In a booth discussion with Gary Cohan and Ron Darling, Sandy Alderson was open and frank about Mets team thoughts going into the 2012 season. One of these disclosures was that the team was seriously considering a major change to the dimensions of Citifield.
This strikes me as a reactive approach to a problem than can be resolved and create a home field advantage for the team for years to come.
This week the movie Moneyball opened, Alderson who while not depicted in the movie was a factor in the whole Billy Beane/Athletics story. Essentially it is about have an edge on the competition, in the Athletics’ case it is information and in the Mets case it could be an 81 game playing field that is not level by any means.
It has been three years since Citifield and its hitter unfriendly dimensions opened. In the first year David Wright’s Hrs dropped from the 30 average he had hit in his Mets career to 10. Year two, we invest 66 M in a left fielder who averaged over 30 Hrs over the 5 previous years before joining the Mets and has hit 18 in the two years since. In the three years that Wright has played at Citifield he has struck out 392 times in 397 games, his last three years at Shea 346 Ks in 474 games.
It is pretty clear that home runs at Citifield come with a great cost and no guarantee.
I look at the elements that do work in a pitchers park. Of course pitching. In 2009 we witnessed a mostly mediocre Mets pitching staff finish seventh in ERA in the Majors. Pitching is a hard to attain commodity, so when a team can elevate less than exceptional pitching into that asset even if only at home they have an edge.
Power doesn’t work especially well in large ballparks which frees up money for the other elements that do, speed, pitching and defense. In 2011 the Mets are tied for twenty-eighth in errors. David Wright represents two areas that do not fit well into the composite of Citifield, he does not play solid defense and strikes out at a higher rate as a result of Citifield.
Jose Reyes represents speed, he has also altered his game by increasing his OBP and is also the most difficult to strike out in the league. He is a Citifield type. Speed is not as costly as power and can be every bit as effective. The Mets need to make speed top criteria for future additions. Angel Pagan is arbitration eligible this off season at 3.5 M, he may move to 5 M. His health has cost him 30 games this year and consequently his runs, SB and RBIs are down. So is his fielding average, the errors as I see them are primarily throwing errors. What has not been affected is his range in the outfield and for this speed and his offense speed he is an easy resigning.
Big power hitters like Fielder and Albert Pujols will cost over 20 M per year for more years than one would want to offer. Jayson Werth signed for 18 M a yr. and for 7 yrs last year. These are exactly why the Mets should pursue the elite speed and the elite pitching when it becomes available. Citifield is fine, just put the right pieces in place and have a home field advantage that few other do. Besides; pitching, defense, and speed travel well