Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Mets Need Home Run Hitters At Home

Photo by Clayton Collier/Mets Merized Online

One of Sandy Alderson's top priorities this offseason is to acquire a legitimate power hitter.  After all, Marlon Byrd led the team this past season with 21 homers despite the fact that he finished the year in Pittsburgh.  It was the second time in three seasons that the team's home run leader closed out the year on another team, as Carlos Beltran led the Mets with 15 homers in 2011 before he was traded to San Francisco.

Since the Mets moved from Shea Stadium to Citi Field in 2009, the only players to hit more than 21 home runs in a season are David Wright (29 HR in 2010) and Ike Davis (32 HR in 2012).  Meanwhile, the Oakland A's and Atlanta Braves each had four players with at least 21 homers this past season alone.  Both teams won division titles in 2013.

When Citi Field first opened its doors nearly five years ago, the baseball cognoscenti deemed it a pitchers' park.  With the high walls in left field and the deep power alleys (it was 415 feet to one spot just to the right of straightaway center field), fly ball pitchers would not have to worry about opposing hitters taking them deep as often as they would at various other ballparks around the league.

But after two seasons of the pitcher-friendly dimensions, it was decided by the Mets' brass that the heights of the walls should be lowered and those walls should also be moved closer to home plate.  The Mets had averaged 56 home runs per season at Citi Field in 2009 and 2010 and the team felt the more fair dimensions would help its players produce more long balls.  Since the walls were moved in, they've certainly seen more balls leave the yard.  They're just seeing them come off their opponents' bats.

Let's look at the home run production by the Mets and their opponents compiled over the last two seasons of Citi Field's old dimensions and compare that to the power production for the first two seasons of the new, more fair dimensions of the park.

Mets HR (Citi Field)
Mets HR (Road)
Opponents HR (Citi Field)
Opponents HR (Road)

During the last two seasons of the old dimensions (2010 and 2011), both the Mets and their opponents hit more home runs away from Citi Field than they did in Flushing.  In fact, Mets pitchers allowed 70 more home on the road than they did at Citi Field in 2010 and 2011.  But once the fences were lowered and moved in, the opposition took full advantage of the change while Mets' hitters barely noticed the dimensional differences.

In 2010 and 2011, the Mets hit 12 more home runs on the road than they did at home.  In the two years since the dimensional switch at Citi Field, the difference in home runs on the road versus home runs at home has actually increased to 17, meaning the Mets have been finding it more difficult to hit home runs at Citi Field even with the outfield walls lowered and moved in.  Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case for the Mets' opponents.

After holding opponents to 105 home runs at Citi Field in 2010 and 2011, Mets' pitchers allowed a whopping 178 homers in Flushing in 2012 and 2013.  Meanwhile, they've only given up 135 home runs on the road over the same time period.

Let's look at that again from a different angle.  In the last two years of the old dimensions at Citi Field, the Mets outhomered their opponents, 113-105.  But in the first two years under Citi Field's new outfield wall configurations, the Mets were outhomered by their opponents, 178-126.

Joey and Iggy Beartran let it be known that they want more homers at Citi Field by Mets hitters, not their opponents.

Clearly, the change in dimensions at Citi Field was made to help the Mets score more runs via the long ball.  But all it has done so far is make opposing hitters salivate every time they come to the plate.  After allowing 70 more home runs on the road than at home in 2010 and 2011, Mets' pitchers have given up 43 fewer homers away from Citi Field than they have in their home ballpark.  That's an alarming difference.

The Mets need to improve their offense in 2014, especially in the home run department.  But perhaps they should also reconsider what they thought was a good plan going into the 2012 campaign.  The new dimensions have only been advantageous to hitters wearing road grays.

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