USA TODAY Sports
There was a lot of talk last season about how Great American Ball Park was a boon to Ryan Ludwick's floundering career. And, in some sense, it was. But probably not in the way we would have expected. In 2012, Ludwick produced no matter where he was. His wOBA and wRC+ were essentially even at home and on the road.
Another former Indian came to town this offseason. This time, a lefty. Shin-soo Choo has called Progressive Field/The Jake home since 2006, though 2008 was the first season he topped 300 plate appearances in the majors. In the five seasons since then, he's been better at home, though not much. His splits have wavered back and forth, favoring the road in some seasons. Last year they were essentially even.
So Choo is probably a player who doesn't suffer (or gain) a whole lot from Progressive Field - a park that generally stifles triples and is certainly more hostile to the home run than GABP. Choo isn't going to hit very many three-baggers in any park - averaging just 4-per-162-games over his career.
He isn't a major HR threat either, though he is still a 20-HR threat. Will he get a bump from GABP? Choo is capable of spraying base hits to all fields, but his power is mostly to right field. Out of his 16 home runs last season, 11 were to center or right field. Looking at his Hit Tracker with a GABP overlay, all would have been no-doubters, expect for one to straightaway center.
I'm not sure he gains a ton from the fences at GABP (vs. the Prog), though shots to dead center and right-center might have a slightly better chance of getting out. Since there's also a lot of noise in HRs-per-fly-ball rates across seasons, it's hard to say how many erstwhile warning track shots will go yard this season. Since his fly-ball rate has been in decline the last few seasons, he might not be able to take advantage of the launchpad the way he would have if he were on the other side of 30.
Still, you have to think a guy who has a 1.048 lifetime OPS at GABP (42 PAs) and hits for the most power to right-center will get at least a little power surge.
Whatever long-ball gains Choo might pick up at GABP, though, could be undercut by fewer doubles. Choo makes up a good deal of his value with gap power, finishing 5th in the AL with 43 doubles last season. Ironically enough for a team with a mascot named "Gapper," GABP is unkind to the double in recent years. Park effect on doubles is a noisy statistic over time, but smaller parks can be less forgiving to guys who make their name hitting it hard, but in-the-park.
For comparison, Joey Votto - the NL's preeminent doubler - has hit 43% of his doubles at home over his career. Choo has hit 56% at home as an Indian. Choo is likely to lose some of those coming south.
Having a smaller park - and generally smaller parks in the division - should help Choo get back to the 20 HR plateau. And, in a vacuum, you'll trade 3-4 HRs for 7-8 doubles.
Choo is obviously going to be a huge boost to the lineup, as both a guy who is capable of posting a .400 OBP and a left-handed bat. But his torrid performance in the Battle of Ohio overstates the advantages he gets from the park. That means the Reds are getting, more or less, the back of the baseball card. And it's a damn good card.