Matt Holliday and the ghosts of Citi Field

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’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.

7 thoughts on “Matt Holliday and the ghosts of Citi Field

  1. Wright said early on that he wasn’t adjusting to the park, that he would just hit how he hits and so be it. I think the adjusting his game rhetoric came from above.

    I wonder how Manuel’s 80pitch drill with trying to shoot singles to the opposite field affected mindset too. Hard to adjust to looking to slap one to RF one pitch and pull it over the fence the next.

  2. pretty sure wright will come back to hit 25-30 HR next season. holliday could be a big star here, but he doesnt seem like the type that would take well to the new york spotlight

  3. Yeah, and Busch Stadium was .919. Also, in the HR park factor, Citi Field was 12th at 1.057, and Busch Stadium was at 28th, at .736

  4. Everyone hits more homeruns at home. I’m not sure why people cite that like it proves anything. More importantly, hittracker found ~10 balls Wright hit that would have been homeruns at Shea, which seems much more conclusive to me.

    • It’s true that everyone hits more home runs at home, but then it should also be true that Mets’ opponents would hit more home runs off Mets pitchers while the Mets are on the road. And that wasn’t the case.

      I think HitTracker is an amazing site, but I’m not sure it’s a good indicator of how a park plays. It seems like it might put a little too much stock in dimensions and not enough in the myriad other factors that might affect a park, like the amount of foul territory and its impact on the batter’s vision. It does seem like the right-center field depth is particularly crippling to Wright, but even if it cost him 10 home runs, he still would have hit 13 fewer than he did in 2008.

      • Hittracker does not account absolutely for all park factors, true, but is that really relevant to the issue of homeruns? If you’re going to measure whether Citi is a hitters park based on homers, that wouldn’t reflect foul ground and only partially reflect vision. Also, the comparison to his 2008 numbers doesn’t seem particularly relevant. If we have this technology that allows a more direct comparison between Shea/Citi than just 2 years of numbers, who include the comparison of the 2 years?

      • This is taking two directions, and looking back over my original post I can see why. Are we discussing whether Citi Field is a pitcher’s park or whether Citi Field saps home runs? The Holliday rumor just said he was averse to playing in Citi because of its rep as a pitcher’s park, so maybe I took it the wrong way by incorporating home runs.

        Regardless, I would guess that vision has a lot to do with a hitter’s success in any park. There was always talk that the light stanchions at Shea were particularly rough on hitters. I’m a bit skeptical, of course, just like I’m a bit skeptical of the HitTracker data as definitive proof.

        I used Wright’s 2008 as a point of comparison because I was assuming — probably wishfully — that he was on a bit of a growth curve, being 26 and all. I’m open to the possibility that Citi Field really did eat up Wright’s power at home and his lack of power on the road was just a random fluctuation, but that seems like a pretty big coincidence to me.

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