Gil Meche, before his last start in Kansas City, was asked about his last start at Texas and here is his response:
"The reason I was stiff," Meche said, "is the mound (in Texas) was so flat. From the first pitch in warm-ups, I knew I was going to have to battle.
"With a flat mound, I don’t know if it’s the way my hips move or the way I stride out, but it affects something. That’s why I like steep mounds. I feel like I can generate more power instead of having my leg land too early and me having to generate power with my arm. That’s the only problem I had. That’s why I threw so many off-speed pitches."
This got me thinking about some work I did previously on individual park factors where I noted Rangers Ballpark in Arlington's official park factor was ~1.05, but it was predicted to be ~1.01. It has been stated that the stadium funnels the air to flow to center field was causing this discrepancy, but there seem to be another factor.
I decided to see if there was any truth to what Gil was talking about. For a initial look to see if there is anything to the accusation, I examined the average and maximum speeds of the opposing starting pitcher's four seem fastball that have pitched so far at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in 2009. I limited the comparison games to those that happened as close possible to the start at Arlington, in case there was an injury to the pitcher. Also, I wanted to take the Texas pitcher's out of the study because they will be used to the supposedly smaller mound (I will look at Texas's pitchers as I get the time to see how they actually compare). There have been 9 pitchers so far that meet this criteria and here are their numbers:
|Game before Texas||Game at Texas||Game after Texas||Start before Texas||Start after Texas|
|Date||Team||Starting Pitcher||Average Speed||Max Speed||Average Speed||Max Speed||Average Speed||Max Speed||Difference in Average Speed||Difference in Max Speed||Difference in Average Speed||Difference in Max Speed|
|Mon, Apr 6||Cleveland||Lee||--||--||89.74||91.6||90.65||92.5||--||--||0.91||0.9|
|Wed, Apr 8||Cleveland||F Carmona||--||--||92.01||94.1||91.35||93.9||--||--||-0.66||-0.2|
|Thu, Apr 9||Cleveland||C Pavano||--||--||87.73||89||90.34||93.2||--||--||2.61||4.2|
|Mon, Apr 13||Baltimore||K Uehara||87.83||89.4||85.78||87.8||87.88||89.4||2.05||1.6||2.1||1.6|
|Tue, Apr 14||Baltimore||A Simon||92.97||95.3||89.93||91.8||--||--||3.04||3.5||--||--|
|Wed, Apr 15||Baltimore||M Hendrickson||87.16||88.7||86.24||88.7||86.54||88.1||0.92||0||0.3||-0.6|
|Fri, Apr 17||Kansas City||Meche||91.32||94.6||89.79||92.4||91.96||94||1.53||2.2||2.17||1.6|
|Sat, Apr 18||Kansas City||Greinke||92.93||95.6||92||94.7||94.17||97||0.93||0.9||2.17||2.3|
|Sun, Apr 19||Kansas City||Davies||92.12||94.2||90.62||92.3||90.9||92.9||1.5||1.9||0.28||0.6|
|Average Values =||90.72||92.97||89.26||91.35||90.45||92.64||1.66||1.68||1.28||1.36|
Just using this small sample size, it can be seen that there seem to be a little truth to ability of pitchers to throw their fastest stuff at Texas. Fausto Carmona is the only pitcher that has thrown faster in a start before or after going Texas compared to the start at Texas. In the other 14 cases the pitcher through slower in Texas by ~1.5 mph.
These numbers have peaked my interest enough that I will continue to update the preceding data as the season continues, expanding it to the Texas pitchers and look back at 2007 and 2008 data with pitch F/X to see if the smaller mound is linked to higher than expected scoring at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.