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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mariners moving in fences at Safeco Field

The Mariners are planning to move in the fences at Safeco Field for the 2013 season to make it less of a pitchers’ park and more hitter-friendly.

Here are the changes they plan to make, according to the Seattle Times:

- The biggest change will be from left-center to straightaway center, where the wall will be moved in anywhere from four to 17 feet.

– From the left-field corner to the left-center power alley, the wall will come in four feet. Also, the hand-operated scoreboard that currently makes for a 16-foot-high wall to clear will be moved elsewhere, leaving the wall 8-feet-high.

– The distance to the left-center power alley will decrease from 390 to 378 feet.

– Straightaway center will decline from 405 to 401 feet.

– From straightaway center to the right-center power alley will change four feet from 385 to 381.

Safeco Field opened in July, 1999 as the Mariners’ new home ballpark. Unlike the Mariners’ previous home — the Kingdome — Safeco Field quickly gained a reputation as a pitchers’ park.

Safeco Field currently ranks last in ESPN’s Park Factor ratings which measures the stats of a team at home versus on the road to determine whether its home park favors hitters or pitchers. In every year ESPN has measured Park Factor since 2001, Safeco Field has rated as a pitchers’ park. Safeco Field’s Park Factor has never been higher than 18th in a season, according to ESPN’s stats. The Mariners ranked last in the AL in home runs from 2009-2011.

If you look at the splits for many current Mariners players, you’ll see that many of them have an OPS about 200 points higher on the road than at home. That’s just an absurd amount.

MLB.com reports that in the 13 seasons since Safeco Field has been the full-time home of the Mariners, the team has only had a higher batting average at home than on the road twice (in 2005 and ’08). They have only hit more home runs at home than on the road three times (2004, ’07, and ’11).

Safeco Field has long had a reputation for being such a pitchers’ park that they’ve had trouble attracting right-handed power hitters. Since the Mariners began playing full-time there in 2000, the highest home run total for one of their hitters is 41 by Alex Rodriguez in 2000. Rodriguez hit 13 of his home runs at home that season and 28 on the road. Adrian Beltre clubbed 48 home runs for the Dodgers in 2004 before signing with Seattle. He never topped 26 home runs in a season with the Mariners, but he’s hit at least 28 in every season since leaving Seattle.

Here’s a look at the home run totals for the player who led the Mariners each season since they moved into Safeco Field:

2000 – 41 A-Rod, 37 Edgar Martinez
2001 – 37 Bret Boone
2002 – 25 Bret Boone, Mike Cameron
2003 – 35 Bret Boone
2004 – 24 Bret Boone
2005 – 39 Richie Sexson
2006 – 34 Richie Sexson
2007 – 26 Adrian Beltre
2008 – 25 Adrian Beltre
2009 – 31 Russell Branyan
2010 – 15 Russell Branyan
2011 – 19 Miguel Olivo

About the only player whose power stats were not affected by the park were Richie Sexson’s, who was one of the biggest power hitters in baseball. For nearly everyone else, what would have been home runs elsewhere turned into fly ball outs. Doubles off the wall elsewhere became outs.

It’s awfully tough to win when your park is that big. The Mariners have finally learned that lesson and that is why they’re bringing in the fences. Hopefully that evens things out for their hitters.

Courtesy of MLB.com, here’s how Safeco Field will look:



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