Monday, October 31, 2011
Mets reveal big changes to Citi Field
By Adam Rubin
NEW YORK -- The New York Mets revealed dramatic dimension changes to Citi Field on Monday that should mean the home team belting more than 25 additional home runs in 2012.
After Citi Field produced the third-fewest homers in the National League last season, Mets officials decided to reduce the in-play surface area by 2 percent, general manager Sandy Alderson said. The playing surface beyond 300 feet from home plate is being reduced by 5 percent.
"Any time you talk to a hitter about making a park more hitter-friendly, it's a thing that we're all for," said Mets third baseman David Wright. "I very briefly looked at the pictures and those dimensions and everything. It just looks, obviously, fair."
Alderson said the ballpark should lie roughly in the middle of NL stadiums in terms of homer friendliness after the changes. He added that there should be a disproportionate benefit to the Mets from the perspective that home players may have been psychologically deflated by the imposing previous dimensions, which included a 16-foot wall in left-field and a right-center alley that measured 415 feet.
"You'd be lying if you said you enjoyed hitting at Citi Field," Wright said. "I don't think anybody would say they enjoyed hitting in such a pitchers' ballpark. I don't think we ever looked at the field and it intimidated us. But obviously it's frustrating at times when you hit a ball good and you don't see the results that you want to see."
The reconfigured outfield wall will be a uniform eight feet in height. The dimensions from left to right are: 335-358-385-408-398-375-330.
The old measurements, although not precisely in the same spots, were: 335-371-384-408-415-378-330.
Citi Field allowed 1.33 homers per game last season, which ranked 14th of 16 National League ballparks, ahead of only San Francisco (1.00) and San Diego (1.23).
While noting that the Mets did not incorporate data about the trajectory of the balls put in play into their study -- making the numbers slightly less precise -- the team nonetheless determined the Mets would have hit 81 additional homers over the three years Citi Field has been open using the revised dimensions. Opponents would have hit 70 more homers, Alderson said.
Alderson noted the ballpark had only nine opposite-field homers to left field in three years -- all by opposing players.
To appease fans critical of the ballpark's lack of recognition of the club's history, the new wall will be blue. The old wall has been a blackish shade referred to as soot, which is not in the team's color palette.
The new dimensions certainly should benefit Mets power hitters such as Wright, Ike Davis and Jason Bay, although Alderson insisted the changes were not designed for any particular player.
"I don't want to give you the impression we've done this for David, or we've done this for Ike, or we've done this for anybody in particular," Alderson said. "It's really about having a more neutral ballpark -- and maybe even to some extent, given that I think offense is exciting for many fans, maybe it'll be slightly more entertaining."
"I'd like to think that I'm pretty good at going gap to gap," Wright said. "One of my biggest strengths, I think, is going the other way into right-center field. Hopefully this will help me with one of my strengths."
Said Bay: "I think it's going to be good for everybody. I think cutting down on the space in the outfield will help improve the defense which in turn should help the pitching."
As for the impact on pitchers, Alderson said pitching coach Dan Warthen suggested the reduced dimensions could have a positive impact on his staff. Warthen has asserted that Citi Field's formerly spacious dimensions perhaps prompted Mets pitchers to be more careless and not execute quality pitches because they figured the ballpark's size would keep the ball in play.
"His point was that maybe our pitchers got a little complacent here and it had an effect on the road as well," Alderson said. "He felt that these dimensions, if they were fair, would force our guys to maybe bear down more here than they have."
Construction may begin in a month or wait until after the winter, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said.
Because the original left-field wall that measures 16 feet is structural and cannot be removed, a new wall will be built in front of the old wall. Two rows of seats will be added between the old and new walls in left-center, accommodating 100 people.
The "Mo's Zone" nook in right field also will be removed, resulting in another 40 seats in that area.
Because the dimensions in the extreme left-field corner by the foul pole will be unchanged, the old wall that measures 16 feet will be the structure in play in that corner. An orange line will be painted halfway up the wall, at eight feet, prompting umpires to need to determine whether a ball has cleared the line.
Wilpon said the reliance on umpires' rulings should be a non-issue. He reasoned that the padding above the orange line will be removed, leaving a bare concrete wall, and resulting in a different bounce for a ball that strikes the wall above the line for a homer as opposed to a ball in play that strikes the padded wall below the line.
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.