Are the Padres Acquiring the Right Hitters?

Petco Park is hell on hitters. That’s not exactly a groundbreaking revelation. Anyone can look at Petco’s park effects and conclude the park suppresses offense quite a bit. Petco’s park effects are one of the first issues to emerge whenever the Padres make a major signing or acquisition. Analysts are usually quick to point out how the park will affect the new player. The problem with this type of analysis is that the Padres will never “win” a trade in which they acquire a hitter. The Padres cannot simply throw their hands up and surrender on offense. In a park like Petco, however, they have to be careful about what types of hitters they acquire.

Let’s start by taking a look at those park factors. While Petco plays as a pitcher’s park, there’s one particular area where hitters really struggle (numbers provided courtesy of Stat Corner).

Left-handed, home run hitters are going to suffer the full brunt of Petco’s fury. That 59 is easily the worst HR rating in all major league parks. While it’s extremely difficult for Padres’ lefties to hit home runs, that doesn’t mean they can’t hit for some power. The chart shows it’s easier for lefties to hit singles, doubles and triples at Petco. While righties have more trouble legging out single, doubles and triples, they at least stand a chance to knock a few balls out of the park.

With that in mind, if the Padres want to get the best power output from their acquisitions, they should target righties with pull-power and lefties who can hit to the opposite field.

The Padres are aware of this, of course, and have made that clear with their last two acquisitions. While the Carlos Quentin trade has been panned in several places — mainly due to his defense and propensity to get injured — he’s exactly the type of hitter the Padres should be looking to acquire. As Eno Sarris recently noted, Quentin’s ISO to left is .419 over his career, compared to .181 to center and .173 in right. When healthy, his hitting style will play in Petco.

Yonder Alonso represents the ideal left-handed hitter for Petco. He may not have exceptional power for a first baseman, but he uses the whole field well and exhibits power to the opposite field. While he won’t be legging out many triples in his new park, he should hit a ton of doubles. I asked Marc Hulet about Alonso’s prospects in Petco recently and he said the following:

I haven’t talked to anyone about his power, in particular, recently, but his ability to use the whole field impressed scouts prior to the 2008 amateur draft. And because he’s not a slugging first baseman, Alonso fits well in San Diego… I could see him hitting 40+ doubles (with 15 homers) while playing half his games at home with the Padres.

Again, that type of offense is going to play in Petco.

That’s not to say the park won’t negatively affect their offensive production, of course it will. The point is that there are certain types of hitters who will be less affected by Petco, and that the Padres have identified those players. It’s easy/lazy to criticize any deal in which the Padres acquire a hitter by citing Petco’s park effects without digging a little deeper. The Padres have done as much, and are acquiring talent that fits their ballpark. It’s something that we need to consider when evaluating their future deals instead of just assuming the Padres were dumb to acquire another hitter.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


26 Responses to “Are the Padres Acquiring the Right Hitters?”

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  1. Cody says:

    Good read.

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    • Cap says:

      Agreed. There really have been too many articles regarding this trade that basically say ‘Pads acquire slugging OF … he will hit fewer HR in Petco … = bad trade’. As noted, they can’t just punt on offense.

      However, if you want to criticize a seemly rebuilding team for acquiring a semi-expensive one year rental with an injury history … that is more than fair.

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  2. jwb says:

    Looking at the scatter plot for Quentin’s home runs, it doesn’t look like he’ll be hurt too badly. Alonso’s sample size is too small to say much of anything.
    http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2011_367&type=hitter
    http://www.hittrackeronline.com/detail.php?id=2011_4211&type=hitter

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  3. gomer says:

    that’s a great point about alonso. given that the wOBA split isn’t extreme despite the significant HR suppression for lefties, he would seem to be the perfect target–a lefty hitter who doesn’t need to hit HR to reach his fullest value.

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  4. gomer says:

    i know this isn’t relevant to your article, per se, but does UZR adjust for park effects? i’m wondering because i’ve read in a number of forums that quentin’s defense was mitigated by US Cell’s dimensions and will be exasperbated by the larger dimensions of Petco.

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  5. aladou says:

    Good points.

    Does anyone know how Stat Corner calculates their PFs? I.e. Time period, specific calcs, etc.

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  6. piratesbreak500 says:

    I like the article, good read.

