Jeff Francoeur decided to blame something other than himself for his offensive struggles during his time with the New York Mets last season. In 124 games, Francoeur hit just .237 with 11 home runs, 54 RBI and a .300 OBP.
So who, according to Francoeur is to blame for his poor performance? Well, it's not a who, but rather a what.
"Citi Field is a damn joke," Francoeur told a Kansas City Royals blog yesterday.
Francoeur, who was traded to the Texas Rangers on August 31, refused an outright assignment and became a free agent this season, signed a one-year deal with the Kansas City Royals this offseason.
Francoeur says he's now a 20 home run, 40 doubles player with the move to Kansas City.
So is it sour grapes or is Francoeur right to blame Citi Field?
According to ESPN's Park Factor system, Citi Field is the fourth worst park for home runs in baseball at just 0.719. A rate over 1.000 favors the hitter, under favors the pitcher. Citi Field also ranks in the bottom five for hits (0.934) and doubles (0.870).
Francoeur's home/road splits certainly show he was better on the road while with the Mets last season, but he wasn't putting up better numbers really.
Home: .223/.267/.361 5 HR, 31 RBI
Away: .251/.319/.377 6 HR, 23 RBI
Was he better on the road? Yes. Was he good on the road? No. Whether at Citi Field or away from it's pitcher friendly confines, Francoeur wasn't a productive player on the Mets.
However, Francoeur is not wrong when he says Citi Field can cost hitters in the stat columns.
Both David Wright and Jason Bay have pointed to Citi Field as a reason they've seen their power numbers drop since it opened in 2009.
In his first season at Citi Field, Wright hit just 10 home runs. Five of his home runs came at Citi Field, where he hit .298 and collected 14 of his 39 doubles. On the road, Wright's batting average increased to .314.
Last season, Wright bounced back nicely, hitting .283 with 29 home runs and 103 RBI. His splits were actually better at home than on the road, but he did manage five more home runs while away.
Home: .288/.383/.496 12 HR 52 RBI
Road: .278/.326/.508 17 HR 51 RBI
“If they change [the dimensions at Citi Field], they change it. If not, you’ve got to deal with it. It’s ultimately their call. You have to go out there and adapt. I do think that playing in bigger ballparks can be beneficial to kind of the team that we have right now," Wright told Adam Rubin of ESPN.
Are Mets hitters right to blame Citi Field?
"But, at the same time, of course it’s frustrating when you think you hit a ball pretty good to right-center, to left-center and the guy catches it at the warning track. I mean, it’s frustrating. You’ve got to adapt and you’ve got to understand that some of those home runs might get taken away, but the outfield is so big that some of those cheap bloopers fall that might not fall in Philadelphia or Cincinnati are going to fall in at Citi Field.”
Citi Field is rather favorable in the corners. It's 330 feet to the right field corner, and 335 feet to left field, but the height of the left field wall doesn't help anything.
The biggest problem with the stadium is the right field wall and the right-center field gap. It's 415 feet to the wall in that gap, and while Jose Reyes certainly loves to rip balls there and leg out his triples, it doesn't help anyone in the power department.
The Mets hit 63 home runs at home and 65 on the road, up from 49 and 46, respectively, in 2009.
While the dimensions of Citi Field aren't going to give away an easy home run, there are benefits to the hitters. Doubles and triples are much easier to obtain for even the slowest of runners. Jason Bay, who managed just four home runs at Citi Field last season in 159 at-bats, collected four triples there.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson has said there are no plans to change Citi Field, so hitters will just have to man up. It's a stadium built for speed and defense. Power isn't the only factor in winning games and if the Mets manage to win a lot of them, no one is going to care how many home runs they hit.
When the 2011 season starts, the Mets will look to get big production from a healthy Reyes, Bay and Carlos Beltran, something they didn't have for most of last season, and if certain factors go the Mets' way, they can be a productive team.
Hitting home runs puts fans in the seats, but so does winning, and the Mets have not been doing much of either lately.