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Marco Estrada and Oakland are a match made in heaven

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Or so we think.

Toronto Blue Jays v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In honor of Valentine’s Day, it’s only fair to celebrate one of the greatest marriages of the 2018-19 offseason. That would be the contract signed by Marco Estrada and Oakland Athletics, a one-year, $4 million deal made in late January.

When reporting for Spring Training earlier this week, Estrada said that he was “really excited about the foul territory” in Oakland this season. Acute observers pointed out that it makes sense that Estrada would enjoy Oakland’s foul territory because he routinely ranks among the leaders in pop-ups produced.

Indeed, Estrada’s 14.6 percent pop-up rate ranked second in baseball last season, only behind Max Scherzer’s 15.9 percent clip.

The question becomes, then: just how much should we expect Estrada’s numbers to improve as a result of this extra space in foul ground?

It’s a much harder question to answer than one might think. The vast majority of batted ball data is collected only on fair balls, making it impossible to distinguish foul balls from those that are popped up versus those that are hit on the ground.

There’s not a whole lot one can do to quantify this, then. But, we can look at some of the advantages of Oakland Coliseum and try to go from there:

Top 10 ballparks by foul territory area

Ballpark Team Foul Territory (sq. ft)
Ballpark Team Foul Territory (sq. ft)
Oakland Coliseum Athletics 40,700
Rogers Centre Blue Jays 30,500
Comerica Park Tigers 26,500
Chase Field Diamondbacks 25,500
Oracle Park Giants 25,500
Tropicana Field Rays 25,300
Busch Stadium Cardinals 25,200
Guaranteed Rate Field White Sox 25,000
Coors Field Rockies 24,900
Citizens Bank Park Phillies 24,500
Source: Andrew Clem’s baseball stadium list

First, as Estrada said himself, his new stadium has an incredible amount of foul territory. The league-average foul territory for a stadium is roughly 23,300 square feet. The Coliseum, with its massive 40,700 square feet of foul territory, is nearly twice that.

Interestingly enough, Estrada already played in a ballpark with a well-above-average amount of foul territory: Rogers Centre in Toronto. Even still, the Coliseum’s foul territory is substantially larger than Rogers Centre’s. The 10,200 square foot difference represents a 33 percent increase in the amount of foul ground in Estrada’s new home park compared to his old. That would allow for a significant increase in the number of foul pops Estrada generates to be caught by Athletics defenders.

Determining just how many foul pops Estrada generates, though, is another complicated question due to the lack of data available. I was forced to estimate.

I assume that Estrada’s pop-up percentage probably remains constant among fair and foul balls. There were no factors (at least none that I could think of) that, in my mind, would create a significant disparity between his batted ball profile for fair versus foul balls. With that assumption, I calculated a rough estimation as to how many foul pops Estrada generates. I took his total number of foul balls and multiplied it by 0.146, his pop-up rate. I estimated that Estrada generated about 66 foul pops last year.

Here’s how that compares to the rest of the league:

Estimated foul pop leaders

Name Total Foul Balls Pop-Up Percentage Estimated Foul Pops
Name Total Foul Balls Pop-Up Percentage Estimated Foul Pops
Max Scherzer 710 15.90% 113
Justin Verlander 692 13.30% 92
Jake Odorizzi 620 12.70% 79
Reynaldo Lopez 586 12.10% 71
Matthew Boyd 519 13.30% 69
Marco Estrada 454 14.60% 66
Chase Anderson 495 13.10% 65
Gerrit Cole 658 9.30% 61
J.A. Happ 623 9.80% 61
Jacob deGrom 622 9.30% 58
Mike Minor 500 11.50% 58

By this estimation, Estrada ranked sixth in baseball in generating foul pops. He might not have actually ranked sixth had the data been available, but I think it’s fair to conclude that Estrada probably generates foul pops at a much higher rate than other pitchers; he is certainly well above the league-average.

Of course, Estrada pitched to an estimated 66 foul pops last year, but it’s important to consider just how many of those were caught.

Applying the same analysis to Oakland Coliseum that I did to Estrada himself, I gathered that there were 4,177 total foul balls hit in that ballpark. The pop-up rate there was 8.1 percent, resulting in an estimated 338 foul pops in which no play was made. And, looking through play-by-play data, only 129 of the pop outs that fielders caught at the Coliseum last season were in foul territory. Take the 129 foul pops that fielders caught, add it into the estimated 338 uncaught foul pops, and you get yourself a total of 467 foul pops in Oakland. Of those, 27.6 percent were caught.

Interestingly enough, looking at Rogers Centre through this lens results in an interesting find. As seen in the chart above, Toronto has quite a lot of foul ground. By my estimations, Rogers Centre had a 26.5 percent foul pop catch rate in 2018, just a point shy of Oakland, even despite the significantly less area.

(To check to see if my analysis was valid, I looked at Wrigley Field, the park with the smallest amount of foul ground. The estimated foul pop catch rate in Chicago was 19.6 percent.)

In 2018, of Estrada’s estimated 66 foul pops, 23 resulted in outs. This 34.8 percent rate is certainly higher than the Rogers Centre “average,” though not by a lot. And, of course, Estrada did not make all of his starts at Rogers Centre, either.

Let’s assume that Estrada has a particular knack for making his foul pops catchable. If he maintains this skill but gets the Oakland bump, he would have expected to have. . .24 foul pops result in outs.

While Estrada is certainly excited about the opportunity to play in a stadium with a massive foul territory, will it make a real difference? From this, I’d lean towards no, but we will just have to wait and see.


Devan Fink is a Featured Writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.