A proper discussion on the misconceptions surrounding the San Diego Padres has to begin with their hitting. At the end of the 2008 season, the Padres ranked dead last in the league in runs. Since moving into Petco, the team has been consistently at the bottom of the league in this category.
From this information alone, it would be safe to assume any number of things, from the players on the team are poor to the management has no idea of how to put together a team to compete in this ballpark. What needs to be considered is that the Padres are not the only team that plays in Petco.
What are park factors?
Simply, park factors indicate the difference between runs scored in a team’s home and road games. As the same hitters and the same pitchers are doing the playing, the difference in runs scored is dependent on the park the game is played in.
Park factors do tend to vary some from year to year. That’s why I have compiled the combined park factors for every stadium from 2004 through 2007, save the two Nationals and Cardinals parks. I used a basic version of the park factor equation: (home runs for + home runs against) / (road runs for + road runs against). And the numbers are:
|1. Coors Field [Rockies]||1.251|
|2. Chase Field [Diamondbacks]||1.101|
|3. Wrigley Field [Cubs]||1.101|
|4. Rangers Ballpark [Rangers]||1.085|
|5. Fenway Park [Red Sox]||1.085|
|6. U.S. Cellular Field [White Sox]||1.083|
|7. Citizen Bank Park [Phillies]||1.066|
|8. Great American Ballpark [Reds]||1.049|
|9. Rogers Centre [Blue Jays]||1.047|
|10. Kauffman Stadium [Royals]||1.039|
|11. Miller Park [Brewers]||1.016|
|12. AT&T Park [Giants]||1.015|
|13. Camden Yards [Orioles]||1.011|
|14. Yankee Stadium [Yankees]||0.983|
|15. Turner Field [Braves]||0.980|
|16. Comerica Park [Tigers]||0.978|
|17. Dodger Stadium [Dodgers]||0.977|
|18. Metrodome [Twins]||0.971|
|19. PNC Park [Pirates]||0.097|
|20. Angels Stadium [Angels]||0.970|
|21. Minute Maid Park [Astros]||0.968|
|22. McAfee Coliseum [Athletics]||0.952|
|23. Progressive Field [Indians]||0.951|
|24. Tropicana Field [Rays]||0.950|
|25. Shea Stadium [Mets]||0.938|
|26. Dolphin Stadium [Marlins]||0.934|
|27. Safeco Field [Mariners]||0.919|
|28. Petco Park [Padres]||0.810|
(And, as you should’ve assumed, Petco Park this year was again last in the league at 0.796. First in the league for 2008 was Rangers Ballpark, at 1.142.)
What does this mean? In layman’s terms, Petco is the hardest stadium in baseball to hit in. Not just by a little, but a lot.
The Padres don’t just play in a pitcher’s park, they play in an extreme pitcher’s park.
This is the lens under which the Padres low run totals should be viewed. Nineteen percent less runs scored in Petco than in the average park. The next toughest stadium, Safeco Field, is more than half that distance away at 8% less. The only gap greater than the 11% between Petco and Safeco is the 15% between Coors Field and Chase Field. You may know Coors Field as the place that kept baseballs in a humidor to try to even the odds between sides.
From 04-07, the two most productive Padres were Adrian Gonzalez and Brian Giles. In their most productive seasons, their home and away OPS splits were:
And then this season:
(More of the same from Gonzalez, although Giles’ numbers aren’t so bad. Another good reason to resign him, but that’s a discussion for another day.)
When the stadium built, it was said to be Bonds-proof. Barry’s response:
“It’s not Bonds-proof. It’s baseball-proof.”
While it’s not quite baseball-proof, it’s close. The home stadium puts hitters at a ridiculous disadvantage, and there’s no easy solution.
The fences are too far and the air’s too thick and it’s just too drat hard. On the plus side, the fences were brought in before the 06 season, albeit barely (thanks wrveres), and the front office likes to drop little teases that they could be moved in farther (thank you, Jody Gerut). On the less plus side, Sean Connery from The Avengers hasn’t been called to do something about the thick marine air.
Until (read: if) something is done to neutralize Petco Park, the 25 Padres taking the field are going to have to make due with what they’ve got. And so will all of us sitting in the stands.