Photo via Geekwire.com
Seattle Mariners fans will be walking into a new-look Safeco Field Monday night, and will surely be in awe at the newly completed 11,000-square-foot Jumbotron in center field.
Slightly less in your face are the new dimensions of Safeco (via Nick Eaton of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer). The distances of both the left-field and right-field foul lines will be the same (331 and 326 feet, respectively), but the fences were moved in from left center to right center, and as far as 17 feet in the left-center power alley. The longest distance from home plate will move from 409 to 405 feet.
The assumed end results of these changes are an increase in run production to help an offense on a three-year slump, for one. Another plus will be more long balls, captivating fans and decreasing the frequency of low-scoring games.
But these changes will benefit opposing teams as well, so with that in mind let us take a look at how these new dimensions will help and hurt the Mariners.
According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Safeco Field allowed the fewest home runs per game among American League ballparks (1.43) in 2012. Needless to say the power outage didn't make the games very exciting to watch.
The decrease in distance between home plate and the outfield fence will encourage more balls to leave the yard, attracting more viewers and increasing ticket revenue.
With the added power on the roster this season—including Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales—the new dimensions will help the Mariners in this facet.
As I mentioned before, the assumed increase in offensive production by both the Mariners and opposing teams will ideally get more butts in seats. According to ESPN.com, Safeco Field had one of the worst attendance totals in all of baseball last season, averaging 44.4 percent capacity.
Let's face it, fans would rather see home runs than a hard-fought 2-1 gritty pitchers duel.
Hopefully there will be no shortage of fireworks this year in Seattle, keeping the people in and the seagulls out.
The Mariners' outfield got a little slower this season, and the tighter dimensions will allow outfielders to track down balls in the gap faster, cutting down on extra-base hits.
This goes both ways, though, so speed on the basepaths will be valued at a premium.
More runs means pitchers' ERAs will take a hit. It won't be anything like pitching at Coors Field, but we can all expect to see a slight rise in ERA for the staff as a whole this season due to the new dimensions.
The Mariners needed change, and the new dimensions of Safeco Field provide that. It remains to be seen how much those dimensions will help and hurt the club.