Sunday, August 07, 2011

Moving the walls in at Citi-Field might be a topic of conversation in the off-season


Adam Rubin of ESPN NY said before the four-homer night at Citi-Field, incoming minority partner David Einhorn watched batting practice with Fred Wilpon. And, according to Newsday, there was a lot of gesticulating about the outfield walls, which may be getting modified next season to make Citi Field more power friendly.  David Lennon writes that the 16-foot wall in left could be halved, but cannot be moved in because behind the padding is a cement retaining wall. Sandy Alderson also modified the design of Petco Park after his first season on the job with the San Diego Padres. The GM acknowledged to Andrew Keh in the Times about dimension changes: "It is probably something we need to think about," while adding: "It’s not something we need to decide with regard to the team we have now. It’s something we need to decide with regard to the team we want to have in the future.”

Through the weekend, Citi Field ranked 11th of 16 ballparks in the National League in homers per game at 1.53. How might alterations to Citi Field affect home run totals?

Here’s an analysis from Greg Rybarczyk, founder of hittrackeronline.com. He is a former U.S. Navy nuclear engineer and ship navigator as well as a former physics instructor at an ROTC prep school.

To determine the percentage increase in homers that wall adjustments would cause, Rybarczyk took all of the homers hit in the majors in 2010 and plotted them first using the existing Citi Field walls, then with certain modifications to the ballpark.

CHANGING THE ‘GREAT WALL OF FLUSHING’ IN LEFT FIELD

Says Rybarczyk: “I did this by moving the fence line of the long fence segment 10 feet towards the infield (which actually results in the fence being a bit more than 10 feet closer to home, since the fence angles away from home plate). I also lowered this fence to 10 feet high from the existing 16 feet high. If you do this, you increase homers to that part of the park by 35 percent, and overall homers by 22 percent. Obviously you can tweak the amount of the move inwards and/or the height of the new wall to get a bigger or smaller effect.”

CHANGING THE ‘MO ZONE’ IN RIGHT FIELD

Says Rybarczyk: “Specifically, I extended the fence that exists to the right of the Mo Zone across to where it meets the bullpen. This fence is eight-feet high. If you do this, it increases home runs in right and right-center field by 25 percent, and overall homers in Citi Field by nine percent.”

Of course, one major question is how changes might affect Wright. Here’s what Rybarczyk concludes:

“I looked at the Citi Field long flies and homers from 2009, and found the following: Three balls hit by David Wright that would have gotten over the revised fence line related to the modifications I tested. One ball hit by David Wright that would have cleared the center field fence, which was already shortened by the Mets last offseason. So, a total of four balls Wright hit in 2009 that would have made it over the reduced fence lines we're considering. Now, I don't think you should necessarily project his [percentage] benefit based on 2009, because he hit very few homers that season, at Citi or elsewhere, and the number you'll get will likely be too big.”

Obviously, there is a cost involved in ballpark modifications, but Rybarczyk adds: “It's probably worth mentioning that the Mets could create some nice new premium seats with these changes. In the Mo's Zone, you'd get a few more rows of seats right near the field, and in left field you could make a sort of ‘home run porch’ out in front of the existing wall, with open-air seating on top, and another area underneath with a field-level view.”

Rybarczyk also issues one caution about his methodology: “I used the data I have at my disposal, which is home run data from 2010. I don't have a complete list of long fly balls from around the league that came up short of homers, so I couldn't check those as well, but I think the potential impact of this necessary omission will be negligible, since Citi Field's fences are deeper than almost every other park.”
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