San Francisco Giants: Leveling the Playing Field

Michael NorthCorrespondent IMarch 15, 2008

When resurrecting a decrepit franchise, general managers often try to think outside the box. In the San Francisco Giants’ situation, they should simply make the box smaller.

In other words, bringing in the fences at AT&T Park will help the Giants win more games.

Reducing ballpark dimensions is not unheard of in baseball’s history. Upon opening in 1923, Yankee Stadium boasted dimensions of 500ft in left center, 490ft in center and 429ft in right center. Over the years, the Stadium has grown kinder to hitters as the dimensions have been diminished considerably to 399ft, 408ft and 385ft respectively.

Venerable Fenway Park also has seen its center field measurement shrink from 488ft in 1922 to 390ft.  The deepest point has been reduced from 550ft to 420ft as seen in the present day.

Speaking of the present, Detroit’s Comerica Park received a face-lift after complaints that home runs were just too hard to come by. The left centerfield fence was brought in from 395ft to 370ft to accommodate hitters in 2003.   

AT&T currently boasts some of the deepest dimensions in the league with measurements of 339ft down the left field line, 404ft in the left center alley and a ridiculous 421ft in the right field alley. Barry Bonds may have made home run hitting look easy in San Francisco, but for normal players, round-trippers are hard to come by in the City by the Bay.

Even with Bonds last season, the Giants ranked 25th out of 30 teams in total home runs and dead last in slugging percentage. How hard was it to hit a home run in AT&T last season? No lefties (Ryan Howard, Justin Morneau, Prince Fielder) advanced to the second round of last year’s home run derby held in San Francisco. The loss of Pedro Feliz compounds the Giants’ power outage woes as he and Bonds combined for 48 of the team’s 131 home runs.

Why would a sudden spike in home runs help the Giants?

Because powerful teams are successful teams. The Yankees, Red Sox and Indians all ranked in the top ten in the AL in total home runs while the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Rockies placed in the top ten in the NL for the same category. The Teams that were just mentioned, along with the Angels and Cubs, ranked in the top 10 in their respective leagues in terms of slugging percentage.

This is significant because these eight teams comprised the 2007 postseason, something the Giants would love to attend this year. Hitting home runs gives teams a greater chance to come back and win. For instance, all seemed lost when the Giants trailed by five or more runs.

Conversely, no lead seems safe when teams play in New York or Philadelphia. To illustrate further, the Giants were 17-17 in blowout games last year (games decided by 5+ runs) while the Yankees were 46-19. The Yankees were either able to bury their opponents or come from behind with the home run.

Granted, the Yankees lineup is superior to that of the Giants but players such as Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, Jorge Posada and Melky Cabrera would all experience sharp declines in power numbers in a park like AT&T. The Giants’ massive stadium made it impossible for the team to significantly increase leads or make serious attempts at comebacks.

The current roster in San Francisco will never be confused with Murderer’s Row. There has been speculation that Randy Winn will bat third with Bengie Molina batting cleanup. Neither player hit over 20 homers last season. 

Aaron Rowand’s big fly total will surely shrivel up as he leaves hitter friendly Citizen’s Bank Park for cavernous AT&T. The rest of the lineup features slap hitters and veterans playing well past their prime. If chicks dig the long ball, AT&T Park will be reminiscent of an all-boys school.

Bringing in AT&T’s fences will allow Giants’ hitters to swat homers with more frequency. However, other teams hit on the same field too. But that is the beauty of it. The Giants’ starting rotation is one of the best in baseball. Last season, they allowed the second fewest amount of home runs in the league. They also allowed the fewest amount of road home runs meaning that they can pitch effectively and keep the ball in the ballpark in any stadium.

On that same vein, Giants’ hitters ripped 77 road homers while only hitting 54 jacks in San Francisco proving that the home dimensions are detrimental to their power statistics. Moving in the fences will help Giants’ hitters but should have little to no effect on Giants’ pitchers.

This proposal should not be seen as drastic. Bringing in the power alleys to 390ft would place AT&T in line with most stadiums in the league. The hitters would hit more home runs giving the team bigger leads and an easier time making comebacks. The pitching staff would hardly be affected as they surrendered just five more homers on the road than at home.

San Francisco has also had a rough time bringing in offensive free agents and one cannot blame them. AT&T is currently a place where a hitter’s statistics go to die so why would any lefty want to don the orange and black? A more homer friendly park will attract a better crop of free agent hitters. Giants’ management also couldn’t argue with all the extra seats made available in the outfield bleachers.

All this idea needs is for Giants’ ownership to sign a construction company. That would be a better signing than any of Brian Sabean’s in the last five years.


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