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Splitsville - Sammy Sosa's Return to the Rangers!
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
January 17, 2007

There is news out of Arlington, Texas, that the Texas Rangers have made an offer to Sammy Sosa on a one year, $500,000 minor league contract. Whether Sosa has consciously chosen to go back to the Rangers or the Rangers were the only team interested, Sammy probably could not have chosen a better place to go.

So, the question is – Will Sammy Sosa have a successful comeback with the Texas Rangers?

The answer is – Can you name an outfielder who has not has success with the Rangers in the last five years?

The Sammy Sosa comeback immediately calls to mind that of another Texas Rangers outfielder – Ruben Sierra in 2001.

After playing only 86 games from 1997 to 2000 (and none in 1999), Sierra caught on with the Rangers in 2001 and hit 23 homeruns in 94 games – the most he’d hit in a decade. That stint with the Rangers rejuvenated Sierra’s career, and he has played five more seasons since, though he appeared to finally reach his end in 2006.

The key to Sierra’s comeback in 2001 had to have been playing for the Rangers and, more specifically, playing home games at the Ballpark in Arlington. Sierra hit .310 at the Ballpark that year with 13 homeruns and a 926 OPS, while hitting only .268 with 10 homeruns and an 834 OPS in away games.

Indeed, the Ballpark in Arlington has developed quite a resume of making average outfielders look like above average or even quite good outfielders. Consider:

Gabe Kapler - Kapler played two seasons in Arlington, during which time he hit 22 homeruns at home and just 9 on the road. His OPS was between 70 and 80 points better at home in each of those seasons.

Kevin Mench - Mench played four seasons with the Rangers before being traded to the Brewers last season. During his time in Texas, his OPS was 852 at home, 740 on the road, and his batting average split at .285/.256. When Mench was traded to Milwaukee, he had 12 homeruns. He hit one more with the Brewers in 40 games.

Rusty Greer - Greer played with the Rangers from 1994 to 2002, and had an apparently solid career – he hit 20 homeruns twice, drove in 100 three times, scored 100 three times, and finished his career as a .300 hitter with an OBP of .387. But Greer’s average at home was 25 points higher and his OPS was 73 points higher at home. At home, Greer was nearly a 3-4-5er – .317/.406/.496 – while on the road, he was merely solid at .293/.368/.461.

Richard Hidalgo - In 2005, the Ballpark masked the fact that Hidalgo’s career had ended a year earlier. At home, Hidalgo’s average and on-base percentage registered at a terrible .241/.316, but on the road it hit .205/.267. Hidalgo had no business playing Major League Baseball that season.

Gary Matthews, Jr. - It is hard to argue that Gary Matthews had a “bad” season in 2006; nevertheless, playing at the Ballpark made it seem like a better season than it was. Matthews hit 21 points higher (and posted an OPS 81 points higher) at home than he did on the road in 2006. His BB/K ratio also suffered on the road - .708 at home vs. .471 away.

Obviously, every rule has its exceptions – the Ballpark couldn’t rescue Phil Nevin’s season in 2006, couldn’t make Laynce Nix look like a major leaguer, and somehow wrecked two 29 year olds named Brad – Fullmer in 2004 and Wilkerson in 2006.

But the general trend here tells us a lot about what we should expect from Sammy Sosa in 2007. Though Sosa has generally done better at home than on the road – as would be expected for someone who played his home games at Wrigley Field – Sosa’s split stats have been more lopsided in his off years – 1993, 1997, 2004 – than they were when he was on his historic run from 1998 to 2003. This trend explains the disparity between Sosa’s 2004 and 2005 seasons, and reveals that he was probably the same player each year.

Interestingly, Sammy looked like two completely different players from 2004 to 2005:

2004: .253 AVG 35 HR 849 OPS
2005: .221 AVG 14 HR 671 OPS

However, his road stats were really not all that different:

2004: .231 AVG 17 HR .778 OPS
2005: .243 AVG 10 HR .747 OPS

Not that different at all, especially when you consider he had 276 road plate appearances in 2004 but only 225 road plate appearances in 2005.

Really, it was the home stats that tell the tale for Sammy in those seasons:

2004, .277 AVG 18 HR .924 OPS
2005: .197 AVG 4 HR .586 OPS

Completely different ballpark, completely different player.

Fortunately for Sosa, he has made the very wise decision to sign with the Texas Rangers. If he is healthy, the Ballpark in Arlington will convince the baseball viewing public that Sammy Sosa is once again a viable major league outfielder.


Disagree with something? Want to share an opinion? Asher lives in Philadelphia PA and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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