Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Case for Petco Park

The San Diego Padres scored 13 runs today on 23 hits.

Let me say that again.

The 2011, shutout 8 times, San Diego Padres scored 13 runs on 23 hits.

It should come as no surprise that they were on the road when this happened, playing in Miller Park, a far more favorable offensive setting.

The 23 hits were the most for the Padres since 08/12/03 vs Atlanta. It was the first 20 hit game for the Padres since getting 22 hits vs Milwaukee on 08/11/09.

It was a good day.

And now they travel to Colorado, as hitter friendly a park as there is. Players appear, using nothing more than my own observations, appear to be hitting the ball better, harder, and with just a bit more confidence (most notably Ludwick and Hawpe who have been much maligned to start this season).

This kind of offensive output on the road lead many today to the obvious questions/complaints about Petco Park. There is a loud, though I argue still minority opinion that Petco Park should be modified in some way to lend itself to more offense. This argument was given a local media voice in the form of Darren Smith of XX1090 when he posted on Facebook "Padres scored 22 runs in three games at Miller...21 in their six-game home stand. Nope, PETCO doesn't matter." This was followed by a lengthy discussion in which the common refrain from those in favor of modification point to the lack of "excitement" in games played at Petco Park.

This argument really got started in force on Saturday night, where, after being shut out by the Diamondbacks (the Padres 8th shut out of the season thus far), Chase Headley was quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune “I don’t care who you bring into this ballpark, it’s not going to be an offensive club, it’s not. So we as an organization understand what type of team we have to have to win and it’s always going to be based around pitching and defense. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a personnel problem.”

I've personally had this argument more than once and, since the issue is complicated and getting all my points across in 140 characters was proving to be impossible, allow this to be the case for keeping Petco Park as it is.

1) The Petco Park Advantage
Petco Park opened in 2004 marking this the 8th season in the park. In 7 complete seasons in Petco, the Padres have 2 NL Western Division titles. In their entire franchise history prior to moving to Petco they had 3 ('84, '96, '98). They accomplished this despite never having a team salary higher than $73 million (2008).

If you judge success not by division titles but purely by wins, then keep in mind that the Padres 90 win 2010 was the 4th highest win total in franchise history, despite a paltry $45 million payroll. (It's worth noting that the worst year for the Padres came in 2008 where they won 63 games while spending $73 million).

So was it coincidence that the most successful stretch in Padres history coincided with the opening of Petco Park? I seriously doubt that. The Padres have committed to a strategy as a franchise to build teams around good pitching and defense and a focus on small ball and speed. To that end, the Padres are consistently near the top of MLB in team ERA and, more recently, SB's. Petco has turned average pitchers into league leaders and saw only the 4th Cy Young in franchise history in 2006 with Jake Peavy. Pitching and defense. That's Padres and Petco baseball. And it has, for the most part, proved to be successful.

2) The Money Game
Let's live in the real world. The Padres will never be one of the biggest spenders in baseball. Jed Hoyer has said publicly that, eventually, the Padres eventually will operate around $70-75 million a year. For reference, this year a payroll of $75 million would put the Padres 20th in MLB in team payroll.

Furthermore, of the top 10 player salaries in MLB this year, only 2 of those players (CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay) are pitchers. The point? Offense cost money. Money the Padres don't have and won't have anytime soon (thanks John Moores!).

So, maintaing Petco Park as a pitchers park allows the Padres to continue to utilize the pitching and defense strategy while being able to work within the financial reality in which they operate. Ryan Howard cost money. Aaron Harang? Considerably less.

3) Atmospheric Conditions
The jewel of downtown San Diego is Petco Park. It was the catalyst for one of the most successful neighborhood renovation projects in the United States. It's aesthetically pleasing being located in the Gaslamp Quarter and near the San Diego Bay. Beautiful and quintessentially San Diego. The location could not have been better.

Except that it is probably the primary culprit for the lack of offense in Petco Park.

It's not a surprise nor a secret that Petco plays less as a pitchers park during the day time. What's missing during the day? Marine layer. Thick sea air that moves in each night and essentially acts as quicksand to fly balls. As a piece of purely anecdotal example, last year, Adrian Gonzalez did not hit one homerun at home aft 8:00pm. That's not coincidence.

So unless you are willing to move Petco Park to La Mesa or move the fences in 100 ft, it may not much matter.

4) Winning Breeds Excitement
Finally, there is the argument that Padres baseball = boring baseball. This is obviously a more subjective point. But, dare I say, that offense doesn't make a team exciting. Winning does. The Padres play, more often than not, close games. A byproduct of low scoring games no doubt. Which would seem to translate to games that are often up in the air until the 9th inning. Which would seem to translate to excitement. But, beyond the brand of baseball the Padres play, I would argue that winning, no matter the score, is exciting. Last year the Padres were near dead last in team BA yet won 90 games and was one of the more enjoyable seasons in recent memory (from a personal level).

