By: Lonnie Brownell
You’re reading Padres Public, so you don’t need me to tell you that the Padres changed the outfield dimensions this off-season, shortening all of right field and a small sliver of the left center gap. You knew that. But you may not know how well that’s working out for the Padres–if it’s been good, bad, or indifferent. That I can help you with.
It’s impossible to say with complete certainty how the new dimensions have affected play. Would a new-fence-enabled home run have been a double, a triple, or just a long, loud Petco’d out with the old dimensions? Even hits into the now shorter gaps or down the right foul line might’ve played differently.
However, we can chronicle the home runs that wouldn’t have been home runs last year, see which teams are hitting them and how much they’ve benefitted. Which I have. I’ve got a Google Docs spreadsheet where I’m keeping track. There are also tabs showing who hit these not-before-possible taters, and yearly batting data for Petco, gleaned from baseball-reference.com. Go ahead, have a look, I’ll wait here.
Through the end of this last homestand against the Cardinals, the Padres opponents have hit eight new-fence home runs to the Padres four. For the math impaired, that’s twice as many. The visitors also scored 17 runs on those eight long balls, vs. 6 for our team. That’s very close to three times as many. Great if you’re not the Padres, not so good if you are.
But there is some good news, sort-of: For HRs that would’ve been HRs with the old dimensions, the Pads 18 is only one behind everyone else’s 19. So, if they move the fences back, it’s OK–we’ll have better HR parity with the other teams than we’ve had in the past. In the prior years at Petco, opponents have out homered the Padres 53% to 47%. In fact, every year at Petco the Padres have been bested in HRs except for 2007, where they pummeled the opposition with 72 long balls vs. the visitors’ 45. This year, it’s 51% to 49% (uh, but if you add the new fence HRs, make that 55% to 45%–ouch). This may lend some credence to the “get the fences out of their heads” argument–that even though the new fences aren’t helping our hitters much, maybe they aren’t as worried about if they can hit ‘em out or not (out of the old park, that is). Then again the lopsided total HR numbers may be due to our pitchers serving up more fly balls than the opposition. Or some combination of the above. Or, it’s just baseball, and smallish sample size.
Besides the raw numbers, I made up a stat I call “Fence HR Wins”. This sure-to-be controversial concept subtracts the runs from any fence-aided HRs from the score. If doing so changes the outcome (either the winner becomes the loser, or the score is tied), then the winning team is said to have had a Fence HR Win. This is, of course, crazy talk–how can I just assume that these HRs would’ve turned into outs, or at least produced no runs? I can because it’s my spreadsheet, and it sure is easy to compute. So I’m doing it. So far, there have been two such wins–both for the opposition. All the other fence HRs have had no bearing on the game, at least as far as my myopic view goes.
Keep checking that spreadsheet as the season grinds on to see how this saga progresses.
Follow Lonnie on Twitter @lonndoggie