From a fan experience perspective Safeco Field is one of the best ballparks in the Majors, it’s a gem; from a pitchers perspective Safeco Field is one of the best ballparks to pitch in because of its massive dimensions in left field. Those dimensions have haunted right handed hitters for over a decade now, from A-Rod to Beltre. And it is clearly in the minds of the young hitters currently on the Mariner roster as many of them have attempted to alter their swings to better suit their home field. In other words they have had to change what worked and no one likes change, especially when it changes what made these young hitters so successful in the first place.
Another problem that is caused by Safeco’s huge dimensions is that fly balls that tend to carry in other ball parks get held up in the wind currents coming in over left field and thus those fly balls die on the warning track instead of going over the fence, the “power-ally” in left-center is notorious for this. And while those fly balls were being held up the center fielder often had enough time to get under it and make the play resulting in an out and frustration for some of the Mariners more interesting, and brief, acquisitions.
“Teammates still remember newly arrived Bill Hall going into his home-run trot on what turned out to be merely a long fly out — and not just once. Finally, Adrian Beltre pulled Hall aside for some friendly advice: ‘This is Safeco. You can’t be stylin’ here.”-Mariners — even Felix — excited about shorter fences
Hall’s experience at Safeco Field isn’t out of the ordinary though; Adrian Beltre, Justin Smoak, Bill Hall, and Jesus Montero are some of the right handed Mariners bats to succumb to Safeco and its pitcher-friendliness. But Safeco’s size has also impacted the visiting teams as well. When Torri Hunter was asked about Safeco Field’s dimensions he had this to say;
“This is before all these young guys who are here now. Guys before that. And before that. This ballpark eats up the hard-hit fly ball out there. Guys were frustrated when they built the stadium, and it was hard to hit home runs. I’m talking about A-Rod, Griffey, Cameron.”-Mariners — even Felix — excited about shorter fences
Two of the three guys Hunter mentioned are going to be in inducted into the Hall of Fame and the ballpark’s size was one of the drivers in those two guys leaving as well
In my opinion that is pretty incriminating evidence that the ball park is in these guys head, it has been in the heads of M’s hitters for a while now, and that something needed to be changed.
Something is going to be changed and that is the abnormally deep left to right center field walls. The walls will be moving in a minimum of four feet (left field, center field, and right center field) to seventeen feet (left center field, colloquially known as the power-ally). In fact I feel that the only part that really needed to move in was the power-ally because that is where fly balls went to die for the last thirteen years. But that would have completely changed the geometry of the ballpark and obviously that can’t happen now can it? And that’s why you see the rest of the left field wall moving in along with the center and right center field wall.
And it’s about time that this move was made. For almost a decade now Mariners’ fans have watched as guys who were brought into Safeco to be the power bat the team needed faltered and eventually came unglued at Safeco (Raul Ibanez is the only exception that I can think of at the moment). Now the M’s are trying to build for the future and they have brought in some promising young talent, with pop, to do it. But the question is, what are effect are these dimension changes really going to have on the M’s in the coming years? No one really knows; that being said it is interesting to look at how many more home runs the M’s would have hit this year if the new dimensions would have been in place for the 2012 season, you might be surprised:
if the fences had been moved in this year:
jesus montero, +1
dustin ackley, +3
franklin guttierez +6
justin smoak, +4
michael saunders, +6
kyle seager, +1
the m’s were 27th in the league with 54 homers at safeco. those addition 21 home runs would have put them at 75 which is good for 19th.
Now how many more runs would the M’s have scored if those 21 fly balls (most of them being outs) had actually been dingers? That’s a lot of runs (and confidence) to take away from this young ball club and that definitely impacted ball games, for both squads. Pitchers like Hector Noesi would have been in even greater trouble than as they would have given up more dingers. But this is all pure speculation and we will really get to see how the ballpark plays out over the next couple of seasons. I for one am really excited to see how this plays out and I definitely share the same sentiment as Justin Smoak;
1B Justin Smoak on being told of Safeco Field fences being move in next year: “Can we do it tonight?’