Considering the Padres are 7-14 at home, no argument that this year's Padres, to this point (today's game being the obvious exception) have been boring. But I argue that they are boring because they are losing. Call me crazy, but I'll take 2-1 wins over 13-12 losses everyday.

I beg to differ with Chase Headley. This year, it is the personnel. Doesn't mean this team can't turn it around. As a team they are hitting far below average and it stands to reason that a course correction is coming (if not already here based on the series in Milwaukee). But when every everyday player other than one (Bartlett) is on pace for 100k's, you can put that team in any park from Coors to Williamsburg and it won't much matter.

So I say, keep the fences where they are. Adapt to the park, don't make the park adapt to the team.


Anonymous said...

Per Brainkoke & Mickeykoke bring the fences in 10ft. from left center to right center. Padretuck.

mickeykoke said...

Its so far beyond just this season of lack of offensive production. It's beyond the box score. Beyond just bringing in better players. One of the best hitters' in baseball could not hit over 270 In Petco park Adrian Gonzalez. Do both. Bring in better players who can flourish in Petco park, but also pitchers who are not Petco aided while modifying the fences in RF/RCF.

My Modify The Fences rant of the day: Before Friday last week. Padres Ludwick Home - .185 Road - .262 Bartlett Home - .170 Road - .286 Maybin Home - .219 Road - .283 Hundley Home - .245 Road - .283

In Petco There have only been 4 home runs hit to right field this year. This includes everything from the furthest corner in right center field to the right field foul pole. 3 out of 4 of those home runs were hit by the opposition and two of them were right down the line to the porch. Petterson's just came a couple games ago. And the bats heated up when the weather did. Yea.... so what more Santa Ana's, more day games? This is no mystery, you don't need to be a weather man or an expert in atmospheric conditions to know, by watching these games the ball doesn't carry much during night games, especially to RF/RCF.

mickeykoke said...

How do you measure the majority of people in regards to being in favor of a modification? Bias, speculation? I would say most people do not understand that it goes well beyond the dimensions.

As of May 8th, The Padres have averaged 3.78 runs per game in Petco Park since it was built. The opposition has averaged 3.88 RPG.

The opposition only averages 5 more HRs per season at Petco Park than the home team. up to May 8th 2001.

‎"From 2004 through 5/8/11, 49.3% of all runs at Petco Park were scored by Padres. From 2004 through 5/8/11, 50.2% of all runs in Padres games away from Petco Park were scored by Padres. In other words, Padres have outscored opposition on road since Petco Park opened but not at home. Meanwhile, MLB home teams over that same period score about 51% of all runs. #Padres are anomaly. The question isn't whether the #Padres have trouble scoring runs relative to opposition, but why"

There is 7+ seasons of statistics showing that the suppression isn't Just because of poor offensive players. I'd love to hear a relevant reason why we shouldn't move them in. No one is suggesting we make Petco a bandbox. Petco Park has not given us a competitive advantage. In fact, its been the exact opposite. What's wrong with a fair park your hitters aren't psyched out by? What's wrong with a neutral park everyone would want to play in?

mickeykoke said...

Historically (throughout the history of Petco) the opposing teams have not exactly dominated offensively over the Padres either. Another misleading claim. Teams come in for a series, hit a couple HR's and people say, "SEE, they can hit HOMERS". Well, historically Petco hinders the oppositions offensive production as well.

Is this park an advantage? NO. Is pitching, defense, speed working in Petco, not really. Almost all teams have a winning record at home. What about exciting baseball. What about baseball in your home park that doesn't psychologically hinder your players, offensively hinder your players? What about a fair park where good hitters flourish, and Petco aided pitchers are exposed?

What about leaping catches into the walls? That's exciting as oppose to seeing the ball die every-night in RCF. Having to actually contend with the walls in RCF, possibly playing the carom. It could also allow for more HR's, but also more doubles off the wall if they were to modify the fences. Possibly being able to retain future players like Anthony Rizzo. Hopefully not ruing players like him that will be dramatically hinders offensively. Being able to attract FA, besides JUST pitchers. Or, making borderline or average players look horrible.

Love pitchers duels, hate seeing scrub pitchers come in and look like Cy Eff'n Young. Another aspect, beyond all the intangibles, the marine layer, the swirling affect holding the ball up in the OF, beyond the dimensions... is players changing their swings for our OWN home park, Trying to go the other way and trying NOT to hit balls in the air. I will say that again, trying not to hit balls in the air. That has been preached in Petco park. Trying to hit singles. Wow, thats exciting... that's what I take my family to see with my hard earned money that I work so hard for? No thanks! There is a reason the power-hitter is the highest played player in general, it brings the fans to the ball park! You know, exciting!

How about players getting into funks, slumps at home, then carrying those same slumps on the road. People say, "well, there in a hitters ball park, they should be hitting". Well, it doesn't work that easily. When you are in a slump, changing your philosophy for the way you approach your Ab's at home, Vs the road while in a slump that carries over and is hard to break. The new regime implementing a philosophy before they have even watched how the park plays day in day out. Wait what!? Yes, a philosophy that was implemented solely using statistical measurements without watching how the park pays. That's reckless as hell if you ask me. and unfair to the loyal Padre fans who have witnessed the games day in day out. All these low scoring games since the park opened in 2004. It's a crock!

