Blue Jays Turf: Home Field Advantage?

1 of 6

OK, so the new turf at Rogers Centre has been the subject of much scrutiny. Some seem to think that it provides a distinct advantage for the home team- your Toronto Blue Jays. We’ve heard that it plays slower, it provides bad hops, it holds bunts, it causes infielders to get a ball in the face during warm ups. It produces a trail of pellets whenever something or someone crosses its path. We’ve heard it all. Or, at least I thought we had.

Apparently, Baltimore Orioles manager, Buck Showalter was so disgusted with the surface that he considered forfeiting a game because of it. Seriously. Let’s set aside the idea that taking a loss as a way to protest a potential loss due to the turf is just silly. Let’s also set aside the fact that the turf is the same for both sides. The Blue Jays are just as likely to see bad hops and slow rolls as the other team. The advantage comes in playing there 81 times in a season, obviously. But, these “random” hops are just that: random. They can happen to anyone. Visiting teams should also be equally able to drop down a bunt. But, let’s leave aside all of that.

Does Rogers Centre hold a distinct advantage? Is it worthy of being monitored by MLB? Does it represent unusual challenges for professional baseball games?

Immediately, there are those who say that the Blue Jays do not hold an advantage and that, while the turf has issues, Rogers Centre is no different or worse off than any other ballpark. Take this for example from Michael Wray:

His obvious disdain for the complaining from the Orioles aside, he is pointing to something he found in the 2015 Bill James Handbook that would indicate that Fenway park is much harder to play defense in than Rogers Centre.

As well, Owen Watson at put together a little piece that the Orioles should read. He looked at the numbers thus far from ballparks across MLB. The turf at RC is said to help batters because it plays slower. Well, according to Watson, the BABIP for RC is .284. Where does that rank? 20th in MLB! Is that a clear advantage? There’s more. Watson looked at the idea that the turf is causing extra base hits to slow down, thus turning doubles to singles, etc. So, he looked at adjusted SLG % (HR are taken out). RC should yield  a lower SLG % if the extra bases are being cut down by turf. The result? RC sits in the middle of MLB in this regard. He acknowledges that there is a lot that goes in to the SLG numbers, but it is still interesting to note in the early goings of 2015. The apparent issues with the new turf don’t seem to play out.

Perhaps the bigger issue is the safety concerns, etc that turf can bring about. A ball can hop and hit you in the face, your spikes can get caught, etc. These hops, although probably less likely, can happen on natural turf. Ask Michael Saunders about sprinkler injuries from natural grass. Are the Orioles, or anyone else for that matter telling me that there are no other ballparks in MLB that cause issues?

There are lots of ballparks that have eccentricities that can cause issues for players who are not used to playing there. Let’s take a look at some that have “advantages” built into them.

Next: Fenway Park