Corey Hart and the fight against Safeco

Christian Petersen

In which Logan takes almost four months to figure out that there might be a downside to this whole Corey Hart thing.

When the Mariners signed Corey Hart in December, blogosphere reaction was pretty universally positive. LL had been on the Hartwagon for a while: we made him a key piece of our Offseason Plan a month after Scott wrote an entire article promoting bringing him in. It'd be fair to call him a darLLing.

Thing is, though, that Corey Hart's been having one godawful spring. I'm not going to cite statistics, mostly because you don't need them to know it's been ugly. Strikeouts everywhere, no power to speak of... and while I'm not terribly worried about his performance, because this is Spring Training, I can't say that watching the guy stink up the place has me brimming with confidence.

That's not enough, though. If I wrote an article every time I got the heebie-jeebies about a player, I still wouldn't have any free time, but I'd also be sleep-deprived. No, the really interesting thing about the Corey Hart signing is the one "blogger" who doesn't seem to like it much: former Mariners executive Tony Blengino.

Since leaving the Mariners, Tony's been working over at Fangraphs, where he's been churning out some of the most consistently well-thought-out and novel articles on the site. Part of the extra-special fun of Blengino's articles is that he's got access to granular batted ball data from his time in the Mariners' front office. Granular batted ball data is what my Reformatted Batted Ball Data wishes it could be: speed off bat, angle off bat, etc. And it tells him some pretty interesting things. To lift a table from a recent post:

Fly Ball Park Factors
Team 2013 Park Factor
COL 176.4
BOS 151.1
SD 136.7
MIL 129.3
BAL 124.9
NYY 116.5
MIN 116.3
NYM 114.7
CWS 114.3
CIN 109.6
CHC 108.2
TEX 103.7
LAD 102.7
DET 102.3
HOU 99.8
TOR 99.8
TB 95.9
OAK 92.9
CLE 92.4
PHI 91.9
WAS 88.8
LAA 84.9
AZ 83.2
ATL 77.7
STL 76.5
MIA 76.1
PIT 76.1
SF 76
SEA 71.8
KC 70

There's some fascinating stuff in this table. For instance: did you know that San Diego was the third-best park for fly ball hitters last year? Did you know that Arizona was a seriously fly-ball-hitter-unfriendly park?

...and did you know that Safeco Field was the second-worst place in baseball for a fly ball hitter, after only Kansas City?

Corey Hart, luckily, is not an extreme fly ball hitter. But he's definitely a fly ball hitter. His 2009-2013 fly ball percentage ranks 93rd out of 347 qualified batters, and while his OPPO% is around 9%, remember that OPPO% gets a big boost from park effects and from just generally hitting the ball hard. Corey Hart just came from Miller Park, and he hits the ball hard - mostly to left field, where Safeco Field is still pretty big.

Yes, Corey Hart was the best buy for right-handed power on the free agent market. But is right-handed power even a thing that the Mariners should've been buying? I mean, they definitely do need someone in the lineup so that Joe Saunders or whoever can't obliterate their all-lefty team, and only half of the games they play are in Safeco, but man this guy is a bad fit for the park. All the regression in the world isn't going to let Safeco Field compare to Miller Park. Wouldn't it make way more sense if the team's good right-handed hitters were more Ichiroesque slappy guys?

Maybe not. Maybe that's the kind of thinking that led to Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. Corey Hart's here now, so the point's kind of moot. But darLLing or no, there's definitely reason to be concerned about his production. He's a fly ball hitter moving from baseball's fourth most fly ball friendly park to its second least fly ball friendly park, and he's a pull-power righty moving to Safeco. He's maybe the worst fit for the park imaginable. That's cause for concern, spring training strikeouts or no.

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