Saturday, October 4, 2014

Mr. Alderson, Don't Move In This Wall

"General Manager Alderson, if you seek pennants, if you seek prosperity for the New York Mets and their fans, if you seek a winning organization, come here to this screen.  Mr. Alderson, look at this screen.  Mr. Alderson, don't move in this wall!"
--what Ronald Reagan might have said had he been alive in 2014 and a Mets fan.

Photo by Robert Sabo/NY Daily News

Sandy Alderson likes home runs.  Always has.  Always will.  And now he's considering moving in the Citi Field outfield fences for the second time during his tenure as Mets general manager in search of the elusive home run for his hitters.  At first glance, it would seem to make sense, as the Mets have finished in the bottom half of the league in home runs since the team moved to Citi Field in 2009.

Also, take a look at the teams who made the playoffs in the National League in recent years.  In 2014, four of the top seven home-run hitting teams made the playoffs, while in 2013, three of the top four home-run launching squads advanced to the postseason.  Alderson knows that pitching wins championships, but he also knows that home runs puts fannies (as well as baseballs) in the seats.  The Mets already have good pitching.  They just need some big boppers to complement them.  There's only one problem with moving in the right field fence, as Alderson has suggested the Mets will do.  It could actually help opposing hitters more than it could help the Mets.

In a post-game press conference after the Mets finished out the season last week, Alderson discussed altering the dimensions of Citi Field.

"We made changes a couple of years ago and I think those have been received well", Alderson said.  "And anything we do will probably be limited to the center, right-center areas. But I think it’ll be good for the game, good for the fans, and I’m sure that one or two of our players will benefit as well.”

One or two of our players, he says?  Received well, he says?  Well, allow me to retort.

The Mets have eight everyday players on the team.  Helping one or two of them is not going to produce the ten or twelve extra wins the team probably needs to make the playoffs.  In fact, something Alderson neglected to mention is how many players on opposing teams this could benefit.  And judging by the numbers posted by the opposition since the last time the movers were called in to adjust the outfield fences, I'm sure these are the players who Alderson claims "received well" those altered dimensions.

Let's take a look at the home run numbers posted by the Mets at Citi Field over the last five seasons (we are discounting the 2009 team because just about everyone got hurt on that squad).  Let's also show how opponents fared at Citi Field over the same time period.  Look closely at the numbers posted after the 2011 season, when the fences were moved in for the first time.

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

In the two years prior to the walls being moved in, opponents struggled as much as the Mets did to hit home runs at Citi Field.  But the Mets actually hit eight more home runs at Citi Field in 2010 and 2011 than their opponents did.  New York rounded the bases 113 times, while opposing hitters hit just 105 long balls.  But since the outfield dimensions were adjusted prior to the 2012 season, opponents have taken full advantage while the Mets have not.

Over the last three seasons, the Mets have managed to hit 185 homers at Citi Field, while their opponents have feasted, blasting 249 bombs.  New York averaged 56.5 homers per season in each of the last two years prior to the realignment of the fences.  The team has averaged just five extra homers per season since the walls were moved in.  Meanwhile, the opponents who averaged 52.5 homers a year under the old configurations are now averaging 83 homers per season, or about 30 extra homers per campaign.

Let's put it this way.  If I noticed that over the past three years, players wearing their road jerseys have been six times more likely to hit a home run at Citi Field than players wearing their home duds, I'd probably be less inclined to move in the fences once again, especially since the explosion in opposing players' home runs came immediately after the last time the walls were brought closer to home plate.

Each of the last five seasons, regardless of the positioning of the outfield fences, the Mets have hit more home runs on the road than they have at Citi Field.  Meanwhile, opposing players who had difficulty hitting home runs at Citi Field prior to 2012 have welcomed trips to their new home run haven in Flushing.

The Mets don't have the money to pay a $20-million-a-year slugger to come play for the team.  They should also save their dough on wall-moving expenses.  It didn't help the team three years ago, so why should we expect it to help "one or two of our players" now?

Mr. Alderson, please don't move in the outfield walls next year.  By inflating the power numbers of opposing players, all you're doing is deflating the hopes and dreams of Mets fans who just want a taste of October baseball at Citi Field.  Is that too much to ask?

1 comment:

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