I recently wrote an article detailing how Edinson Volquez’s awful – and they were awful – 2011 numbers would look if he pitched in pitcher friendly Petco Park, not in the homer happy Great American Ballpark (found here). Spoiler alert: it’s only a modest improvement, something less than half of a run off of his ERA. Now, that isn’t to say he won’t show other improvement because he will, especially once some of his numbers begin to regress back towards his norms.
Anyway, the whole idea got me thinking. You know, got the ol’ wheels-a-churnin’.
Yes, Petco Park is an extreme pitcher’s park, but what position player(s) would be an ideal fit for it, without losing too much of their peak value (i.e. value in a neutral park)? Obviously, throwing a Jose Bautista- or a Ryan Braun-type player in Petco will hinder their production a little bit, but for the most part they’ll still be elite performers. Think Adrian Gonzalez, for example.
So, which player(s), if any, would benefit by playing there?
Well, many of the park factors for Petco found on StatCorner.com are within five percentage points for both left-handed and right-handed hitters. The large discrepancies, however, are doubles (86 PF for LHB and 72 PF for RHB), triples (116 LHB / 94 RHB), and homeruns (59 LHB / 95 RHB).
So, ideally, the team should look for either: a left-handed hitter that relies heavily on doubles and triples and little on homerun production, or a right-handed hitter whose main source of production comes from homeruns. Obviously, higher OBPs/walk rates are beneficial regardless of handedness. Defensively, they should be at least average because you don’t want to take an advantage (strong pitching environment) and make it a weakness.
Who fits the criteria? And remember: triples for left-handed hitters are the only offensive category listed above that is aided by Petco Park.
Several southpaws would be ideal fits. Namely: Carl Crawford, Stephen Drew, Michael Bourn, Denard Span, Geraldo Parra, Seth Smith, Nyjer Morgan, the Padres’ own Will Venable. All play average or better defense, rely heavily upon triples, and consequently their speed, and their overall production wouldn’t be hindered much by the park’s impact on their homeruns because, well, they don’t hit many. However, the best fit would be Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner.
Think about it: Not only is Gardner an elite defender – his UZR/150 since 2010, 36.8, is more than double than the next closest total – but his triples rate (3B/AB) is the ninth highest in baseball since that time too; he is also quite efficient on the base paths, swiping 90 bags in 118 attempts (81.4% success rate) and his overall doubles total at home from last year would have decreased by less than one because Yankee Stadium also hinders left-handed doubles. Plus, he owns a career 10.9% walk rate.
Basically, Gardner’s production would largely remain intact whether he remained where he is, or shifted to Petco Park. And, truthfully, it would probably increase because of the amount of triples he hits if he did move.
The perfect fit for right-handed hitters is quite a bit broader. Their doubles are greatly impacted, by almost 30%, while their homeruns and triples are, surprisingly, left untouched. So the ideal right-handed hitter would be heavy on HRs and triples and less on doubles. And, again, defense and OBP are just as important.
So there’s really no wrong answer, just as long as the hitter is a power hitter that plays solid defense and will willing to take the occasional walk. And just for comparison’s sake, there is less of an impact on a right-handed homerun hitter than, say, Pujols’ new home park, Angels Stadium of Anaheim.
There’s really no switch hitter that could play in San Diego that won’t have a large negative impact on his overall performance. Think how rare a player would have to be: a left-handed triples machine and a right handed homerun hitter. He doesn’t exist in baseball now, though Shane Victorino might be the closest. Or maybe Jose Reyes.
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