Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune has a nice article about Yonder Alonso and his thought process coming to San Diego. Of especially great importance is Alonso’s thinking regarding home runs. PETCO Park can either be a hitter’s best friend or worst nightmare. It’s all about the approach. For those players expecting tons of home runs and moister shots into the San Diego night, the park will eat them alive. Those with an open mind about hitting in general can exploit the park’s intricacies.
"I am not thinking 40 or 50 home runs when I’m thinking about hitting."
It’s a refreshing thought from a player who clearly has the power to knock a lot of round-trippers. Getting lost in the hope for mammoth home run totals can affect a player’s psyche and lead to lower production than what may have been possible with an open hitting approach.
"A lot of left-handed hitters and first basemen are thinking home runs. That’s not the type of left-handed hitter I am. When I look at Petco Park, I don’t see how far away the fences are. I see a lot of grass. I feel like this ballpark likes the kind of hitter I am."
After years of quotes from players like Ryan Ludwick, Jason Bartlett, Phil Nevin, and Ryan Klesko about the park’s stifling effect on offense, it is refreshing to hear a player speak with an open mind about hitting in such a pitcher-friendly park. Whether Alonso’s tune changes after a season of limited home run totals is something for us all to keep an eye on.
Alonso has the ability to truly utilize PETCO Park though. A gap-to-gap hitter with power is exactly what will push this Padres team into a competitive position. While many people simply see the fences as being too far away for large home run totals, Alonso sees more wide open space than he had in Cincinnati. And because of that, Bill Center says Alonso believes he will be a better hitter in San Diego.
"The fences are closer in Cincinnati. The outfielders are packed into a smaller space. A lot of balls in the gaps get caught. There isn’t nearly as much grass in Cincinnati as there is here."
The Padres could use a few more guys who approach their time in San Diego as Alonso has so far. They could use a few more guys who have the numbers that fit PETCO like Alonso’s do.
I don’t want to get carried away with such a small sample size, but Alonso’s K% (24.4%), his BAbip (.370), his wOBA (.364), and his line drive percentage (20.9%) all point to a player who can use PETCO as a tool. Rather than complain about the restraints a park like San Diego’s may put on his offensive ability, Alonso seems to be focused on what he can do. He can find the gaps. He can hit to all fields. He can put the ball in play.
Much like a former Padres first baseman now playing in Boston, Alonso has the mental make-up and the skills to thrive in San Diego. His attitude toward the park is one not often seen, and his embrace of the Padres indicates a future leader may have been included in the package. Anyone still wallowing in the loss of Anthony Rizzo, it’s time to get excited about Yonder Alonso (And yes I understand, for the most part, people weren’t upset about Alonso coming. They were upset at what the Padres got for Rizzo). Let’s take some of that Rizzo-mania and convert it into Alonso-mania.