It was another typical night in Lancaster last night as the JetHawks beat Inland Empire 16-8 in a game that would be called a slugfest anywhere else, but is just another normal night at Clear Channel Stadium.
We can call last night’s game typical because the average Lancaster home game involves more than 17.6 runs, nearly double the minor league average of 9.2 runs per game. If the winds die down in Lancaster there is a chance that those numbers will moderate some over the rest of the year, but right now, Clear Channel Stadium makes Coors Field in its worst years look almost tame. In 1996 at the height of Coors Field’s hitter boosting powers, the average Rockies home game saw 15 runs scored.
The effects are skewing the perception of the California League as a whole. Thanks to Lancaster, the Cal League leads the minors in runs scored per game, at 10.6 runs per game. But if you took out Lancaster’s home games, that average would drop to 9.98 runs per game, which would rank behind the Pacific Coast League (10.05) and not too far ahead of the third-place South Atlantic League. In other words, the rest of the California League is a good spot for hitters, but it’s on the upper end of normal, adding Lancaster takes the league to another level.
As a team, the Jethawks are hitting .331/.422/.591 at home, while the team’s ERA is 7.40 and Lancaster pitchers are lit up to the tune of a .340 opponents batting average. Things become much more normal on the road: Lancaster is hitting .254/.360/.412 while the JetHawks pitching staff has a 4.67 ERA and is holding hitters to a .263 average. At least one team has reached double digits in runs in 15 of the first 25 games at Lancaster, and things are only getting worse–a team has scored 10 runs or more in eight of the last nine games there.
Considering those numbers, Michael Bowden’s 2.30 ERA and .257 average against in 27 1/3 innings at Lancaster rank as one of the amazing feats of the 2007 season. But it also illustrates what a nightmare such a skewed park is to a player development system. Beyond the problems created by trying to assess prospects in a park where a .600 slugging percentage is just average and a 5.00 ERA is something to celebrate, the JetHawks also have to keep the bullpen rotating through players because the demands of entering games in the early innings night after night.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Midwest League is the toughest league for hitters and Nirvana for pitchers, as you can see from the following table. All averages are through Tuesday’s games.
|AVERAGES PER GAME BY LEAGUE|