Friday, November 4, 2011
Citi Field tweaks help Bay, Wright
By Adam Rubin
New York Mets left fielder Jason Bay's home run production at Citi Field may double as the result of changes to the ballpark's dimensions, while third baseman David Wright's home long-ball production may increase by more than 50 percent, according to an independent review of the planned modifications.
Still, the ballpark should remain slightly pitcher-friendly.
Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and general manager Sandy Alderson announced Monday that the outfield walls at Citi Field would be moved inward, reducing the amount of area in play by 2 percent and the amount in play beyond 300 feet by 5 percent. The left-field wall at the ballpark, which formally stood 16 feet, will be lowered by half as well.
If the new dimensions had been in place from the opening of the ballpark in 2009, Wright would have hit 13 extra homers over three seasons, according to Greg Rybarczyk, who operates hittrackeronline.com in partnership with ESPN Stats & Information. Bay would have hit nine additional homers at Citi Field over his two seasons as a Met.
First baseman Ike Davis, a lefty hitter who will benefit from the elimination of a deep nook in right field, would have hit two extra homers during his rookie season in 2010. Davis missed most of this past season with a left-ankle injury.
Wright has produced 22 homers in three seasons at the ballpark. So his long-ball production at home would have been 59 percent higher over three seasons had the new dimensions been in place from the beginning and he slugged 13 additional homers.
Bay has hit nine homers in two seasons at Citi Field. So his homer production at the ballpark theoretically would have been double under the new dimensions.
That does not even account for the psychological benefit to Mets hitters of having less-daunting dimensions. The less-imposing walls should help hitters relax at the plate and translate to unquantifiable extra production.
"It used to be, let's say, that pitchers would just pitch outside at this ballpark -- stay away, stay away, stay away," Alderson said. "Now, that may not be as good a strategy as it was before. So a lot of things could change. The pitching strategy could change. The attitude of the hitters and their approach could change. And so, as a result, a lot of this static information that we evaluated isn't necessarily going to predict the outcome."
Still, Alderson added: "You don't want the ballpark to be a distraction. And I really do believe that a ballpark like ours has a more dramatic impact on the home team than it does on the visitors. The visitors come in, they play for three days and they leave. They don't really have time to think about it all that much. They certainly aren't going to change much, whereas it can become a lot more chronic with a team that's playing 80 games here every year, and just the constant debate about it and having to deal with the conversation as well as the visual.
"I mean, you just keep looking at that thing, and that [former 16-foot] left-field wall kept getting higher and higher."
One of the more pronounced changes will come in right-center, which happens to be where Wright's primary power lies.
The new dimensions from left to right are: 335-358-385-408-398-375-330.
The old measurements, although not precisely in the same spots, were:
"It has a positive impact on several of our players, but it would have a positive impact on any right-handed-hitting power hitter or any left-handed-hitting power hitter," Alderson said.
An internal study by team officials determined the Mets would have hit 81 additional homers over three seasons had the new dimensions been in place. That's an average of 27 per season, or one every three home games.
Visitors would have hit 70 additional homers over three seasons.
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).
Team officials indicated the goal was not to tilt the ballpark in favor of hitters -- just to make it more neutral. They apparently have succeeded in that regard.
Rybarczyk found that Citi Field should remain mildly pitcher-friendly with the revised dimensions.
Based on a scale in which 100 is perfectly in the middle of ballparks -- and a higher number favors hitters and a lower number favors pitchers -- Rybarczyk said Citi Field should now be a 92. That is still marginally pitcher-friendly compared with the average ballpark. The past two seasons Citi Field had a 72 and 74 rating, both highly pitcher-friendly.
Some spots in the ballpark will remain difficult to launch homers. Using the 100-point scale for individual parts of the ballpark, Rybarczyk found hitters will still have a challenge hitting homers to left field (84 score on the scale), center field (87) and right-center (82). But the ballpark should now be relatively easy to hit homers to left-center (107). Right field should be perfectly in the middle of ballparks, with a 100 rating.
"There's a lot less science involved in this than anyone would expect," Alderson said. "This is really about estimating a neutral ballpark."