It’s looking more and more like the Mets are going to make alterations to the outfield dimensions prior to the start of the 2012 season. After three years of data to see how Citi Field plays, it seems like a perfect time to make changes. The Tigers changed the outfield dimensions to Comerica Park after three years and the world did not end. However, the question remains if it’s a good idea for the team as a whole.

From May 5th to July 29th, the Mets played perhaps their best stretch of baseball, going 43-33 (.566) in that period. At various times in that span, the Mets played without Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Angel Pagan, Jose Reyes and David Wright. In those 76 games, the Mets won without much help from the long ball, as they hit just 43 HR.

That HR pace over a 162-game season would result in 92 HR, which would just edge out the Padres (91 HR) to avoid the distinction of being the team with the fewest homers in the National League. We all know that chicks dig the long ball but fans prefer wins. I’m quite content to watch a team hit the ball and run the bases and win without waiting for a HR to carry the offense.

On the flip side, from July 30th through the end of the year, the Mets hit 40 HR in 56 games but went just 22-34 (.393). In their hot stretch, the Mets averaged a HR every .566 games. In the cold spell to end the season, they averaged a HR every .714 games. Of course, it’s not fair to blame the poor play on increased HR output. It’s just a point to show that more HR does not equal more team success.

Sandy Alderson has talked about looking to make the park fairer to hitters. And there’s no doubt that Citi Field plays as a pitcher’s park. But the Mets were 6th in the 16-team NL in runs scored, even with all of the injuries to their hitters. And for our two stretches outlined above, in the .566-HR stretch the Mets scored 4.7 runs per game and in the .714-HR stretch they scored 4.2 runs per game.

I am not opposed to the idea of changing the outfield dimensions. But it just doesn’t seem warranted in this case. Instead, it seems to be nothing more than an attempt to boost the HR numbers of Jason Bay and Wright.

And lost in the discussion about moving in the fences is the impact it would have on the Mets’ pitchers. The team’s pitching staff was already tied for 8th in the NL in HR allowed (147). What effect would it have on the team’s ERA if 20 more HR were surrendered by the pitchers in Citi Field? Even with the large dimensions, the Mets finished 13th with a 4.19 ERA. It’s likely to be the same SP for the Mets next year, too.

Another thing to consider is that moving in the fences is something tangible to sell to the fan base that doesn’t cost the Wilpons very much money. I’d rather that they focus on re-signing Reyes, find a way to get Daniel Murphy in the lineup and add some competent relievers than waste time on a cheap PR win that might hurt the club in the long haul.

32 comments on “Why moving in the fences at Citi Field is a bad idea

  • Rotoprofessor

    The Mets would be better served to use the ballpark to their advantage. The fact is the team isn’t built around CitiField, and that’s why they don’t thrive there. If they were to build a team around pitching, defense and speed, they could really have a homefield advantage.

    Of course, do we see the Mike Stanton’s of the world complaining about the ballpark being too big?

    • Brian Joura

      While I’m a big Mike Stanton fan, if I want to hear someone on the Marlins complain – let it be Logan Morrison. I’m sure that would be much more entertaining!

  • Ron Davis

    Instead of the wall being 16 ft make it 10 ft i think that is fair some of the balls hit up on the wall would of gone for hrs if the wall was lower slightly not that these players can’t hit it that far its just that they get mostly robbed on the height of the fenses.

  • Chris

    Seconding Rotoprofessor’s comment, while bringing in the walls would hurt pitchers’ home run to fly ball ratio the current team’s defensive status which could very well look like Bay-Pagan-Duda or even (gasp (defensively)) Murphy-Bay-Duda, shorter walls could have an effect of covering some of the ground lost by the Mets’ outfield range while slightly supressing better range opposing teams’ defense. I think it would be fair to argue that while the boost to the offense should even out for both home and away teams, the runs against might rise faster for the away pitching staff then the home staff as balls hit for doubles and triples against the Mets that would be caught by wider ranging opposing outfielders will be home runs for both teams.

    Also, the supposed byproduct of more home runs / higher runs score / added revenue might not be trivial either.

    After failing to build around the ballpark, it seems that Sandy is trying to modify the ballpark around his current team configuration, looking for a slight edge.

  • mark k

    I LOVE DAVID WRIGHT BUT HE IS SHOT.TRADE HIM FOR PITCHING.PLAY MURPHY AT THIRD.IF RAYES GOES,OH WELL.PLAY TEJADA AT SS.FIND SOMEONE TO PLAY CENTER,SO LONG ANGEL.GET A CATCHER WHO CAN HANDLE PITCHERS.GET RID OF WARTHEN.GIVE BAY HALF A SEASON TO SHOW SOMETHING OR EAT HIS CONTRACT.BRING IN THE FENCES IN RIGHT.PUT SOME FENWAY TYPE SEATS IN LOWER LEFT AND BRING BACK THE HOME RUN ROBBING CATCH.FING A RIGHTHANDED POWER HITTER FOR WHEN BAY GOES.GET A CLOSER AND MIDDLE INNING RELIEVERS.A FEW MORE YEARS LIKE THE LAST FOUR AND I WILL START ROOTING FOR THE NATS.

