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.


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