How Playing in AT&T Park Would Impact the Oakland A's

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How Playing in AT&T Park Would Impact the Oakland A's
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

"Welcome to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics."

Don't laugh. We might actually be saying that in real life before long.

As reported by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle, Major League Baseball is on board with the idea of having the A's play home games at the home of the Giants if officials for O.Co Coliseum can't get a new short-term lease agreement done.

If it happens, it would start next season and it wouldn't be a one-year thing. It would a two-year thing, one that would likely serve as a stepping stone for the A's to leave the Bay Area.

How likely is this to happen? Meh, not very. This reeks of a negotiation ploy to get Coliseum officials to agree to a two-year lease extension with the A's, which is probably what will happen.

However, this isn't altogether impossible. The Giants would stand to get some extra rent money, and the A's would stand to generate some extra revenue by virtue of playing their home games at a stadium that isn't a decrepit, sewage-soaked nightmare. Also, both the A's and Giants would probably be looking forward to the A's leaving the Bay Area.

Besides which, that the idea is even on the table gives us an excuse to wonder what the A's would be like if they played home games at AT&T Park rather than at O.Co Coliseum. 

After looking at various factors, I can say with some confidence that they'd be a lot like, well, the A's.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

From a roster standpoint, the 2014 A's should look a lot like the 2013 A's in the end. It's not as if general manager Billy Beane has to shake things up like that one time he was Brad Pitt inMoneyball, as the A's won 96 games and the AL West title this past season.

They also don't have many free-agent matters to see to. Grant Balfour and Bartolo Colon are key pieces headed for the open market, but the only other A's players set to hit the free-agent waters are Kurt Suzuki and Chris Young. 

If it can be taken for granted that the 2014 club is going to be a lot like the 2013 club, one presumes that the A's offense will once again rely heavily on those two things that are so very Moneyball: on-base percentage and home runs.

Per FanGraphs, the A's tied for sixth in MLB in OBP and finished third in home runs in 2013. According to Baseball-Reference.com, they were one of seven teams that had as many as four players who hit at least 20 home runs: Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Coco Crisp. Barring a trade, all four will be back in 2014.

One doesn't worry about OBP in light of the possible move to AT&T Park, but one does wonder about the home runs. AT&T Park's reputation as a destroyer of home runs precedes it, after all.

But then one stops wondering, as one remembers that O.Co Coliseum isn't a home run haven in its own right. In fact, it's non-homer-havenness is comparable to that of AT&T Park.

If we go to ESPN.com and look at the home run park factors for the two ballparks since 2004...

O.co Coliseum vs. AT&T Park: Home Run Park Factors
Park 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 AVG
O.Co 1.089 0.896 0.852 0.786 0.988 0.927 0.701 0.786 0.859 0.818 0.870
AT&T 0.899 0.911 0.681 0.808 0.992 0.970 0.885 0.596 0.522 0.768 0.803

ESPN.com

You'll have to pardon the crude math and the crude pun, but the average home run park factor of .870 for O.Co over the last decade is basically in the same ballpark as the .803 mark for AT&T Park. 

And that sounds about right. AT&T is a hard ballpark to hit home runs in, but O.Co is no joke. It's 400 feet to straightaway center field and doesn't have a short porch down either line.

A move from O.co to AT&T for a couple seasons therefore would be unlikely to cripple Oakland's offense. If the A's can succeed as a homer-heavy team in Oakland, they would be able to do the same playing across the bay instead. Some home runs would be lost, but not a huge amount.

What's more, the A's have the goods to take advantage of the one perk AT&T Park does offer hitters: triples.

For a park that contains a right-center field gap known as "Triples Alley," you won't be surprised to see that there's more of a gap between AT&T and O.Co when it comes to their triples park factors over the last decade.

