Why Petco Park's Outfield Dimensions Should Be Changed


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Fresh analysis of an issue that the new ownership of the San Diego Padres will undoubtedly be studying.

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Why Petco Park's Outfield Dimensions Should Be Changed

  1. 1. Why the Outfield Dimensions of Petco Park Should Be Changed September 2012
  2. 2. #1 - TRUE or FALSE?Petco Park’s deep fences create more opportunities for doubles and triples.ANSWER:False.Petco Parks outfield dimensions suppress doubles, triples and, of course, home runs.Balls that should hit or short-hop the outfield walls are caught by outfielders with room toroam, eliminating doubles and triples. Long drives into the spacious gaps with home runpotential (in other parks) are routinely run down.Batting averages, slugging statistics and run production are negatively impacted. .350 .300 .250 .200 Padres Batting AVG. AVG SDP-Petco .150 AVG SDP-Road .100 .050 .000 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2
  3. 3. Padres Power:Going, going, gone. . . .Doubles output has been substantially impacted over time,for both home and road games.Padres 2B Production (2004-2012) 3
  4. 4. Padres Power:Going, going, gone. . . .Similarly, Home Run output has been impacted over time,for both home and road games.Padres HR Production (2004-2012) 4
  5. 5. #2 - TRUE or FALSE?With an emphasis on team speed, you can develop a team suited for success at Petco Park. 1ANSWER:False.This assertion has been gospel in local newspapers and TV/radio airwaves for many years.The unavoidable reality, however, is that the team plays 50% of its games on the road.Building a club around team speed (especially given the necessary implication that you will bewillfully sacrificing team power) offers a highly dubious “advantage” at home (no evidence todate) and a significant disadvantage on the road.In practice, other teams (who presumably are not built for speed) have had no trouble bringingtheir "slow" teams to Petco and enjoying the easy task of out-powering the Padres.More realistically, the "build a team for Petco" mantra appears to have been developed toaccommodate the problem—that the previous ownership: (a) refused to publicly admit theplaying field’s dimensions are flawed, and (b) did not wish to deal with the logistical challengesor costs associated with adjusting the outfield dimensions.1 Theoft-cited corollary to the “speed” theory is that you need to build a team that has excellent pitching anddefense, which is a red herring. EVERY TEAM needs excellent team pitching and defense to win. 5
  6. 6. #3 - TRUE or FALSE?Padres pitchers fare better at Petco Park (than on the road).ANSWER:True.But, so do opposing teams’ pitchers.In light of the importance of the fan experience, both teams pitchers performing better thanaverage night after night translates to low-scoring, boring baseball games.It should also be considered that the leagues top starting pitchers do not actually thrive (or reapthe statistical benefits that translate to large contracts) by being stuck in low-scoring pitchersduels night after night.Rather, starting pitchers (and their agents) know that Petco Park does not offer an environmentconducive to racking up Wins. Rather, its a park where tightly contested games areconsistently decided by relief pitchers in the later innings.Free agent starters and relievers trying to reignite their careers will always be attracted to PetcoPark. Starting pitchers developed through the Padres farm system will struggle to get Wins athome (and thus struggle to become stars). Top notch starting pitchers looking to sustain oradvance their careers through free agency will avoid Petco at all costs. 6
  7. 7. Padres Pitching Prowess:The myth of the low home ERA. . . .Meanwhile, opposing teams’ pitchers are faring better than Padres pitchersin road games AND at Petco Park. . . . Earned Run Average: Padres vs. Opponents 4.5 6 4 5 3.5 3 4 2.5 ERA-SDP Home 3 ERA-SDP Road 2 ERA-Opp Home ERA-Opp Road 1.5 2 1 1 0.5 0 0 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012At home, thethe PadresERA may ERA may appear strong toAt Petco, Padres Team Team appear strong when compared On the road, the Padres Team ERA has been no has been Opponents On the road, the Padres Team ERA better than noother teams total ERAs in real terms, but total ERAs has real terms.when compared to other teams’ in actuality, it in been worse Team ERA in the same road games in 5 ERAs in 6 seasons better than Opponents’ Team of the last the same roadthan Opponents Team ERA at Petco worse than Opponents’But, in actuality, it has been in 4 of the last 6 seasons. (2010 wasin 5 of the last 6 seasons (2010 was essentially games essentially equal).Visiting pitchers are Petco Park in 4 of the last 6 seasons.Team ERAs at enjoying the advantage at Petco Park. equal). The teams pitching woes only worsen on the road. The team’s pitching woes only worsen on the road.Note: Opposing Teams’ ERA figures not available for seasons prior to 2007. 7
  8. 8. Hanging Curve Balls:It’s déjà vu all over again. . . .Having a low team ERA during home games is not a reliable indicator of success.Lest we forget, we have seen this before. . . . Earned Run Average Statistics (Home and Away, by Era): 6 6 5 5 4 4 3 SDP ERA- 3 SDP ERA- Petco QCOM SDP ERA-Road SDP ERA- 2 2 QCOM 1 1 0 0 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 At Petco Park, the Padres Team ERA has beenAt Petco Park, the Padres Team ERA has been markedly higher This phenomenon echoes the same experience This phenomenon echoes the same experience the team had duringthan on the road. markedly higher than on the road. its first 14 years playing in the cavernous San Diego Stadium. the club had during its first 14 years playing in the cavernous San Diego Stadium. And those who forget their San Diego Padres history are condemned to repeat it. . . . 8
