Mets GM Sandy Alderson inherited himself something of a mess when he took over in Flusing. The Mets are an aging team without much in the way of high-end pitching prospects. Their core aged & approached free agency while the former front office regime threw buckets of money at players comfortably into their decline phase.
You can hardly fault Alderson for looking to make his job a little easier on himself. Getting out from underneath some of the unweidly contracts is a very tall order. What might be a quick little workaround? Changing the dimensions of his cavernous ballpark in Queens.
The New York Times posted an article early this morning with some key quotes from the Mets GM, noting that any changes to Citi Field would not be subtle.
Alderson said the Mets were interested in making their ballpark “more fair,” by which he meant making competition between hitters and pitchers resemble more closely the experience in other stadiums around the league.
He said that three years in the ballpark had given the team sufficient data to make a decision. For instance, he said that 1.9 percent of the balls put in play in Citi Field were home runs, compared with the league average of 2.5 percent. At Yankee Stadium, he said, the percentage was 3.6.
This is an interesting way of cherry picking as a means to an end. No mention (in this quote) of how those rates related to batted ball type nor the type of players employed by the home nine and their potential impact these home run rates.
The issue of lowering the height of the walls is also floated as a possible solution to correcting mistakes made at the draft table and in free agency. This option seems less desperate and a change that could actually result in more excitement for the casual fan Alderson cops to to courting.
The real question remains: would changing the dimensions of the ballpark have any appreciable impact on the offense? Consider the below images, created using the Katron Project’s Gameday Ball In Play device.
If we lay every ball hit to the outfield at Citi Field (Stat Corner HR factor for LHB/RHB of 90/94. 100 is neutral, less than 100 favors pitchers and vise versa) onto a bandbox like Philadelphia’s Citizen’s Bank Park (116/120), do we see a massive change in home runs?
And the granddaddy of all bandboxes, the second iteration of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx (143/115).
A few balls that might sneak over the fence but just as many that would fall for doubles or harmless fly outs, to my eyes. Which leads me to believe the greatest impact on the offensive performance of a ballpark is, in fact, environmental.
Coors Field in Denver was built 20% bigger than a normal ballpark but that didn’t keep it from being a complete joke, so much so that the Rockies now doctor the baseballs in an attempt to keep them in the yard. Wind direction prevailing currents can make massive differences to ballparks, changing the flight time of a given batted ball.
Remember the suspected wind flow issues which contributed to Yankee Stadium’s boost in offense? Anecdotal evidence suggests massive amount of condo construction around the Rogers Centre increase the rate at which home runs fly out of the Rog Mahal.
Commenters on friend-of-Getting-Blanked Ted Berg’s Tedquarters site suggest rather than building down and/or moving fences, the Mets should simply move home plate up 15 feet ala Dodger Stadium changes of 1969.
If changing the dimensions serves as a placebo to snake-bitten Metropolitans like David Wright and Jason Bay, so be it. Nothing is going to change the park’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean or its near sea level elevation. Alderson is good at playing the game of media manipulation. If talking about changes to the ballpark overshadows the impending free agency, loss of Carlos Beltran (with a healthy return, mind you) and the decline of David Wright, good for him. Because changing the shape of the park isn’t changing a single one of those things, no matter what David Wright thinks.