Over at the U-T, Bill Center has an article on Yonder Alonso, with a lot of quotes from the new San Diego Padres first basemen:
“A lot of left-handed hitters and first basemen are thinking home runs,” Alonso continued. “That’s not the type of left-handed hitter I am.
“When I look at Petco Park, I don’t see how far away the fences are. I see a lot of grass. I feel like this ballpark likes the kind of hitter I am.”
It’s certainly refreshing to see Alonso embracing his new digs, regardless of how he’ll feel come June. He goes on:
“The fences are closer in Cincinnati,” reasoned Alonso. “The outfielders are packed into a smaller space. A lot of balls in the gaps get caught. There isn’t nearly as much grass in Cincinnati as there is here.”
He’s right, there’s more green in Petco’s outfield than Great American Ballpark’s. However, it’s unclear whether line-drive hitter’s can neutralize (even to a degree) Petco’s ability to suppress offense.
Sure, a screaming liner that barely gets off the ground will play anywhere. The real question, though, is the gap line-drive that should fall for a double in most parks. In Petco, that ball has a tendency to hang up in the air and gently fall into the glove of a waiting outfielder. Think marine layer.
Petco always ranks at (or near) the bottom of the league in its ability to prevent not only runs, but also doubles. According to research at Beyond the Boxscore, here are the five toughest hitter’s parks from 2006-2010:
Note that these PFs include away games, so to truly isolate the Petco effect you would double these figures (Petco suppresses doubles by 20 percent, for example).
You can see that Petco is clearly the best all-around pitcher’s park in the league. Interestingly, though, there’s a larger discrepancy between Petco and the other pitcher’s parks for doubles per ball in play than HR/BIP. In fact, no team’s home park comes close to Petco in stifling doubles, which while not as devastating as a home run are certainly a more frequent event.
Further, Petco actually increases strikeouts more than any other park. It’s a deadly combination that’s earned Petco its deserved reputation as Killer of All Things Offense. It’s important to note, however, that it doesn’t just eat up home runs.
Alonso may still be a better fit for Petco than Rizzo, but he won’t be able to escape its overall negative impact on offense.