Hitters' lament: Please, fence me in
Tim Keown [ARCHIVE]
May 10, 2012
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It goes further: In three seasons, not one Mets left-handed hitter cleared the Great Wall. (Nine opponents did.) This year, with the wall moved in, it took two weeks for left-handed hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis to hit one out to left. But it isn't as if the new dimensions are turning Citi Field into Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. The Mets' home still ranks above only San Francisco's ballpark in park factor for runs scored. (Here are the current sortable rankings for a number of park factors.)

(The Mets, who didn't finish above .500 in any of their three pitcher-friendly Citi Field seasons, probably aren't the best example to use as a lead-in for this note, but one study indicates it's more difficult to build a winning team if it plays in an extreme hitters' park. Here it is.)

Speaking of AT&T Park in San Francisco, a similar home run dynamic exists there, where longtime Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow says fewer than 50 right-handed hitters have hit opposite-field home runs since the stadium opened in 2000. (Krukow's observation is backed up by the ESPN Stats and Info Group, which reports that only 25 home runs have been hit to the opposite field from the right side of the plate in the history of AT&T Park.)

But Marlins Park has become the issue's flashpoint. From the night the park opened on April 4, the Night of the Long Fly Outs, the park has been the source of laughing disbelief among hitters. The Marlins, with an expensive lineup to accessorize their expensive new digs, rank 24th in runs scored.

Kyle Lohse of the Cardinals pitched the first game at Marlins Park, and after Stanton hit two 400-foot outs to center, Lohse stood on the mound and said to himself, "OK, I might want to make them hit it to center." On the first, Lohse was so sure it was gone that he didn't even turn around. There's a good chance both would have been home runs in just about any other big league park. After that opener, the Cardinals' Lance Berkman told ESPN's Jayson Stark, "If they don't move the fences in after this year, I'd be surprised."

The left-field wall at Marlins Park rolls like a wave from 344 feet down the line to 422 in deepest left-center. It's 392 to right-center before angling sharply to 335 down the right-field line. Asked whether there is a spot -- an alley, down one of the lines -- where the park plays small, Stanton shook his head and raised his palms to the sky. "There really isn't," he said. "The ball LoMo [Logan Morrison] hit the other night was 417 to right, and it was barely 10 feet over the wall. Now every other park looks small."

It's worth noting that Stanton said this while standing in the visitors clubhouse at AT&T, the lowest-ranked park in the big leagues in runs scored. In a three-game series against the Giants that ended last Thursday, he hit two home runs and barely missed a third. It takes a big park to contain Stanton, and it seems the Marlins built it.

"I know this is going to come across as complaining, but it's really not," Stanton says. "It's reality. It's what we've got to deal with. Every guy who comes in says the same thing: It's terrible for hitters. They get to first base and they say it, second base and they say it, third and they say it. If everybody's saying it, it's reality."

Whether Marlins Park possesses the ability to start clubhouse fights remains to be seen. However, the Adams-Ludwick-Headley fracas provides greater context to the discussion taking place in San Diego. There's little doubt it could help explain the words of Padres general manager Josh Byrnes. Over the course of advocating for shorter fences, he told the San Diego Union-Tribune, "I think Petco Park leaves a scar with some players."
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