O.Co Coliseum vs. AT&T Park: Triples Park Factors
Park 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 AVG
O.Co 0.682 0.792 0.931 1.259 0.536 1.13 1.474 0.897 1.091 1.316 1.011
AT&T 1.812 1.063 1.049 1.364 1.875 1.111 0.842 1.038 0.808 1.951 1.291

ESPN.com

An average triples park factor of 1.011 for Oakland and of 1.291 for San Francisco once again sounds about right. O.Co has large gaps for the ball to squirt through, but AT&T has both large gaps for the ball to squirt through and nooks and crannies for the ball to get lost in.

The Giants have been taking advantage of AT&T Park's triple-friendliness over the last couple seasons, as their total of 92 triples since the start of 2012 leads MLB. Of those, a majority (49) have come at home. 

The A's have held their own on the triples front, however. They're tied for 12th in the league in triples over the last two seasons, and in 2013 they were one of only five teams that had as many as six players with at least three triples. Of those six, only Chris Young doesn't figure to be back in 2014.

Just as important as the fact that the A's have guys who can hit triples at AT&T Park is the fact that they have a guy who can stop triples from being hit: Josh Reddick.

Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media via MLB.com.

It would be Reddick's job to patrol right field at AT&T Park, which is no easy assignment. It's a big one, and the ricochets can be brutal. Michael Cuddyer will vouch.

But Reddick could handle it. Among qualified right fielders, he finished third in range runs above average in 2013. Over the last two seasons, the only right fielder with more range runs above average than Reddick is Jason Heyward. Reddick has an arm too, as only Torii Hunter has more outfield assists over the last two seasons among right fielders.

Short version: Reddick could handle AT&T Park's only real defensive challenge. No doubt about it.

A's pitchers would approve, and having Reddick's ongoing studliness in right field isn't the only thing they would like about pitching at AT&T Park.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The one nice thing about playing in a home ballpark that hurts offense is the fact that the door swings both ways. A bad park for hitting means a good park for pitching, and Giants pitchers can tell you all about pitching at AT&T Park.

Over the last five seasons, only the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres have a better home ERA than the Giants. This is indeed related to how their home HR/FB rate since 2009 is the lowest in MLB.

That's good news for Oakland pitchers. Because if there's one thing they love doing, it's inducing fly balls.

A's pitchers have accumulated the highest FB percent in MLB over the last two seasons. In 2013, the staff's FB percent of 40.8 was more than four points higher than the next highest on the list.

And no, it wasn't all A.J. Griffin. He served up more fly balls than any other qualified starter in MLB by a long shot, but the A's had a dozen pitchers with a higher FB percent than the league average of 34.3 percent. Of those 12, only Colon and Balfour aren't locked up for 2014.

The A's collective fly-ball habit played just fine at O.Co Coliseum in 2013, as only three clubs served up a lower home HR/FB rate than Oakland's 8.0. The A's would be able to do just fine at AT&T Park. Probably even better.

Would the A's be a better or worse team playing home games at AT&T Park?

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Better would be, um, better in this case, as the A's would need extra fly balls going for outs to make up for the one thing they would lose going from O.Co to AT&T.

The Coliseum has more foul ground than any other park in baseball, and it helped A's pitchers record more outs in foul ground than any other staff in 2013. That was nothing new, as no team in MLB has recorded as many outs in foul ground over the last decade as the A's have.

The A's would be missing the extra foul outs at AT&T Park. But since a few extra fly balls could be going for outs, they likely wouldn't be missing it too much.

So then. All in all, how would the A's fare if they had to exchange O.Co Coliseum for AT&T Park for 81 home games?

Well, they have a homer-happy offense that's already succeeding despite a homer-suppressing ballpark, the personnel to take advantage of Triples Alley, a stud who could handle AT&T Park's tough right field, and a pitching staff with a fly-ball style that would play well there. In light of all these things, I think the A's would fare just fine.

Heck, given what's on the table, it's almost like the A's have been planning ahead for a possible move to AT&T Park for a while now.

Which...Uhhh...Hmmm...

 

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

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