BOS .290 29 108 99 3

Drew's an underrated player for many reasons: people think that he's greedy for not playing in Philadelphia, he's missed a significant number of games -- largely due to fluke injuries -- and he does many things well instead of one or two things great. But moving out of Dodger Stadium and into Fenway Park should earn him the attention that he deserves. Despite a skill-set that should be unchanged from 2006 -- there's nothing in his profile that would indicate a sudden decline -- PROTRADE's forecast sees a nice bump in context-dependant stats such as RBIs and runs scored, thanks to the presence of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. We're currently projecting Drew to play about 130 games, but if he exceeds that, he'll make this forecast look woefully conservative.

 Juan Pierre (CF, LA Dodgers)
Year Team AVG HR RBI Runs SB
2006 CHC .292 3 40 87 58
2007 CHC .299 2 36 96 57
2007 LAD .302 1 36 110 54

Yes, on a macro level, Dodger Stadium is not a kind place for hitters, but like all great works of art, it doesn't affect everybody in the same way. Slap-happy, singles hitters, for instance, tend to slightly benefit from LA's expansive outfield and deep power alleys, improving batting average while doing very little to their overall power numbers. Pierre fits that mold perfectly, and as a result, we don't expect much change in his fantasy numbers for the move out West.

 Alfonso Soriano (CF, Chicago Cubs)
Year Team AVG HR RBI Runs SB
2006 WAS .277 46 95 119 41
2007 WAS .271 37 88 102 26
2007 CHC .280 44 99 112 24

A true five-category threat, PROTRADE's forecasting system knows Soriano will be helped by a move to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, but the difference probably isn't as great as Cubs fans would hope. Batting at the top of the Chicago order will likely depress his RBI totals -- knocking in fewer than 100 runs is hard to do when you're circling the bases 44 times yourself -- but his runs scored should stay in the 115-range with Derrek Lee's healthy return. Take notice: Despite Wrigley's reputation as a hitters' park, we're not projecting Soriano to pick up much in average from last season. Two reasons: 1) Chicago's small outfield actually doesn't increase batting average much, on scale, and 2) The artifical increase Soriano will see offsets an age-related decline.

 Gary Sheffield (RF, Detroit Tigers)
Year Team AVG HR RBI Runs SB
2006 NYY .298 6 25 22 5
2007 NYY .290 25 96 83 7
2007 DET .288 27 77 67 7

Health and advancing age will be the two biggest obstacles in the way of Sheffield regaining peak form, but a weaker supporting cast in Detroit won't help, either. Without Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez flanking him in the lineup, Sheffield will see a pretty significant drop in RBIs and runs scored, despite Comerica Park playing very similar to Yankee Stadium on right-handed hitters.

 Carlos Lee (LF, Houston Astros)
Year Team AVG HR RBI Runs SB
2006 ML/TX .300 37 116 102 10
2007 TEX .296 32 104 94 8
2007 HOU .290 30 98 88 7

The Astros might be taking a risk in signing Lee to such a gaudy deal, but in the short term, he's likely to keep producing at the same clip as before. There isn't much of a difference between either Ameriquest Field or Minute Maid Park; the disparity in counting stats will mainly come from a weaker lineup in Houston. The decline you'll see in batting average, however, comes from a tendency for players with his skill-set (good power, but a less-than-elite control of the strike zone) to lose their ability to make contact past the age of 30.

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