    • eric

      mark k: It was nice not knowing you, and good luck with that rooting for the Nats thing.

      Also, your caps lock key is stuck, you may wish to fix that.

    • Arnie

      you know that using caps is like yelling cool it

    • lindro

      Anything you may or may not have said is ruined with the caps.

  • jeff

    it doent affect the visiting team. it hurts the mets because they have to adjust to playing there 81 games. moving the fences in will mean more hrs for mets and little to no change in vistors.

  • BringBackDaveTelgheder

    The park’s current dimensions are an utter joke.

    A pitch can be hit perfectly, one that would leave 98% of all parks and here it may be a single off the wall. The psychological effect on players in obviously noticeable, and it really isn’t fun as a fan to watch.

    To top if off, it’s not like our pitchers all become dominant pitching at home. They stink just as much here as they do on the road. The current dimensions are crippling this team.

  • tony

    Some good points, but it’s not just adding home runs I think about, it’s hard hit balls being caught, defensive positioning that enables outfielders to keep balls in front of them. Yes, the team will need to re-evaluate who pitches. But even with the changes Reyes and others will still get a lot of XBH, just like Shea. But now maybe there will be less 365 foot outs.

  • Adam B

    I’d much rather see the walls lowered than moved in. A great over-the-top grab to rob someone of a home run is one of my favorite things to see in baseball and barring some kind of genetic breakthrough that will never happen with our walls at their current height.

  • themaninthebox

    While the data suggests that the team wasn’t winning when they were playing better, I still think the walls need to move in at some parts of the field. There are also more things that need to be looked at though, than just the power output over these spans – pitching was miserable in the latter portion, and defense was struggling as well.

    Also, just wanted to say that your stats are backwards – .566 and .714 are the number of HRs per game, not the other way around (HRs per .566 or .714 games). Instead, it’s 76 games per 43 HR, or a HR about every 1.77 games. For the latter portion of the season, it’s 56 games per 40 HR, or a HR every 1.4 games. If it was truly a HR every .566 or .714 games, then the first portion would be better since it would take less games per homerun to be hit.

    • Brian Joura

      You sir are correct. I apologize for the error.

      • themaninthebox

        No problem – good article either way. deficiencies of the team went beyond just hitting HRs.

  • HarryDoyle

    No need for fancy stats here. The walls should be altered for no other reason than they’re stupid.

  • Big Al

    … and during this best stretch of the season, they were only 17-16 at home and 27-17 on the road.

    • Brian Joura

      And last year they were 47-34 at home.

  • KK

    I think Citi is the worst new ballpark I’ve seen. It is quiet and incredibly boring. The Park is unfair, bring the fences in and see how it plays.

    • eric

      Really? How many new parks have you had the pleasure of visiting? Now is a time to lie and state some silly number like 16 or so.

  • Jason

    Where you failed in your data analysis was the breakdown of where they were playing during those stretches. This team is much better on the road than at home, which says a lot, but if the majority of their games were on the road during their successful stretch, then your argument has no legs. If they were winning those games while playing mostly at home, then you have a huge argument. In summary….need more data.

  • DaMetsman in Washington State

    Making adjustments to Citi Field’s massive outfield cuts many ways. The Mets must be able to attract hitters with actual power and power potential to their organization. No one is suggesting moving from an extreme pitcher’s park to a hitter’s park. Rather, it would be just less of what would remain a pitcher’s park. Additionally, the Mets have to be able to attract quality outfielders into the fold. In its current incarnation, would any agent advise a client, particularly a centerfielder-type, to sign with the Mets? Not likely. Do you think a Shane Victorino would be better in Citi or would he have some of the same problems Angel Pagan has encountered? While Victorino would likely be better, there would be many times his Gold Glove status would be questioned. Routes must be expanded. Throws are longer. Footsteps being heard would seem more like they are coming out of nowhere. For Met pitchers, who might not be particularly worried about the longball at home, it might be a blessing of sorts in the area of concentration and consistency, in terms of road games. The new Citi Field will still be attractive to pitchers, but far more attractive to power hitters and outfielders. And a look at the season-ending Mets roster reveals that Bay, Wright, Davis, Duda and Evans would benefit greatly. Murphy, Turner, Thole, Harris, Pridie, Paulino and Nickeas would benefit marginally. Reyes and Pagan would certainly lose triples, but just as certainly gain HRs. Tejada (like Reyes and Pagan) might be tempted to swing for the fences from time to time, which would be unfortunate. Lastly, Alderson is correct in stating that a little more offense, especially adding 30-35 HRs cannot hurt when it comes to putting Mets fans in the park.

  • Metsfan1

    Would love to see Citifield’s dimensions morph into Shea’s dimensions: 8 foot high fences, 378 in the Power Alleys, 396 in Deep LF and Deep RF. Other than the winds don’t recall too many hitters complaining that Shea’s dimensions were unfair. Remember, Shea WAS considered a pitcher’s ballpark.

