My brother (Brian) and I have been studying the affects of PETCO Park and lobbying for a modification for several years now. We decided to join forces and make a case for moving in the fences now that the Padres front office is open to the idea.
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Ridding ourselves of the disadvantage created by PETCO Park
Ownership has claimed that we have some sort of non-existing competitive advantage for several years now. Most people opposed to moving in the fences make arguments that assume a home-field advantage. Why listen to the facts when you can take ownership’s word for it? The fact is we do have a home-field advantage just like every other team in baseball. What people don’t realize is, our advantage is minimized by PETCO Park and the advantage is smaller than what most teams in baseball experience.
Josh Byrnes made this point perfectly when he said, “Since the Padres moved into PETCO Park, this club has the smallest gap between home and road winning percentage in the major leagues,” according to Bill Center of the Union Tribune.
That’s exactly what Brian set out to prove when he created the statistic he like’s to call “Home Field Advantage.” He added each team’s home wins from 2004-2011 and subtracted each by their away wins during the same time period. The higher the number, the more wins they had at home compared to the road and the more they benefited from playing in their home park. This statistic doesn’t measure how good a team is and is independent of the quality of each team. It specifically shows how much better each team does at home than away, and how each compares to the rest of baseball. The Padres ranked 29th in this statistic from 2004-2011. This clearly shows the Padres did not have any kind of competitive advantage. In fact, it suggests that we have experienced a disadvantage since PETCO opened.
More wins at home than on the road
We also analyzed the home/road run differentials. Not only do they provide more evidence of this disadvantage, but they also corroborate the results of the Home Field Advantage statistic. The Padres are the only team in all of baseball to score more runs on the road than they have given up, while giving up more runs at home than they have scored. Again, the Padres are the only team to accomplish this during this eight-year period. Only four teams, including the Padres, had a better run differential on the road than at home. The Padres being the worst, with the Marlins, Phillies and Angels right behind them. The same four teams are at the bottom in Home Field Advantage. That is no coincidence. This clearly dispels the claimed advantage and suggests the opposite — that we’ve been at a disadvantage.
Ridding ourselves of the psychological effect
According to Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune, Byrnes said, “I think the way PETCO Park is configured now is too distorted against the hitters, bad for the fans and affects the psyche of our club.”
We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Byrnes. The psyche plays a big role in baseball, and many Padres have been affected. Players have changed their swings and approaches in PETCO Park. Players have complained about the way the park plays. There is no doubt that PETCO Park gets into players’ heads and affects their psyche. Pitchers are more aggressive in PETCO Park. Pitchers know they can get away with pitches over the plate, so they challenge hitters. PETCO takes away the hitter’s confidence and hands it to the pitcher.
Finding out how many balls hit by the Padres and the opposition — that would have been home runs had the fences been built 10-20 feet shorter — isn’t as simple as placing a current spray chart over one with the proposed changes. The affects on each side’s approach completely change the dynamic of every single pitch. This changes the outcome of every single at-bat.
If you have any doubts about whether or not our players psyche has been affected, check out these quotes from the past:
In an article by Dan Norcross of the San Diego Union Tribune, players were asked if they were looking forward to getting away from PETCO Park. Jason Bartlett’s answer was, “Definitely.” Bartlett added, “I could sense frustration on a lot of guys.”
Norcross wrote: Playing anywhere other than PETCO, Ludwick figures he’d have twice as many homers. “I could be at 10 instead of five, no doubt about it, which builds confidence,” he said. “I’ve told everyone, I’ve had a rough go here (since coming to San Diego from St. Louis last July). But I think the difference between last year and this year is I’ve made a lot of hard outs, more consistent, hard contact. Do the fans in San Diego see that? Probably not. Because all they’re doing is looking at the box scores. But my manager sees it. He tells me. And my teammates see it.”
Bartlett also said, “I don’t want this to sound like an excuse, but for the offense, it’s better to get on the road.”
Tim Sullivan has quoted Chase Headley as saying, “I don’t care who you bring into this ballpark, it’s not going to be an offensive club.”
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN quoted Adrian Gonzalez as saying, “If you put the best lineup in baseball in our park, the numbers would be bad,” He also reportedly said, “When we get on that plane out of San Diego, every hitter is a happy hitter.”
It’s not just our players taking notice. Current Pirates manager Clint Hurdle saw a lot of games in PETCO Park during his tenure as the Rockies manager. Hurdle has said, “The damage that was done was to the home team when this park was built,” when asked about PETCO Park.
This obviously isn’t something we are making up.
Ridding ourselves of the limitations ownership has set by trying to build a team to fit the park
Building a team that fits PETCO Park sounds like a great idea on the surface. This idea might hold more water if PETCO only affected home runs, but it doesn’t. PETCO suppresses all offense including singles. The atmospheric conditions coupled with the dimensions have made PETCO an offensive black hole.
It is the hardest place in baseball to score runs. We’re not sure there is a player who could take advantage of the way PETCO plays. How many players are there in baseball who make exceptional contact, have plus speed, plus defense, a knack for the clutch hit, and the acumen and fortitude to be successful in such a difficult hitting environment? How much does that kind of player cost? To us, that sounds like a player you build around, not players you fill the lineup with while sporting the lowest payroll in baseball. Building a team that fits this park is unrealistic, and that philosophy has been irresponsible. Trying to do this with a lack of resources is impossible. The Padres have tried for years and failed. They haven’t failed to put winning teams on the field, but they’ve failed to make PETCO an advantage.
