She’s in the air… in the air
In between molecules of
Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide
The list of 200 inning-workhorses gets smaller and smaller every year. The 2012 edition features guys you expect to blast through the 200 IP threshold, acknowledged studs like Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, James Shields, and Clayton Kershaw. Then you have the players who derive most of their value from tossing 200 effective innings and not much more – the Mark Buehrle‘s and Bronson Arroyo‘s of the league.
Then come the surprises. Do you know who threw the 9th most innings in 2012? Clayton Richard of the San Diego Padres. I know, right?!
Clayton Richard barely meets the qualifications for “effective inning” eater as he is pretty much just an inning eater. He tossed 218.2 innings for the miserable Padres in 2012 and came away with 0.2 fWAR for his trouble (a more dignified 0.7 rWAR). Replacement level according to a stat which prizes playing time and durability, no mean feat.
Richard’s problems are two-fold: he doesn’t strike anybody out and he gives up far too many home runs. Lucky for him, the Padres are making it easier to hit home runs in his home ballpark. Wait, the opposite of that.
This change in dimensions may or may not improve the Padres’ record, but the theory is that it should make them less boring when they lose, thus drawing more folks out to watch Kemp et al. hit a yachtload of homers.
The Padres home is best known as the most pitcher friendly park in the league, yet Clayton Richard somehow managed to lead the National League in home runs allowed with 31. Clayton Richard now owns the dubious distinction of being the first Padres pitcher to give up 30 in a season since the Friars moved to spacious Petco Park.
As Young explains it, 21 of his taters were surrendered on the road, indicating Petco saved Richard from possible 40 home run allowed indignity. To Richard’s credit, making 33 starts and throwing 218 innings makes it much easier to allow home runs, simply by virtue of all the extra time spent standing on the mound.
With NL West players, we must also consider that many of his road games are started in simarly offense draining superyards. Richard starting three games at Dodger Stadium and two at AT&T Park in San Francisco, allowing four home runs combined in those two offensive graveyards. Richard also started a game at Safeco and a game in Oakland, where he didn’t surrender a single long ball.
While the changes to Petco Park in San Diego and Safeco Field in Seattle will make a some difference in home runs, it doesn’t change the nature of the air surrounding those parks. As Coors Field in Colorado demonstrates , it doesn’t matter how big you make your park when the air that fills it offers so little in the way of resistance. The ballparks of the West Coast all benefit from the heavy marine air which drifts in, suppressing offense for night games in particular. Making a park bigger or smaller plays a relatively minor role.
Clayton Richard will give up home runs at Petco Park if they move the fences in or back or whichever direction you please: he’s not a very good pitcher, it’s inevitable. He’s Clayton Richard!
It’s Petco Park, located a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean in San Diego, California. Minor tweaking won’t impact the way it plays because, as we can see all over the league, it is more than just the dimensions of a ballpark that informs its characteristics.