Park Effects: How does this apply in MLS?

This sparked my curiosity the other day. Joe Posnanski, who is an amazing baseball writer, wrote about the current MVP race as the MLB season dwindles down. One of his large points is, of course, offensive production and how you properly place that into context. He mentions something about park factors between the two hitters in the race, young stud Mike Trout and hall-of-fame surefire Miguel Cabrera. As usual, this discussion of value in baseball spawned chaos in the comments section and lead to a follow-up article.

JoePo breaks down park factors crudely but effectively in stating the following:

But the BASICS of Park Factors are the easiest thing imaginable.

All you do is this:

Step one: You take the average runs scored in a ballpark (both teams).

Step two: You take the average runs scored in that team’s road games (both teams).

Step three: You divide the first total by the second.

And that’s all. Park Factors. There is so much contentiousness about Comerica Park but it’s all simple math. This year, the Tigers have scored 355 runs at Comerica and allowed 275 runs. That’s a total of 630 runs in 67 games — 9.4 runs per game.

Now, this was brought to my attention by Tom Tango and his mention on his blog. Tango also gives some brief qualifiers that are specific to baseball, as well as mentioning the uncertainty of the exact degree that it affects the race. It’s some great stuff for baseball.

It made me start wondering about park conditions in MLS. It’s obvious that pitches play differently and that they come in different shapes and sizes. This can be done a multitude of ways as mention by Poz and described by Basellball-Reference. It’s already been covered one way by Alex Olshansky of Tempo-Free Soccer in an article for StatsBomb a month ago.

However, Alex used Goal differential. Which is fine, if we’re strictly speaking about an individual park leading to more goals, not necessarily home field advantage. I wrote an article just a month ago about home field advantage working off percentage of points won at home versus total points.

Regardless, you can see most teams seem have an advantage playing at home. But I’m interested in how many of these home locations either increase limit or increase shots/goal opportunities. Is there a place in MLS that, due to the dimensions or the crowd or some other outside reason, it is better to be a striker versus a defender? That it limits or maybe creates more goal scoring opportunities?

It’s an interesting question for certain and maybe not even one to limit to goals. Maybe we could open it up to turnovers, as that might give us some indication of the quality of the pitch. These are just some thoughts on a Friday afternoon.

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