It had to be done. Seattle Mariners games at Safeco Field over the past several seasons had become a succession of low-scoring, mundane affairs, one after another. So the Mariners finally decided to move the fences in for 2013, as much as 17 feet in left-center field. Greg Johns has the story at MLB.com, complete with a graphic showing the new dimensions.
"Our goal was to create an environment that is fair for both hitters and pitchers," general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a statement. "Considering the current field dimensions, as well as the climate in and around Safeco Field, we feel this will be accomplished with this new layout."
Safeco has always been a pitcher's park since it first opened in 1999, but played even more extreme than normal in 2012. The Mariners have scored 62 fewer runs than any other AL team despite ranking fifth in the AL in runs scored on the road. They've hit .247 with 93 home runs on the road but are hitting just .218 with 54 home runs at home. Their opponents have similarly struggled, hitting .266 on the road but .229 at Safeco.
Here's how bad the run-scoring was at Safeco this year: In 79 games so far, a team has scored two or fewer runs 70 times, or nearly half the time. There have been 38 1-0 games in the majors and six of them took place at Safeco.
Moving the fences in was necessary for three primary reasons:
1. Bring a greater variety of action to Safeco Field. Hey, 2-1 games are exciting. Too many 2-1 games is boring. Mariners attendance has plummeted in recent seasons -- yes, primarily because the team was terrible, but also because the product wasn't interesting. Let's face it: Offensive is more exciting.
2. The ability to sign free-agent hitters. No hitter wants to play at Safeco, making it nearly impossible for the Mariners to sign a power-hitting free agent.
3. The development of young hitters. How much of Dustin Ackley's and Justin Smoak's problems can be attributed to Safeco? Kyle Seager is hitting .293 with 15 home runs on the road but .215 with four home runs at Safeco. Creating a better pitcher-hitter balance is better for the organization and better for business.
So if you're a fantasy, buy low now on Seager for 2013. And trade Jason Vargas ASAP.