Building a team that fits the park limits the type of players you can go after in the draft, international market, free agency and in trades. If you’re drafting, signing and trading for a specific type of player, you’re most likely passing up more talented players who may not be suitable for the way PETCO plays. The Padres traded Anthony Rizzo because of this irresponsible philosophy. That outcome remains to be seen. Many considered Cory Spangenberg an overdraft. Was that decision made because of the type of player he is and the ballpark we play in?
Ridding ourselves from the difficulties of signing free-agent position players and retaining those we have developed
According to Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune, Kevin Towers once said, “You can’t put up the numbers at PETCO Park that you can elsewhere. Hitters and agents know it. PETCO Park is not going to help a hitter’s career or negotiating power.”
“The Padres past three general managers – Kevin Towers, Jed Hoyer and Byrnes – have agreed that it is hard for the Padres to sign quality hitters as free agents and to extensions given the dimensions of PETCO Park.”
This disadvantage is self-explanatory. Hitters just don’t want to play here for obvious reasons. Why wouldn’t Adrian Gonzalez give the Padres a hometown discount? Do people honestly believe Adrian was afraid of affecting the market in a negative way for his peers? Give me a break. Adrian didn’t like PETCO Park and spoke out about it numerous times. One example has already been stated. We realize that isn’t the only reason Adrian departed, but we’re convinced it played a role. This is just one example of this disadvantage.
PETCO also hurts the development of our young position players. The hardest step for a prospect is the move from triple-A to the big leagues and PETCO makes it that much harder.
Increasing entertainment value
Our reasoning behind moving in the fences is, and always has been, about entertainment value. Games in PETCO are lowered artificially because of the way PETCO plays. PETCO is diluting the quality of baseball for Padres fans.
A fellow blogger who goes by the name of Field039 once said, “PETCO is an equal opportunity destroyer, it suppresses all offense. During the period of 2004-2007 the Padres put average-to-above offensive teams on the field, yet the basic perception was that the offense sucked. That perception was driven by the suppressive nature of PETCO. No one wanted to hear that the road numbers were well above average, when what they saw at home was a series of one- and two-run games. The other problem with that type of suppressive environment is that it is extremely difficult to dominate when the run differential is suppressed. In other words, when the Padres put a sucky team on the field, PETCO helps to hide the suck. When they put a good team on the field, PETCO tends to neutralize it. I do not want a field that hides the suck; I want a field that separates the men from the boys. If that means they look worse, until they actually put a championship caliber team on the field, so be it.”
We’re not interested in an advantage when we field poor teams. We’re interested in getting rid of the disadvantage PETCO gives us when we field a good team. We think this will put more pressure on the Padres to field a better team and expose weak teams. We don’t want the park to dictate whether we win or lose. We want the talent on the field to dictate our record. We don’t want to win because of a gimmick.
We also feel we speak for the majority of fans when we say more offense is more entertaining. We’re not talking about making PETCO into Coors Field. We’re suggesting exactly what Tom Garfinkel said in the Union Tribune, “We want PETCO Park to remain a pitcher’s ballpark. What we would be considering is an adjustment to eliminate the extreme.”
People love to cite how exciting pitchers duels are, and I couldn’t agree more. Mat Latos dueling Roy Halladay is extremely exciting, but Walter Silva dueling Livan Hernandez is not. Pitchers duels are exciting when they happen between two of the best in the game, not when two scrubs are dueling because of the suppressive nature of a park.
People opposed to moving in the fences claim the opposition doesn’t have a problem hitting here. That simply isn’t true. PETCO suppresses all offense. The offensive numbers put up by the Padres from 2004-2011 are almost identical to the opposition. In fact, our .240 batting average during this period is identical to the opposition’s over the same time period. The opposition has beat us only slightly in each offensive category, and they should have, considering they’ve had over 1,200 more at-bats than us due to the home team losing the last half an inning every time we’re ahead.
Extra Base Hits
People opposed to moving the fences in claim that our pitchers will be equally affected by a modification. Well, our pitchers and hitters aren’t equally affected by PETCO. This has been proven by the home/road differentials. Our hitters suffer more than our pitchers are aided. These facts suggest our hitters will benefit from the modification more than our pitchers will suffer.
People opposed to moving the fences in also like to pretend we fans blame everything on the fences. That isn’t the case either. We agree, first and foremost, the Padres need to spend more money and increase the talent on the field. We feel moving the fences in would put more pressure on the Padres to do this and expose the poor teams they field. We aren’t blaming their poor play on the park. We are lobbying for them to fix one of the many problems that need fixing, and statistics suggest that moving them in could have a positive affect on wins.
I keep asking the question no one can seem to answer unless the answer is based on some non-existent competitive advantage.
Why shouldn’t we move them in?
More quotes from the Union Tribune say it all:
“Padres players, even a couple of pitchers, support the idea of adjusting the distances at PETCO Park.”
Pitchers should support the idea. Our pitchers are constantly let down by lack of run support and experience more pressure in these artificially lower-scoring games. These artificially low-scoring games have caused us to pull starters early and rely heavily on our fantastic bullpens.
“I’d be in favor of moving them in,” said manager Bud Black.
“I’m very much in agreement with what Tom is talking about,” Byrnes said.
When asked Wednesday about moving in the fences, Black said: “Why not? It’s a great idea to discuss it.”
The players want it, the coaches want it, the front office wants it, and knowledgeable Padres fans who understand the facts want it, so I’ll ask everyone again: Why not?