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  7. Jack Thomas says:

    The 59 PF for LH is ricdiculous. Have Padres ever considered moving the RF fences in? I would think it would make very difficult to sign a LH FA. The talent pool that is available to them is much smaller than the normal team.

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    • Hurtlockertwo says:

      PETCO is one of those parks where the outfield fence is connected to the stands and has a scoreboard attached to it. (in both left and right) I really don’t think the fence could be moved in without some major alteration to the seating.

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  8. DD says:

    Good points. Of course Adrian Gonzalez’s offense didn’t suffer too much in Petco, as he’s also an all fields hitter. While a better hitter than Alonso will likely be, they do have similar styles.

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    • James says:

      Check Adrian’s home/road splits again… he was consistently worse at home.

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      • DD says:

        Of course he was worse. The article says we should accept some decline from their true talent. What I mean is he would have been MUCH worse if his hitting style was that of, say, Ryan Howard. He had at least a .340 wOBA 4 of the last 5 years he played in Petco, plus at least a .158 ISO, which is more than respectable considering the environment discussed in the article.

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  9. cable fixer says:

    I think this is a great article and convinces me that the Padres have figured out what type of hitter they want to acquire.

    However, I think you’re slightly mistating your opponent’s conclusion when you say: “It’s easy/lazy to criticize any deal in which the Padres acquire a hitter by citing Petco’s park effects without digging a little deeper. The Padres have done as much, and are acquiring talent that fits their ballpark.”

    Just as it would be appropriate to evaluate an Oakland pitcher differently, when changing teams, depending on whether he was a GB pitcher or a FB pitcher, shouldn’t we consider that Quentin’s ISOs have come in a park that was (very) favorable to the type of hitter he is? According to Stat Corner, US Cell was 98 (vs 72 for Petco) for doubles and 138 (vs 95) for HR.

    And while I know he had an extreme 2011 split that favored his away games, he actually had a similar extreme splits in 2010 and 2009 that favored his home park (and in 08 as well, though not nearly as extreme).

    I feel like without mentioning the US Cell part of Quentin’s record, you leave yourself open to the criticism that you’re inappropriately conceiving Quentin’s true talent level, which weakens your conclusion somewhat that Quentin’s ability is a good match for Petco.

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    • jcxy says:

      this is kind of right. fast forward to the 2012 offseason and matt cain gets 20 MM/year. among the xFIP vs FIP discussions, someone will write about the park effects for HR (esp if he goes to toronto)…and that’s completely warranted, no? quentin has been helped by his park more than cain has, right?

      still, there are plenty of reasons to dislike (or like) this deal that don’t include a discussion of park effects.

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  10. James says:

    I would just like to note they had the worst K% along with the worst ISO in the majors last year. Improving those two areas would seem to go a long way in bringing the offense to a respectable level. Quentin appears to be an improvement in those areas relative to what they ran out there last year at the corners.

    It would be interesting to see how a contact/speed guy (e.g., Jose Reyes) would be affected by playing there over the course of a full season.

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  11. Josh says:

    Looking at those park-effect numbers, I think you should have discussed how Petco hinders doubles as well. 86 for LHB and 72 for RHB? That’s brutal. You noted that Alonso is more of a doubles, opposite-field hitter. Wouldn’t that put him in the same category as a right-handed pull hitter? It seems to me (and I could very well be wrong about this) that a LHB with opposite-field doubles power will actually struggle in Petco. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alonso struggles mightily at home.

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    • Josh says:

      Nevermind. I looked at the dimensions and realized that I had been a bit mixed up in thinking about how Alonso’s power would play out. He is a decent fit for the park.

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  12. Ben says:

    I think the problem arises when Alonso thinks he SHOULD be hitting more home runs and decides to change his swing/approach. Home-runs being as over-exaggerated as they are (especially in arbitration), someone in the Padres managerial hierarchy better be telling this kid it’s okay to be James Loney in this park and not Mark Reynolds.

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  13. Mustard n Brown says:

    As a devoted Padre fan and very infrequent commenter, but avid, daily reader, let me just say that this article is DEAD ON. JUST DEAD ON. On one hand people are quick to point out the Padres’ futility on offense. Then, in the same breath we see criticism of hitting acquisitions. Extremism has reigned in the evaluation of the Padres on offense, so it is nice to see measured moderation.

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  14. Mike G says:

    As the guy who bought Alonso and Quentin in Tout Wars this weekend, I’m betitng that you’re right.

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