PETCO Park’s dimensions are as follows: Right Field Line – 322; Right – 382; Right Center – 400; Center – 396; Left Center – 401; Left – 367; Left Field Line – 334.
For a right-handed batter, that 334 down the left field line can be pretty enticing. The giant warehouse just begging to be slammed by home runs must be pretty enticing as well. But what happens when that batter tries to pull the ball down the line, is a little late, and finds the alley? In most cases, the ball drops into the outfielder’s glove well short of the deep wall 401 feet from the plate. This can drive a player crazy and make him change his approach at the plate, as was the case with Ryan Ludwick
In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Ryan Ludwick told John Fay:
Playing in San Diego screwed me up. I’m not using that as an excuse or a crutch, but it turned me into a dead pull hitter. I got away from what I was as a hitter.
Ludwick’s struggles were admittedly mental. He proves that the Padres need to be more careful with the construction of their offense than other teams. The must evaluate each and every player inserted into the lineup to ensure that player has the mental make-up to play in San Diego. This is no a slight to Ludwick. There have been plenty of players throughout the history of PETCO Park who have suffered the mental affects of playing in such a drastic pitcher-friendly park.
We’ve discussed Nick Hundley here and Chase Headley here, two players who could have succumbed to the horrors of offense-supression in PETCO. Instead, both players adjusted their games to better fit 81 games at home. Ryan Ludwick didn’t have the time in San Diego to consider an adjustment. Not may expected him to be with the Padres long, and sure enough he was gone by July of 2011. Other players continued to struggle even with extended playing time at PETCO. Brian Giles comes to mind quickest. The difference with Giles was his ability to walk. In 401 games at PETCO, Giles has a decent triple-slash: .264/.370/.398. His OBP is really the saving grace to that line, and again, that was due to his walks.
Ludwick did not have the time, no the ability to draw walks as Giles did. In 91 games at PETCO, Ludwick’s triple-slash was .218/.298/.361. He is the story of a mental game. His career slash-line is .261/.332/.455. Further, his triple-slash increased to .251/.326/.433 in 52 games at PNC Park. Most of those games came after he was traded to Pittsburgh last season.
The obvious effect PETCO has on hitters who play for San Diego brings an increased focus on the dimensions of the park. The debate has been raging for years now. There have been slight peaks and valleys in the intensity of the debate, but fans, players, and the front office have kicked the idea around almost since PETCO’s inaugural season. I’ve provided you my thoughts on how PETCO has actually helped San Diego, and many people disagree with that. In the coming weeks, we’ll go in-depth with analysis of PETCO’s true park effect. Will a change to the dimensions increase the Padres success, allow them to bring in better offensive players, and still allow them to be a dominant pitching team at home? Those are just a few of the questions that must be addressed when considering a change to the dimensions.
As of now, there will be no changes. There are no public talks surrounding an actual plan to move the fences. What we do know, is the mental side of playing in San Diego is becoming increasingly important. Ludwick is just one of the many players who struggle not just at the plate at PETCO, but mentally as well.