"The damage that was done was to the home team when this park was built"

Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle

Mickey Koke-

GTH said...

Regarding the runs per game, you seem to assume that if you brought in the fences then somehow the Padres would increase their runs per game while keeping opponents where they are. What proof do we have that that is the case? If the fences were brought in, it would simply allow teams to come into Petco and score at a higher clip.

However, if you keep the fences as they are, then you have a team that constantly plays close games (as the runs per game stat shows). Which is why this team is built around a strong bullpen and a small ball strategy. And while I can't argue that teams outscore the Padres at Petco Park, as you point out, how do you explain that they have a winning record at home? You seem to contradict yourself in pointing out that road teams outscore San Diego in Petco yet then saying its a misleading claim.

None of which explains how the Padres have had the amount of success in Petco if it is such a tough place to play. Unless you admit that it is an advantage. And when you operate on a $45 million budget, you need every advantage you can get. How people can't see that Petco plays into the Padres advantage is beyond me.

GTH said...

There is a difference between saying a brand of baseball is "boring" = subjective vs "effective" = objective. I can't really argue for or against the "boring" argument, that's ones own opinion. But there cannot be an argument that says the Padres are not, historically, effective in Petco Park.

Anonymous said...

@GHT I keep seeing you talk about the Padres success at Petco Park. Well they've had good teams since the park was built. Almost every team in baseball every single year has a better record at home than they do on the road. There is a reason for that. Having the last out gives you a competitive advantage. When you analyze the Padres record at home compared to their record on the road and compare that to the rest of baseball, it becomes extremely obvious that the Padres do not have an advantage at Petco. Another way to prove this is to look at their run differential at home and away. The Padres have a better run differential on the road than they do at home. If there is an advantage, then why do we have a better run differential on the road? This doesn't single out the offensive splits. It incorporates our offensive and pitching splits. At home, the Padres have averaged 3.77 RPG and their pitchers have given up 3.88 RGP. On the road, our hitters have averaged 4.74 RGP and our pitchers have given up 4.71. This shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is absolutely zero advantage. If anything there is a disadvantage. So now the argument has gone to "we do well in Petco" completely disregarding how well we do on the road and completely ignoring how other teams do at home compared to the road. We had the second best road record in all of baseball last year. Why is that so if Petco is such an advantage? Shouldn't an advantage help us play even better at home? Well, there were 17 teams with the same or a better record at home as the Padres last year. Advantage my ass...

Anonymous said...

"1) The Petco Park Advantage"

I've already covered how misguided this is. Petco in absolutely no way is an advantage. Making a park that no decent hitter is ever going to want to hit in is a big disadvantage. Having a fair park could attract lots of players and pitchers to this beautiful park and city. I don't understand limiting your options by having a park that good hitters aren't going to want to come to or stay in.

"So unless you are willing to move Petco Park to La Mesa or move the fences in 100 ft, it may not much matter."

That's completely ridiculous. We see balls caught at the warning track all the time. Moving in the fences 10-20ft in RF only would create more offense and help the psychological factor on our hitters. You're acting like balls that are crushed are pop flies to the second baseman. That's BS.

"4) Winning Breeds Excitement"

Winning is the most important factor and this point is subject. In contrast, last years 90 win baseball is some of the most boring baseball I've ever seen. Watching swing-man starters with 6+ ERA's come in here and shut us out is not entertaining. It's embarrassing.

I only have one question. Why shouldn't we move in the fences? No one is suggesting making Petco a band box. What is wrong with a fair park pitchers and hitters wouldn't have a problem playing in? What's wrong with a park that offers some pitchers duels, some blowouts, plenty of back and forth games, and the best variety of baseball available? MOVE IN THE FENCES!!!

matthew houskeeper said...

I disagree with this line:
"It was the catalyst for one of the most successful neighborhood renovation projects in the United States."

The renovation of the Gaslamp has been a 25 year project which included the construction of Horton Plaza, the Convention Center, and the rehabilitation of 4th and 5th Avenues. It also helped that there was a real estate boom for nearly a decade.
Crediting all of that to Petco opening in 2004 seems to be quite a stretch.

GTH said...

Your point is well taken and I will admit its somewhat hyperbole. But, I would also say that the renovation project of the Gaslamp either would not have taken place or not been nearly as successful without Petco Park. Horton Plaza isn't bringing 20k-30k downtown every night in the summer. For what it's worth.

Avenger-in-Chief said...

PETCO was a phenomenal neighborhood renovation project. It renovated a neighborhood called the East Village not the Gaslamp.

Avenger-in-Chief said...

*PETCO contributed to a phenomenal...

Anonymous said...

I'm an SF Giant fan, but I love Giants/Padres games at either park because they're at pitchers' parks with good pitching staffs so every run counts a lot which means every at-bat means a lot. How is this boring? Especially when both teams were good like last season?

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