Regardless of Venue, Homers Are Hard to Come By in San Diego

The folks at Gaslamp Ball have a fun article up about polarizing topics for Padres fans. Among the topics is Petco Park’s effect on offense.

It’s a legitimate concern, but part of the discussion centers on a fallacy: “Fans used to seeing home runs fly out of a Qualcomm Stadium at an average rate were bored by the low scoring and defensive driven games.”

Home runs didn’t fly out of Qualcomm Stadium at an average rate. Here are home run park factors and MLB rank for the Padres’ home venues over the past 10 years:

Year   HR Rnk
2001 .881  26
2002 .758  27
2003 .806  26
2004 .691  30
2005 .747  30
2006 .982  15(t)
2007 .685  29
2008 .743  30
2009 .721  29
2010 .856  22

Aside from that bizarre 2006 season, it has been difficult to hit home runs in San Diego for many years (the last time that wasn’t true was ’97), regardless of venue. Despite complaints by certain players, moving to Petco Park didn’t change things much.

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  • The Worst Hitter in Baseball History (FanGraphs). I love Bill Bergen.
  • Denny McLain at the Organ (Recordo Obscura). Pitcher, convict, organist… a real renaissance man. [h/t reader Foster Brooks Robinson]
  • Metafandom, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Superfluous Junk Surrounding Baseball (Baseball Prospectus). Craig Calcaterra pops in for a guest spot. From the article: “There are only so many hours in the day, after all. Sometimes it’s more expedient to turn off the game and get to our rosters, our checklists, our blog posts and — yes, I’ll say it — our spreadsheets.”
  • Ring hoping to stick in M’s bullpen (Kitsap Sun). Former Aztecs and Padres (he’s the other guy in the trade that brought Heath Bell to San Diego) left-hander Royce Ring has landed with the arch-rival Mariners of Seattle. Traitor. [h/t SBNation]
  • Predicting the Hall of Fame Votes, Part I: 2012-2016 (Platoon Advantage). Bill thinks Alan Trammell will finally make it in 2016. I don’t share his optimism, but wouldn’t that be nice? Part 2 covers 2017-2021. Bill likes Trevor Hoffman in 2017, so start making plans…
  • Thoughts in a bookstore (Joe Blogs). From Posnanski’s latest opus: “The thing that constantly strikes me as I walk through bookstores is that every book in there, every single one, was published with the dream of selling many, many copies.” Yeah, we all have that dream at some point… [h/t reader Didi]
  • Heatmaps: for comparison’s sake (Hardball Times). I’m not a visual guy, so it always blows me away when people come up with stuff like this.
  • Spring Training 2011 Question Of The Day: Chicago White Sox (SBNation). Our friend Rob Neyer on ex-Padre Jake Peavy: “Already penciled as perhaps the most expensive No. 5 starter in the majors — well, east of San Francisco Bay, anyway — Peavy is not expected to pitch in a game that counts until the middle of April.” Ouch. Remember when Peavy was a stud?
  • Getting to know RHP Zack Greinke (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). This is a fantastic interview with a fascinating player. Quoth Greinke: “To talk to people, I have to spend energy talking to them. If I expend my energy on talking to people and making friends, it takes away from the energy I could focus on getting ready to pitch. I try to avoid nonsense talk.” This might put some folks off, but as someone who is pretty introverted himself, I get what he’s saying. [h/t BBTF]

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14 Responses »

  1. Pitching, defense, speed and OBP can win anywhere; power only wins in band boxes.

  2. Is it possible that 2006 was the result of the Padres just having more power in the line-up? That was the Piazza year I am pretty sure, so the Padres probably got ~ 35 HRs just from the catchers that year. Add in Cam, Adrian, Giles, KG and even Barfield. I think that was just a line-up that did damage compared to the other years sampled. Were there any other years in that sample that the Padres had 3 guys with over 20 HRs and 6 with over 10?

  3. Maybe I should have checked the numbers first… I think it was where the power cambe from that threw me off (C, CF, SS, 2B)

  4. @ Steve: No matter where you play you still need power. OBP is only half the equation–you have to get on base and hit for power to score runs. Petco just has a dampening effect that you have to live with. It doesn’t affect everyone equally–right-handed hitters actually see a much smaller effect than lefties (I think the park factor for righties is only about 96). But the other team experiences it as well, and the Padres only play half their games at home.

    You aren’t going to win with a team of Luis Durangos. You still need guys to give some pop in the lineup. Part of the issue I think is that most Padre teams in the Petco era just haven’t had very good hitters. Every year, the Phillies come to town and mash, because they have good hitters. If the Padres draft and develop well, you’ll see better hitters and more runs scored.

