Would Angels move in fences to help their two sluggers?
Albert Pujols, with 536 home runs, is tied with Mickey Mantle for 16th on the all-time list. Mike Trout, playing his fourth full season, is statistically comparable to Mantle at the same stage.
With Trout under contract through 2020 and Pujols through ’21, might the Angels adjust their ballpark dimensions to further enhance the ability of their two right-handed sluggers?
The Angels have discussed the idea internally, but it’s unlikely they will move in their outfield fences or lower their right-field wall, according to major-league sources.
The team has not requested approval from Major League Baseball to change the dimensions of Angels Stadium, sources said. A club spokesman, when asked about the possibility, declined to comment.
“I’d say there’s not much to it,” a source said.
Making Angels Stadium more conducive to hitting indeed would benefit Pujols, Trout and other Angels hitters; the park, when measuring the rate of stats against the rate of stats on the road, is pitcher-friendly.
The team’s lease allows it to leave Anaheim between 2016 and ’19 or stay until 2029. Obviously, the Angels would not make any changes in the park – including an investment in new dimensions – until the matter was resolved.
The Angels give up the highest percentage of fly balls of any pitching staff in the majors. So, at least short-term, moving in or lowering the outfield fences would harm the pitchers, resulting in a neutral effect at best and more likely one that is counterproductive.
Among the starters, left-hander Hector Santiago has the lowest ground-ball/fly-ball percentage in the majors, right-hander Matt Shoemaker the sixth-lowest, righty Jered Weaver the 15th-lowest. The team’s closer, Huston Street, also is more of a fly-ball pitcher, and the Angels recently signed him to a two-year extension through 2017.
True, most or all of those pitchers will be gone in the latter years of the Pujols and Trout contracts. But making the park more hitter-friendly might require the Angels to shift more to a sinker-ball staff, an overhaul that could take years to implement effectively.
* The weather might depress offense in Anaheim more than the dimensions.
All six West Coast parks rate as pitcher-friendly, in part due to the atmospheric conditions.
Consider the Mariners, who moved in the fences at Safeco Field for the 2013 season. Safeco is now more hitter-friendly than it was, but remains pitcher-friendly overall.
In Anaheim, just as the high wall in right field often turns potential homers into doubles, the marine layer at night often reduces the distances of fly balls.
Pujols, in particular, might benefit from the lowering of the 18-foot wall. During his home games with the Cardinals from 2001 to ’11, he hit 8.3 percent of his home runs to right and right-center, according to STATS LLC. In home games since joining the Angels in 2012, he has hit just 4.7 percent of his homers – a total of two – to those fields. Then again, that reduction could be the result of any number of factors – the way he is pitched, the way he is swinging, etc.
Would the lowering of the wall lead to more opposite-field homers by Pujols and Trout? Perhaps. But again, it also could lead the Angels’ staff to allow more home runs.
The Angels are no different from other teams that study and debate the impact of their home park. But at least for now it would be a surprise if they tinkered with the status quo.