Teams are always trying to find new ways to get a leg up on the opposition, including using the factors of their home ballparks to their advantage. It's widely known around baseball that the St. Louis Cardinals' main stomping grounds, Busch Stadium, tends to suppress home runs, which likely played a role in the Cardinals' success with pitching to contact for so many years. But according to a study on FanGraphs by Davy Andrews, Busch Stadium actually ranks third in "pitch visibility score" over the past three seasons.
Andrews ordered the ballparks where umpires give the most accurate to least accurate calls on borderline pitches and combined the results with umpires' accuracy for each team in home games and in away games, along with batters' chase rates on close pitches and their contact rates on pitches over the heart of the plate in different stadiums.
The study is quite in-depth, and I urge readers of this article to check it out for more details. The results for the Cardinals showed that Busch Stadium was tied for seventh in umpire accuracy, fifth in how much more accurate an umpire was for the Cardinals when at home than on the road, ninth in how much more a batter chased a pitch at Busch Stadium than at other parks, and fourth in how much more contact batters made at Busch compared with other parks.
The Cardinals' pitch-to-contact approach could partially explain their ranking in the last category, and it will be interesting to see if that number drops in 2024 after the Cardinals attempted to cobble together a more strikeout-oriented pitching staff.
The Cardinals are in a bit of a paradoxical situation. Given Busch Stadium's general pitching slant, the Cardinals might be able to get by without elite strikeout stuff, as they have in the past. But with batters seeing the ball better and chasing pitches more often because the ball is more visible and tempting to swing at, the Cardinals could fare even better than most teams with hurlers who possess top-level movement on their pitches and rack up strikeouts in spades.
Andrews' article is a fascinating look beyond the usual "pitcher's park/hitter's park" dynamic, and while the numerical variation looks small, competitive teams will use any advantage they can to eke out a few more wins in the hopes of attaining a trophy. The Cardinals should take advantage of their stadium's quirks, and perhaps analysis of the ability of hitters and umpires to track the baseball in different parks is the next frontier in the sport's cutting-edge research.