  5. @Zach: The Phillies hit a robust .163/.250/.250 at Petco last season with 4 total extra base hits, they won with pitching and D holding the Padres to only 3 runs the entire weekend.

  6. @Zach: I guess I should have clarified it by saying homeruns only win games in band boxes, I agree you can’t win playing station to station baseball but you don’t need to hit homeruns to win.

  7. @Steve: They’re better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. :-)

    Seriously though, OBP is a bit more than half the equation, but you don’t want to ignore hitting for power, which doesn’t just mean HR. Guys who drive the ball, who make hard, consistent contact, are important.

    We’re sort of talking in generalities here though. I mean everyone wants a 5-Tool guy at every spot on the diamond and great pitching, but it just doesn’t happen very often. So what do you want most out of the 5 Tools (I’d say they’re really 4 since they separate throwing from fielding and I’d just put them both togther under defense. I guess while I’m at it I’d change hit for average to OBP). First has to be OBP, then I’d take defense (assuming we’re talking about one player having both tools) and I’d sacrifice the power and speed. Given the option I’d take power over speed though. Is this of any interest to anyone other than myself? :-)

  8. re: Royce Ring … I took this picture mainly because it was Nick Schmidt’s first day in Padre uni (iirc), but when I got home and looked at it, I realized I was very close to a classic “Ring Bell” shot …


  9. I read somewhere that while Petco registers a 95, slightly pitcher-friendly, for homers to left, it’s a staggering 67 for homers to right. That means we have to kidnap lefty power hitters to play in Petco.

    On the subject of driving the ball, ESPN ( listed Petco as the worst park in the majors to get a double. Maybe that’s because the outfielders play deep and keep liners in front of them.

    It would be nice to have 3-4 boppers in the lineup, but Petco would blunt their effectiveness so much that Steve C is right – a Petco team has to manufacture runs and use pitching and defense to make those few runs per game hold up.

  10. @zmac: Padres hitters accounted for only 45% of home runs hit at Petco in ’06. The pitchers did a poor job of keeping balls in the park that season as well. Here are Padres home runs allowed at Petco Park over the years:

    2004: 75
    2005: 64
    2006: 92
    2007: 45
    2008: 70
    2009: 68
    2010: 66

    Whatever happened in 2006 affected the Padres and their opponents.

    @Larry: It’s no surprise that our best left-handed power hitter to date has been a guy who consistently drove the ball to left-center. As for doubles, Petco Park has ranked 30th out of the 30 ballparks every year since ’06. I suspect that moving the right-center field fence in prior to that season may have played a role, although even before then, it was bottom 5.

  11. RE 2006: I took a quick look at the 2006 Pads, too, and noted they were still 12th in teh NL in HR (total HR, not just at home). Not surprised to see they allowed so many more than usual.

    @Larry: I disagree. Yes, Petco would blunt their effectiveness, but I doubt it would blunt it so much as to make it undesirable to have them on the team. We still play 81 games on the road and having 3 or 4 legitimate power threats in any lineup is “A Good Thing.” :-)

    I think it would be awesome to have Blanks at 1B, Evan Longoria at 3B and Ryan Braun in LF, for example, but it’s very difficult to develop that many top talents on one team at the same time and we certainly don’t have the budget to go out and buy them.

  12. @Pat: It would be nice to have those guys because they are great hitters and don’t soley rely on the HR ball for production. Now would you feel the same way about Carlos Pena (28 HRs w/ a .325 OBP in 2010) at 1B, Mark Reynolds (32 HRs with a .320 OBPin 2010) at 3B and Matt Kemp (28 HRs with a .310 OBPin 2010) in RF?

  13. @Steve: no to those three, with OBP like those, unless their slugging is unbelievable…think Khalil Greene in his good years.

    I think Pat’s point is that having a bopper doesn’t hurt the lineup and the Padres shouldn’t do away with sluggers all together. We saw how difficult it is to score runs by playing for one or two bases at a time.

  14. @Steve: Not my preference, which is why I stated my preference for OBP to be the primary skill. Yes, the three I mentioned are great hitters who don’t rely soley on HR for their contribution, but they definitely have it as part of they’re game. Not sure what the counter example would be. A high OBP guy with no or very little power? Luis Durango maybe?

    Anyway, I think Didi said it pretty well. No reason to completely ignore someone who can slug, but don’t take power at the expense of either OBP or D would be my preference. It’s tough to put together, as I noted becasue those are special players.