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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Friday, June 21, 2002
Pac Bell: The Giant Team’s Giant Ball Park
Hitting a shot into McCovey’s Cove isn’t as easy as it looks.
Before Pacific Bell Park opened in April, 2000, I took one of the free public tours that the Giants were offering. Hey, I had nothing better to do. The facility was, of course, mighty impressive: gleaming and new, and compared with Candlestick, it was charming and warm and friendly. Finally, real baseball had arrived at the City by the Bay.
Because it was empty of fans during my tour, it was hard for me to get a strong sense that day on how large the playing field was. Yet I looked down the left field line and saw 335 feet and thought, "short," and then down the right field line, saw 307 feet, and thought, " really, really short.". When we were walking through the upper deck above home plate with our docent describing all the food and other merchanidise that fans could buy, the yard looked puny against the backdrop of the Bay Bridge, McCovey Cove, and San Fransisco Bay. Even the stevedores’ cranes in Oakland six miles away loomed large. So I thought I knew one thing for sure: Pac Bell was going to be yet another band-box ballpark.
As everyone but Tim McCarver seems to have figured out, I was wrong. Pac Bell is an extreme pitcher’s park. It’s the unCoors. Its Ball Park Factor was miserly the same in 2000 and in 2001: 91 for batters and 92 for pitchers. I guess that high wall in right-field and the spacious outfield from straight away right to the far reaches of center-filed and to the gap in left-center were more than I realized back when I took that tour.
This year, so far, Pac Bell has continued to suppress offense. The Giants are scoring 1.14 fewer runs per game at home than they are on the road (4.23 vs. 5.37) and they are giving up 0.91 fewer runs at home than they are on the road (3.12 vs. 4.03). In other words, a Giants game at Pacific Bell Park averages 2.05 fewer runs than one does elsewhere in the major leagues.
Despite the Bell’s depressive effects, a few Giants on the San Francisco roster appear to be unaffected by Pac Bell. Barry Bonds is the most notable in this group. His OPS at home is 128 points higher:
Bonds sleeping in his Estate: .373/.587/.843.
Reggie Sanders is the only other Giant hitter for whom Pacific Bell is not a hindrance but a help. The Colonel’s OPS is 160 points better in The City:
Reggie eating home cooking: 261/339/486.
Among the San Francisco pitchers, only Livan Hernandez and Aaron Fultz have not benefitted from Pac Bell. Hernandez’s ERA grows from 3.45 on the road to 4.82 at home, while Fultz’s inflates from 5.52 away to 7.00 on the road.
Robb Nen, Jay Witasick, and Russ Ortiz have all been close to even at home and on the road this season:
Nen 2.20 home ERA, 2.13 road ERA
For the rest of the Giants, Pacific Bell Park appears to have greatly affected their 2002 seasons so far. Here are the anemic Giants’ hitters playing in the Publicly Regulated Utility:
Marvin Benard - .163/.250/.186
And here is that exact same group on the road looking like an All-Star team (or not):
Marvin Benard - .354/.380/.542
This is how much each of these Giants has lost in OPS at home after 69 games:
Marvin Benard - 486 points
Waking up in a familiar bed for San Francisco’s pitchers often means a low ERA. Here are the Giants’ pitchers who have so far benefitted the most this season pitching at home:
Felix Rodriguez - 2.87 ERA
And here is that very same staff on the road:
Felix Rodriguez - 7.62 ERA
The difference in their road minus home ERA’s?
Felix Rodriguez - 4.75 earned runs per 9 innings
Granted, partial season home-road splits can be misleading, particularly for relief pitchers, as the sample size for any one player is just too small. But the trend is quite clear. For Giants’ hitters, Pac Bell makes 5’ 7" Marvin Benard and his mates look like a league of Lilliputians. And for Giants’ pitchers, the House that Bonds Built makes 6’ 6" Jason Schmidt and his band appear to be Brobdingnagian.
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