According to Ken Davidoff, Matt Holliday is reluctant to sign with the Mets this offseason because it’s hard to hit at Citi Field.
Here’s the issue: No one can really be sure that’s the case.
Looking up and down the Mets’ 2009 roster, it appears to be true. After all, Daniel Murphy led the team in home runs with 13.
Then again, looking up and down the Mets’ 2009 roster will reveal a whole slew of guys who have never hit for any appreciable power.
Moreover, and for like the eight millionth time, the 2009 Mets both hit more and allowed more home runs in Citi Field than they did on the road.
Park factors vary pretty greatly from year to year, and there are a lot elements that affect them. But ESPN.com’s park factors for 2009 showed that Citi Field reduced run scoring by about six percent. So yeah, it played as a pitcher’s park, but not exactly the cavernous vacuum of offense that so many have made it out to be. In fact, it played a whole lot like Shea did in 2008.
Baseball players are a chatty and superstitious sort. I don’t know much about Matt Holliday’s temperament, but I know that baseball players around the league appear to be legitimately afraid of ghosts in the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
So it’s not hard to argue that word of phenomena that may not actually exist can spread quickly around the Majors.
I imagine the book on Citi has something to do with David Wright’s weird year. But I’m unwilling to chalk up his power outage to the park alone, since, again, he home runs at a (slightly) higher rate at home than he did on the road.
What was especially telling about Wright’s season, I think, is that he hit as many balls the other way as he pulled. Many fans nostalgic for some earlier era of Wright that may never have existed will argue that Wright should be driving the ball to the opposite field, but looking at his career splits will show that he has hit for much, much more power while pulling the ball.
Wright said a number of times that he was trying to go the other way more often to cater to the ballpark. (Edit: As Ceetar points out in the comments section, Wright may not have actually said this. I thought I remembered him saying it a few times, but I can’t find any evidence of it online. That appears to be mostly Jerry Manuel’s beat.) I have no idea if that’s true and that had something to do with his diminished power numbers, or if it was a function of the way the league was pitching him or the product of a strange one-year fluctuation. In any case, most of the actual baseball players and former baseball players I’ve spoken to say players should just hit the way they know how to hit, and not worry about adjusting to park conditions that may or may not actually exist.
And, you know, that makes a lot of sense.
Especially since, if Wright hit more like we all know Wright can, future Matt Hollidays won’t fear the specter of Citi Field’s home-run sapping dimensions.