  9. 9. CASE STUDYA short lesson in San Diego Padres history. History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, But It Often RhymesThe San Diego Padres launched their major league franchise from Mission Valley’s Jack Murphy Stadium in 1969. Throughthe 1982 season, the hitters endured the stadiums daunting concrete 18-foot high outfield wall that stretched 420 feet away incenter field.In those years, the Padres consistently ranked among the worst-performing ball clubs in the major leagues, particularly onoffense. In the franchise’s first 14 seasons, the Padres produced no winning seasons, just three years in which a batter (DaveWinfield – 1978 and 1979; Cito Gaston - 1970) ended a season with a batting average over .300, and only 3 years in which aPadres player hit over 30 home runs. Even in those extraordinary 30-home run seasons by Nate Colbert and Dave Winfield, thetwo stars’ collective batting averages in road games were 53 points higher than their home averages.All told, in 14 seasons, the franchise utterly failed to develop a roster that could be productive in Jack Murphy Stadium. Eventhe team’s weak-hitting defensive wizard, shortstop Ozzie Smith, enjoyed a 4-year Padres career batting average that was 32points higher on the road than at Jack Murphy.No doubt the team noticed that in his one full season with the Padres in 1980, outfielder Jerry Mumphrey, who ultimatelyposted a very respectable 15-year career home batting average of .298 with 5 different teams, hit 47 points lower at JackMurphy Stadium than on the road (564 total at bats).The ball club finally responded by installing a significantly shorter 8.5-foot interior outfield fence, which also reined in centerfield by 15 feet and the left and right gaps to 380 feet (as compared to Petco’s current 400-foot gaps). It would prove to be oneof the franchise’s most impactful decisions.With the new interior wall, long fly-outs produced home runs and doubles off the wall. In fact, in the first 10 seasons thatfollowed the installation of the new fence, the Padres hit almost 21% more home runs at Jack Murphy Stadium than on theroad (535 vs. 440). In the 10 previous seasons, the Padres had hit 25% fewer home runs at the Murph—an incredible46% net gain in home field home run output. 9
  10. 10. CASE STUDYWeak hitting statistics undermine the long-term value of the ball club. How a Star is Born (in Major League Baseball)Fan interest in a ball club, as well as team success, is a function of star power.MLB hitting stars are borne of statistical output. A hitter simply cannot become a local or national star, and cannot command ahigh-value long-term contract, unless he puts up stats. He has to hit .300+ and/or post 100+ RBI and/or crank 30+ home runs.If he can do one or more of these things, he will be a star.A hitter playing 50% of his games in a park with stat-crushing dimensions cannot become a star. He knows it. His agentknows it. Padres fans are starved for it.Until Petco Park’s dimensions are changed, the Padres will not produce: 1. Any hitter who will challenge for a NL batting title. 2. Any hitter who will challenge for a NL RBI title. 3. Any hitter who will challenge for a NL Home Run title. 10
  11. 11. CASE STUDYHow weak hitting statistics undermine the long-term value of the ball club.The Petco effect has had a remarkably negative impact on Chase Headley’s young career: 11
  12. 12. CASE STUDYHow weak hitting statistics undermine the long-term value of the ball club.And before he left, Petco was the only thing separating Adrian Gonzalez from super-stardom:NOTE: In stark contrast to the above results, with Boston, Gonzalez’ 2011 and 2012 batting averageswere 18 points and 40 points higher at home, respectively. 12
  13. 13. CASE STUDYWeak hitting statistics undermine the long-term value of the ball club.Mark Loretta, in one of the few .300 seasons a Padres hitter has posted during the Petco era,still failed to bat over .300 in home games.Had Loretta matched his road hitting success at Petco Park in 2004, he would have had League MVP-typecredentials. At the very least, he would have taken the 2004 NL Batting Title (Barry Bonds: .362). 13
  14. 14. CASE STUDYClub legacies are born from statistical production. The Case of Tony GwynnTony Gwynn’s Hall of Fame career was defined primarily by his winning 8 career batting titles.What if Tony Gwynn had played all his Padres home games at Petco Park?The suppressed offensive output observable at Petco suggests that one can conservatively assume that forevery 100 of Gwynn’s Petco official At Bats, the outfield dimensions would have, on average, "stolen" atleast 2 of his base hits (his trademark doubles into the gaps would have been most vulnerable).This tiny difference would devastated Tony’s legacy: 1. He would have lost his 1988 batting title to Raphael Palmeiro. 2. He would have lost his 1989 batting title to Will Clark. 3. He would have lost his 1996 batting title to Ellis Burks. 4. He would have lost his 1997 batting title to Larry Walker.Instead of being tied with Honus Wagner for career batting titles, he would have ended his career tied withBill Madlock at just 4.Bill Madlock received just 4% of Baseball Writers’ votes in the first year he became eligible, and he neverappeared on the ballot again. 14