Petco’s New Fences: Season Recap

By: Lonnie Brownell

The 2013 season is over for the Padres and Petco, even if some other teams insist on continuing in something they call “The Post Season”.  Earlier in the year I wrote about the effects of the new fences vis a vis home run production up to that point.  Now that it’s over, let’s take a look at the first full year of The Jack Deck Era.

It’s all about the win, of which the Padres got 76.  According to my highly suspect “stat”, New Fence Wins (NFWs), wherein I subtract the runs driven in by each new fence home run (NFHR) and see if that would’ve changed the game outcome, the Padres would’ve won one less game this year if the old fences had been in place. So we can say the new fences have a lbWAR (lb — that’s me) of 1.0 for the Padres. Not earth shattering, but above replacement level. Way to go, new fences!

It wasn’t looking that great in the early going. The Rockies scored the first NFW on 4/14, and the Nationals got the second on 5/17. On 6/10 and 6/11, the Padres evened things up with two consecutive NFWs against the Braves.  The count remained even until September 6th and 7th, when the Padres again had back-to-back NFWs over the Rockies to go up by 2. On 9/24, the third-to-last home game, the Diamondbacks notched a NFW to bring it down to the final one-win margin for the Padres.

As for home run stat padding, this was a good thing for visiting teams, good but less so for the Padres.  Visitors hit 16 NFHRs while the Padres hit only 10.  Overall, opponents hit 80 dingers, while the Padres clubbed 66. By taking away the NFHRs, we can conclude that it would’ve been 64 them, 56 Padres with the old dimensions–not too far from the historical averages at Petco of 66 them, 60 Pads.

Overall, the Padres finished eighth in home runs in the NL–right in the middle (and above everyone in the NL West except the Rockies, of Coors, er, course). Away, the Padres hit as many home runs as opponents hit at Petco, 80, which put them in 4th place–which is pretty good no? At home, however, the Pads ranked 10th, or top of the bottom third. So yes, Petco is still mostly a pitcher’s park–unless, apparently, you’re in the visitor’s clubhouse. Maybe the old fence stigma hasn’t completely worn off the home team yet.

The Padres hit the same or more home runs as they did this year in three previous Petco seasons (66 in ‘10, 72 in ‘07 and 75 in ‘06), and less–typically considerably less–the other six. Opponents did better only in ‘06, when they hit a staggering 92–the same year the Padres hit their most ever. 2006 was a good year for the long ball in San Diego, apparently.

As for individual NFHR tallies, here they are:

 

 Will Venable loves the Jack Deck. Unfortunately, so does Pablo Sandoval; he had two, playing in a lot fewer games here.

Who gave ‘em up?  Here you go:

 

Street’s trio came during his time of tribulation early in the season–his last was on 6/23.  Marquis’ were more evenly spread, in April, June and July. Had he not been shut down, he might’ve taken this (dubious) title outright.

A couple of anecdotal notes:

  • Only two NFHRs went into the tiny new area in the left field gap; both were hit by opponents (Ryan Braun and Gerardo Parra).

  • The two longest, per HR Tracker’s “True Distance” measure, were 413’ (Will Venable) and 417’ (Dominic Brown).  Both of these were off the wall behind the Jack Deck, at the end near the beach in right center. This illustrates how truly hard it was to hit the ball out there before; it wasn’t just the distance, but also the height of the wall that would’ve made these 410’+ doubles or triples (or possibly, but less likely, outs).

I was very skeptical of the new fences. I didn’t think we needed them and still don’t–yes, they got us a win (maybe), didn’t cost us any wins (maybe), and all teams who played here hit more home runs than they would’ve without the change (even if the Padres got the short end of that stick).

However, I must admit that new Jack Deck is a nice addition. Didn’t get to experience a game from there this year, but I will make that happen. And moving the visiting team bullpen off the first base line was the humane and righteous thing to do; I’m glad they made that part of the project.

My biggest objection was that whatever it cost, we could have, should have put into player salaries. But, that would’ve been for just this one year and probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway. And if Petco is now more attractive to power-hitting left-handed free agents, then whenever the team is in the position to sign such beasts, that’ll help. Maybe. So, all in all, not bad, kinda good.

But the biggest, indisputable benefit is that we no longer have to listen to fans and players whine about moving the fences in. At least for a while. The Friar says Amen to that.

If you want to look at the raw numbers, here’s my Google Drive spreadsheet.

Follow Lonnie on Twitter @lonndoggie

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  • Change the Padres

    First things first: good post!

    The fences should have come in because of game theory: with longer fences, the games are shorter (as more outs are created), so the better team wins less often than they should. Conversely, the worse team wins more than they should. This is a double-edged sword, as you do worse when you should be good (costing you playoff positioning, etc.) and do better when you shouldn’t (costing you draft positioning).

    The effect is worth ~2 wins a season between our former environment and league average, for a good team. Converse for a bad team. Glad to see we finally moved them in.

    • Lonnie Brownell

      Thanks for the kind words.

      But that game theory business has my mind reeling (not so hard to do). Seems a bit glib to say that shorter dimensions always do good things for good teams. It’s a complex ecosystem, the ballpark. Shortening the fences may result in some former outs being hits, but it may also turn some doubles into singles and even some bloops into outs, as fielders play shallower by definition; balls in the gaps and down the lines travel less far; the throws from those balls is shorter; and so on.

      I take it the definition of a “good” team means one that can hit long fly balls more often?

      I’m thinking you’ve just outlined another article about the fences. So get busy!

  • ballybunion

    I thought the important point was that the shorter fences would give the Padres hitters a psychological boost. In 2013 the Padres as a team hit .245/.308/.378 with 604 runs, while with the old fences in 2012, they hit .247/.319/.380 with 651 runs. Hmmm.

    Okay 2013 wasn’t a proper comparison: seven of the eight starters were on the DL/suspension, with SIX of them missing a month or more. Obviously we need to see another year of short fences to make a definitive judgement. Wait ’til next year!