  • seaver41

    Michael Lewis had a great quote in Moneyball: “chicks dig the long ball.” While I agree that the Mets could build a team designed for Citifield, marketing that team in NY is much more difficult when balls are flying out of RF at Yankee stadium. Like it or not, the Mets don’t play in a baseball purest vaccum and must compete for the casual fans

  • Justin

    I disagree with your assessment. While it is true that one cannot fully correlate home runs to wins (ask last year’s Diamondbacks), one cannot also make very much of any lack of correlation between the two statistics. Can baseball teams win without the long ball? Certainly. Can the presently constructed Mets team do so? Clearly, the answer is “sometimes.”

    I think the biggest argument against Citi Field’s dimensions are the profound impact they have had on David Wright and Jason Bay, two marquee players whom Citi Field has rendered “above average,” and “replacement level” respectively. Tailoring a field that dampers the team’s best player’s strengths was unbelievably foolish.

    While the Mets pitching staff may have benefited some by the depth of the fences in home games, they have also been negatively impacted by line drive hitters having a larger field in which to deposit base hits. Philadelphia pitchers have to work inside a band box, and yet they still manage to be a ridiculously effective staff.

    The way to win baseball games is simply to have good players. A field can do nothing to accomplish this goal, and has demonstrably been detrimental in this regard. The current dimensions have done nothing whatsoever to turn Mike Pelfrey, John Neise, Dillon Gee and Chris Capuano into Nolan Ryan, Cy Young, Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver, and it has made our offense reliant on on base percentage (which can be controlled for), and timely hitting (which cannot).

    Thus, it only makes sense to change the dimensions so that they are more neutral.

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks for reading and commenting Justin!

      I hope you will come back and visit us again.

  • Patrick

    I don’t have a real preference for team-building philosophy, but I’m inclined to agree with Sandy Alderson on the benefits of power hitting. What’s more efficient, the home run, or stringing together 3-5 hits to drive in runs?

    First of all, the dimensions they’re discussing wouldn’t turn Citi into some home run launching pad. It would make the park fair. There’s no reason it should be 415 to right center other than Fred Wilpon’s desire to pay homage to old tymie New York baseball history.

    Alderson also said having such a pitching-friendly ballpark allows pitchers to develop bad habits and complacency that follows them on to road games in less forgiving ballparks. I could see his point, but I’m no expert.

  • AJ

    Presumably, the Mets’ front office and the architectural firm they hired, and all the consultants who helped them with the design process, thought about the dimensions of the park before they built it. And by “thought about” I mean studied it intensively, discussed it endlessly, and considered a multitude of options before arriving at a decision they felt was the best possible. That’s what I expect happened. They didn’t just draw something up and say “Well, we’ll spend MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to build this, and if it turns out not to be so good we’ll just re-do it.”

    So the logical question is – What were they thinking when they made the decision to configure the outfield dimensions they way they did? And the follow-up question is – Why are they considering changing their minds now?

    In my view, they should wait. Let Citi be Citi and let the Mets and their fans have time to adjust to it. The first few years at Shea weren’t so great, either. There is a winning team every game played at Citi Field, and if the problem is that the Mets aren’t the winners often enough, I don’t think changing the dimensions of the field is a legitimate response. But maybe it’s easier than changing the quality of the team.

    (Brian – Great to see your site linked to Mets.com!)

  • Hank in Colorado

    Get better pitchers (starters and relievers) and the dimensions will be meaningless. How about a couple of pitchers who can strike out some batters? Or, how about Pelfrey sinking the ball again? The little league field in Philly hasn’t hurt them. Why not? Because they have some very good pitchers!

    As for the offense, someone here mentioned how Citi is quiet and incredible boring. Of course it is that way when the team is mediocre. However, if a hometeam player hits a HR hometeam, boring disappears and is replaced with exciting in a heartbeat!

    Trim the fence downward in LF, move the fences in a bit, get rid of the indentation in RF (mo zone) and let’s see what happens!

  • peter mcgovern

    What was their home record? What was their road record? I don’t want to hear about their pitchers being hurt by changing the walls. There wasn’t any pitching. Case closed, bring them in.

  • Metsense

    The height of the fences and the irregularities in the dimensions actually make watching the games less enjoyable. A fair and equitable ballfield with one unusual quirk to give it character is much more appealing to me. The reason to change the fences and dimensions is to make the game more enjoyable for the fan because 10 years from noe Bay and Wright won’t even be here but the new dimensions will.

  • lindro

    Id like to think this move is not based on next years team. The move is being made for the long haul, so that future free agents with power wont look elsewhere. Anyone thinking about this ballpark in terms of next season is missing the point. Alderson is going to try and build a team ready to compete in two or three years and part of that is going to be not demoralizing his team by seeing easy homeruns hit that rediculous 16 foot high wall. leave it to the Mets to put that stupid wall there in the first place.

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