Mariners Nearing Safeco Field Decision

move 'em back?

Do you like how that headline makes it sound as if I have inside information? Here is the inside information that I have - with every passing day, we get one day closer to the offseason. In the offseason, the Seattle Mariners will decide once more whether or not they'll make adjustments to Safeco Field. Therefore, the Mariners are nearing decision time on Safeco Field. In this way I have spun something that isn't informative into something that sounds like it will be. Tricks of the trade, my friends.

Anyhow, Scott Miller:

The Padres are expected to move Petco Park's fences in this winter -- at the very least, in right field and in right-center. The Mariners internally are considering modifications to pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, though there are no indications yet that they will move to do so.

The Mets did it this season at Citi Field and are thrilled with the results.

That's pretty much all the article says about the Mariners, as the majority of the rest of it focuses on the Mets and the minority of the rest of it focuses on the Padres. And it doesn't tell us anything new. We were already aware that the Mariners are considering making changes. The Mariners have probably talked about potential changes every offseason since Safeco opened. The Mariners' representatives were very open about the subject at the recent USSM/LL blog event. So far, the Mariners have decided against doing anything much aside from altering the batter's eye, but the conversation's ongoing. Just because the Mariners didn't do anything a year ago doesn't mean they wouldn't do anything before next year begins.

So I don't know why I'm posting this. I guess because there is something interesting about the Mets and Citi Field. The Mets moved into Citi Field in 2009, and it developed a reputation as a pitcher-friendly, power-sapping ballpark. Before this season, the Mets changed Citi Field to make it play more fair. Here is how the Mets' hitters have done:

2009-2011

Home: .731 OPS
Road: .704 OPS

2012

Home: .701 OPS
Road:. 749 OPS

For three years, the Mets hit better at home than on the road. For four months so far since the changes, the Mets have hit considerably worse at home than on the road. This is a small sample size, and it doesn't take into consideration any strength-of-opponent factors, so it's not conclusive. Additionally, the article quotes Mets hitters saying how much better they feel now about the ballpark, and that isn't insignificant. The numbers are just interesting is all. The Mets tried to make Citi Field more hitter-friendly, and the statistics suggest they did the opposite.

What would happen if the Mariners made changes? Well, there would be changes. Beyond that, we can't really say. It would depend on what those changes were, and then the effects would be difficult to predict. We'd just have to see how things would play out, and realistically, we wouldn't have an answer about the effects for at least a couple of seasons. It's easy to say "move in the fences and there will be more runs" but it's hard to know that for sure, and it's all but impossible to predict the side-effects. There's a reason the Mariners haven't figured this out yet, and nothing about this is simple.

My opinion's still the same - things should be adjusted a bit. Left-center, probably dead-center, they seem too deep. There's a difference between making a park less pitcher-friendly and making a park hitter-friendly, and I think the Mariners could use a home environment that's more balanced. Right now the ballpark is not unique in such a way that the Mariners are able to take considerable advantage of it. Some players can, but some players can't, and it's limiting. What changes would allow the Mariners to have a more balanced home ballpark? That's the discussion. It's very complicated. Just look at the Mets! What is going on with those numbers! Adjustments must be made very carefully, and the Mariners might well decide to stand pat this winter. Then next winter they would be able to have the same conversation all over again. They must have so many PowerPoint files.

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