Petco Park and appreciating Adrian Gonzalez

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Adrian Gonzalez’s raw numbers are plenty good on their own: .274/.405/.559 with 37 homers and 85 RBIs in 139 games.
He ranks among the NL’s top five in homers, OPS, and times on base and is in the top 10 for on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases, and extra-base hits. And he’s done all that damage despite being intentionally walked 20 times while surrounded by the worst lineup in baseball.
On raw numbers alone he’s been one of the best handful of hitters in the league this season and the same was true in 2006, 2007, and 2008 as well. However, even those strong raw totals dramatically underrate Gonzalez’s bat because he calls the majors’ most pitcher-friendly ballpark home. Petco Park turns home runs into fly outs more than any venue in recent memory and the impact can easily be seen in Gonzalez’s splits.
At home this season he’s hit .230 with a .434 slugging percentage and .832 OPS while averaging one homer every 20.5 at-bats. On the road he’s hit .314 with a .671 slugging percentage and 1.082 OPS while averaging one homer every 9.8 at-bats. Add it all up and Gonzalez has been about 30 percent more productive with over twice as many homers away from Petco Park. And this season’s extreme splits are nothing out of the ordinary for Gonzalez, who has the following numbers in four years with the Padres:

                      G      AVG      SLG      AB/HR
Petco Park          307     .261     .440       24.3
Everywhere Else     311     .306     .583       14.9



Those numbers are pretty remarkable. When at Petco Park he’s hit .261 with a .440 slugging percentage and one homer every 24.3 at-bats. When not at Petco Park he’s hit .306 with a .583 slugging percentage and one homer every 14.9 at-bats. Stick him in just about any other ballpark, for any other team, and Gonzalez is a household name who gets tons of MVP votes every year, but Petco Park has cost him about 50 points of batting average and 10 homers per season.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.