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Power up? How Texas' new ballpark might play

@AndrewSimonMLB
December 4, 2019

The dimensions of the Rangers’ new home ballpark will honor the team’s history and some of the great players who have been a part of it. But how will those dimensions affect the team’s future? That’s a difficult question to answer, after the Rangers revealed some key information on Wednesday

The dimensions of the Rangers’ new home ballpark will honor the team’s history and some of the great players who have been a part of it. But how will those dimensions affect the team’s future?

That’s a difficult question to answer, after the Rangers revealed some key information on Wednesday regarding Globe Life Field, which will open for the beginning of the 2020 season (replacing the similarly named Globe Life Park). We now know the distances of the fences in the new stadium, and the numbers that inspired them. For example, the left-field foul pole is 329 feet away, in honor of the No. 29 jersey worn by All-Star third baseman Adrián Beltré from 2011-18.

That’s all well and good, but how those numbers affect the results on the field will become a greater concern once the Rangers and Angels begin the regular season there on March 31.

So with that in mind, here is a look at what’s different about Texas’ new stadium, and how those changes might help or hurt the players who will be occupying it in 2020 and beyond.

The power alleys could invite more power
The new ballpark has similar dimensions to the old one down the foul lines and is a bit deeper in center field (up from 400 feet to 407). But the most eye-catching change comes in the gaps. The right-field “power alley” is moving from 381 feet to 374, and most notable, the left-field alley from 390 to 372.

According to data available on the site Seamheads, no existing Major League stadium had a deeper left-field alley than Globe Life Park. And only Marlins Park -- where the fences are now being moved in -- and Kauffman Stadium were deeper in the right-field alley.

Right-handed batters hit only 110 homers at Globe Life Park last season, tied for the fourth fewest of any stadium, including just 33 by Texas righties. The Rangers’ lefty-heavy lineup undoubtedly played a big role in those numbers, but the more inviting left-center wall could provide a bit of a boost to, say, Elvis Andrus. Of course, the same applies for Mike Trout and Alex Bregman when they come to town.

There’s also the question of whether the brand-new digs and friendlier dimensions will appeal to any of the available right-handed batters whom the Rangers might be pursuing as they try to work their way back to contention. Notably, the club just met with this offseason’s top free-agent position player, third baseman Anthony Rendon, who pulled about two-thirds of his homers in 2019.

Gallo doesn’t need the help
On Wednesday, Joey Gallo got to take his hacks on the field, which is still a construction site, taking aim at a crane towering over right field.

The new ballpark is an exciting development for Gallo and his teammates, but he might be the last person to worry about park dimensions. The 6-foot-5 slugger led the Majors in barrel rate last season, hitting 26.4% of his batted balls with an optimal combination of exit velocity and launch angle. Over the past three years, only Miguel Sanó had a longer distance on fly balls (351 feet). Gallo’s average home run distance of 415 feet is tied for first in that span, with Gary Sánchez -- and teammate Nomar Mazara. About three-quarters of Gallo’s career homers have gone at least 400 feet.

It’s possible that an occasional long fly to the gap -- such as this one from 2018 -- might go out in the new yard. It certainly can’t hurt a potential home run title chase for Gallo, but his ability to play a full season after being limited to 70 games in 2019 will have a much bigger impact than the dimensions.

The weather (or lack thereof) matters, too
Perhaps even more important than the dimensions will be the difference in playing conditions as the Rangers move from outdoor Globe Life Park to Globe Life Field and its retractable roof.

In 2019, the Rangers played 36 home games in which the temperature at first pitch was at least 90 degrees, according to data available from Baseball-Reference. No other team played more than 16 such games, continuing a yearly trend in which the Rangers play by far the most games in intense heat.

Both players and fans surely will appreciate the respite of being indoors during the Texas summer, but playing in a temperature-controlled environment also could have a big impact on the games themselves. Aside from factors such as fatigue, heat also makes batted balls travel farther, and wind can work either way. Neither will be a presence when the roof is closed at the new ballpark, which could mean more of a level playing field.

Factor everything in
Even with the large dimensions in some places, Globe Life Park gained a reputation as being hitter-friendly.

Park factors back that up clearly. Whether looking back one, three or five years, Globe Life Park played about 10% more favorably for hitters than average, higher than any MLB stadium besides Coors Field, according to FanGraphs.

The Rangers have tended to follow their ballpark’s lead over the years. Since 1994, when its now-former stadium opened, Texas has MLB’s third-highest overall rate of runs scored per game, but also its fourth-highest ERA.

Will the new ballpark change that dynamic dramatically? Only time will tell, but it’s possible that the Rangers of the 2020s will have quite a different identity than their predecessors.

A fair home for arms
Over the past two seasons, the Rangers’ 5.44 home ERA is the highest in the Majors, even edging out the Rockies. At the same time, Texas’ staff ranked 17th on the road, at 4.54.

Largest home-road ERA gap, 2018-19
1) Rockies: 0.95
2) Rangers: 0.90
3) Nationals: 0.35
4) Astros: 0.29
5) Red Sox: 0.17

Those numbers might overstate the case a bit, as the team’s splits have been closer in other seasons, although Texas pitchers have performed better at home only twice in the past 10 years, most recently in 2013.

A hitter-friendly home park didn’t stop Lance Lynn and Mike Minor from forming one of MLB’s most dynamic starting duos this year and finishing fifth and eighth in the AL Cy Young Award race. But the rest of the rotation combined for a 7.68 ERA. While signing Kyle Gibson figures to help, and another addition might be needed as well, the ballpark switch also could smooth the big league transition for some of Texas’ young, back-of-the-rotation candidates.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.