Wednesday, April 17

Will Trevor Story’s splits away from Coors Field hurt Red Sox production?

Red Sox

Trevor Story hasn’t played well away from Colorado’s Coors Field in the past. Might he still thrive at hitter-friendly Fenway Park?

New Red Sox shortstop Trevor Story has struggled away from Coors Fields in his career. (AP Photo/Daryl Webb)

  • 4 things to know about new Red Sox star Trevor Story

Even with the excitement around the Red Sox’ signing of former Colorado Rockies star shortstop Trevor Story, the questions remain unavoidable.

Should the Red Sox be forking over $140 over six years to a million guy who apparently can’t hit nearly as well outside of Coors Field?

If he struggles this season, must Boston re-evaluate whether Story is really the long-term(-ish) answer in case the team can’t hold onto Xander Bogaerts at the end of this season?

To be sure, the home-away numbers from Story’s time in Colorado are hard to ignore.

Story was excellent at Coors Field during his six-year career, slashing .303/.369/.972 with 95 home runs, 279 RBI, and a .354 average on balls in play in 1,592 plate appearances at his old home park. But he was a completely ordinary player on the road, with those numbers dipping to .241/.310/.752, 63 home runs, 171 RBI, and a .317 average on balls in play in 1,544 plate appearances. He also struck out 81 more times on the road.

So one can understand the trepidation about how the shortstop will fare at another ballpark full-time without the thin “Mile High” air to juice his numbers, as critics would argue.

Still, there are a couple of big reasons the signing could work out quite well for the Red Sox and Story going forward.

For one thing, Story is simply a good player who hits the ball hard consistently.

Despite the massive disparity in his home-away splits last season, for example, he still ranked above-average in statistics like average exit velocity, hard-hit ball percentage, expected slugging percentage, and “barrel” percentage, according to Baseball Savant. That suggests he squares the ball up well regardless of where he plays. After that, the results are what they are.

Another important note: Fenway Park, like Coors Field, is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball.

Via Baseball Savant, Fenway had the second-highest “park factor” in the league, seeing the second-greatest percentage increase in runs scored for players that played there versus other ballparks. Notably, though home runs tend to be down at Fenway due to the Green Monster in left field and odd dimensions at other parts of the park, hitters rack up doubles at Fenway at a far greater rate than any other park.

If that wasn’t enough, Baseball Savant also projects Story would have hit even more home runs at Fenway Park in 2019 (42 expected home runs at Fenway vs. 35 hit at Coors) and in 2021 (38 expected at Fenway vs. 24 at Coors) based on the batted balls hit him in those seasons. Interestingly, these home run totals might have been even larger at other stadia because of Fenway’s aforementioned home run barriers.

The bottom line: there’s no reason Story can’t succeed just fine at Fenway Park in a Red Sox uniform assuming he keeps hitting the ball hard. Even if the home run numbers go down, the slugging numbers should stay up there as he peppers the Monster for doubles.

Plus, he’ll be in a lineup surrounded by hitters like Rafael Devers, JD Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts for this season at least, which could mean he’ll get plenty of pitches to barrel up assuming he’s a top-of-the- order hitter.

Fenway Park might not be Coors Field in terms of being hitter-friendly, but it’s the next-best thing. That bodes well for Story and the Red Sox.

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