Mike Cameron, Richie Sexson, And The Safeco Effect

There's not a ton going on right now, so I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on a couple bits of conventional wisdom. Those would be:

1. Safeco Field destroyed Mike Cameron.
2. Richie Sexson was immune to the Safeco effect.

These aren't the least bit topical, since Sexson hasn't been a Mariner since July 2008 and Cameron hasn't been a Mariner since 2003, but, learning, all right!

Up first, we have Mike Cameron. I think Exhibit A of Safeco Field destroying a hitter has been and will always be Jeff Cirillo, but Cirillo only came to the plate 840 times as a Mariner, so his numbers can only tell us so much. However, Cameron is Exhibit B, and he batted 2,528 times as a Mariner before leaving for New York. What do we see in his splits?

Cameron in Seattle, 2000-2003: .223/.328/.373
Cameron on road, 2000-2003:
.286/.370/.514

At home, Cameron hit about as well as Marlon Anderson. On the road, he was practically Moises Alou. Given the sample sizes and the extreme nature of the splits, Safeco's "true" effect on Cameron was probably a bit less than it seems, but even so, holy crap. Cammy does a lot of his damage to the left-center power alley and back up the middle, and that's the perfect recipe for Safeco to knock you down and fart on your face. Sorry, Mike.

And up next, Richie Sexson. From the time he was signed, a popular line of thought was that Sexson was "too powerful" to be hurt by Safeco Field. That he hit balls too hard for wind or big alleys to take their toll. Results?

Sexson in Seattle, 2005-2008: .228/.318/.453
Sexson on road, 2005-2008: .259/.351/.494

We don't see a Cameron-style extreme split, but even so, that's a 74-point OPS difference. Keep in mind that the average hitter tends to be about 30 OPS points better at home than on the road. Sexson's split was 74 points the other way. Safeco didn't end up hurting his home run rate, but it clipped his doubles, it clipped his singles, and it added to his strikeouts. In short, Sexson and Safeco Field didn't exactly get along all buddy-buddy.

This will come as news to nobody, but Safeco Field can be kind of a bitch.

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