If you listen carefully, you will hear the mumblings and grumblings of several in-the-know folks about the walls at CitiField. Hell, even our very own Howie Rose calls the wall over in left field the “Great Wall of Flushing.”
On one hand, I can understand the venom. Home runs have dropped off noticeably for the Mets in the time since CitiField opened, and in the design, our owners went for the “quirk” factor and not “realistic helpful” factor. On the other, if there were low walls, the dimensions were any shorter causing a MORE homer friendly scenario, we’d hear all about how “CitiField is a little league park” or “bandbox” (similar to the refrains we hear about Citizens Bank Park and Yankee Stadium).
You can’t win, but you get what you deserve too, Fred.
Yet, on my weekly podcast, we’ve had some really passionate debate about moving the dimensions at CitiField, redistributing the field (moving home plate and playing field up a few feet), among other things. I can’t say that I disagree with thinking that SOMETHING needs to change, but the items I feel passionately about are the Great Wall…there’s no reason why it should be so difficult to hit a home run to that side of the field (nor should it be so difficult to try to “stop” a home run from being hit). The Mo’s Zone is the bane of my existence. There aren’t things that I think will compromise the integrity of the playing field, and won’t make a bandbox or make it prohibitve.
Sandy Alderson on last night’s game broadcast suggested that not only will changes be potentially made at CitiField, that they won’t be “subtle.” Translation,they should be drastic. The cheers could be heard ’round the Twitterverse.
I guess I have to ask this question: is this just candy-coating a poison pill?
Keep in mind, I am just looking at home runs hit at CitiField against Mets pitchers (starters or otherwise). In 2011, Mets pitchers have given up 54 home runs; in 2010, 47 home runs; and in 2009, growing pains to the new park led to the Mets pitchers giving up 81 round-trippers. Conversely, the Mets’ pitchers have given up 84 HRs on the road this year, 88 HRs on the road in 2010 and 77 away in 2009. The disparity really wasn’t that great in 2009, but they were giving up way too many home runs in 2009. Clearly, they’re giving up fewer home runs at home. Compared to Shea, 2008 and 2009 numbers were VERY similar: 79 home runs at home, 84 on the road.
We could theoretically argue that the home run factor or lack thereof for the Mets has almost HELPED Mets pitching.
But the question isn’t so much what the pitchers are doing and how the hitters are faring. How many times have we seen what would be home runs at other parks (and not even bandboxes) that aren’t even close at CitiField, or those infamous 400 foot outs in the Mo’s Zone. Yeah, you know what, that pisses me off too. But the Mets’ offense has had THREE YEARS to get used to the dimensions at this place and learn to play to its strengths.
In 2008, Mets hitters had 95 home runs at home, with 77 on the road. Compared to 2009, they had 49 at home, and 46 on the road. Due to the nature of the injury-ridden and horrific season in 2009, we could throw that stats out as an anomaly and call it a day (or a year, in this case). Mets hitters had 63 home runs at home in 2010 and 65 on the road, and finally in 2011, with a few days left in the season, 45 home runs at home, 57 on the road.
Throw out the home run factor for the Mets offense. In 2011, with eight games left, the hitting line has been relatively uniform at home and on the road. At home, hitters have ..263/.336/.390; on the road, .267/.335/.393. Compare to 2010, .255/.326/.393 at home, and .243/.304/.373 on the road. Who says the Mets have a problem hitting at home! Okay, fine it’s all relative, but the point is all we’ve heard is how detrimental CitiField is to the team, and their stats bear out lower on the road.
Of course, at the end of the day, it’s all about wins and losses at home. There’s been a distinct home field disadvantage. CitiField was built for the mantra of “speed, pitching and defense.” Speed and defense have clearly been lacking in the Mets, but the pitching has been relatively uniform. I know, there have been inconsistencies but fact is, the dimensions of CitiField have been favorable to the Mets pitching. In 2011, averages against are .254/.333/.376 and on the road, .274/.341/.376. Mets pitchers in 2010: at home, .243/.318/.350 and on the road, .276/.342/.437.
It’s clear to me the problem lies in lack of offense, especially in situational hitting. Unfortunately, that cannot be “taught” and is a favorable argument to saber folks about it being a crapshoot. Want to know what I think is a crapshoot? Tinkering with the dimensions and walls at CitiField. We need better PLAYERS to hit in the park, and the only thing tinkering will do is mess with the pitching progress, and have the other teams hit more home runs as well.
Moving in the dimensions will only silence the vocal minority, when the reality is, a candy-coated poison pill will still kill you in the end.