07/14/2009 4:47 PM ET
Tons of data in search of interpretation
Trying to sort out what the Mets' so-called adjusted approach
By Ted Berg / SNY.tv
Are David Wright's attempts to hit the ball the other way sapping his power, or is his lack of power causing him to hit the ball the other way? (AP)

Check it out: In 2008, the Mets pulled 26 percent of the balls they hit onto the field of play or over the fence, according to the best Web site ever. They hit 59 percent to the middle and 15 percent to the opposite field.

In 2009, they've pulled 25 percent, hit 56 percent to the middle and 19 percent to the opposite field.

In 2008, David Wright pulled 29 percent, hit 55 percent up the middle and hit 16 percent to the opposite field.

This season, Wright has pulled 26 percent, hit 48 percent up the middle and hit 26 percent the opposite way.

What does it all mean? I have no idea.

I mention for a couple of reasons, though. For one, we've been reading all year how the Mets have adjusted their approach, in anticipation of playing in Citi Field, to hit the ball to the opposite field and drive the gaps because the new place was not destined to be a home run friendly park. No one has been more vocal about this adjustment than Wright, who noted it here, here and elsewhere.

Second, Omar Minaya noted when the Mets acquired Jeff Francoeur last week that right-handed pull hitters succeed at Citi Field. That's interesting, considering the approach the Mets have supposedly been taking.

I've heard two principal reactions to reports that the Mets went after Francoeur because he'd play well at Citi Field. The first wonders why, if the Mets knew Citi Field's dimensions last season and all offseason, it would take them so long to start finding players to best exploit them. The second argues that it's too soon to be making personnel decisions based on the way the park appears to play -- especially on the offensive side of the ball -- and that the Mets should have given it even more time.

I'm in the second camp. After all, it's been a pretty mild summer so far, and there's still some chance Mother Nature could come in and affect the how the park plays in some way we haven't yet considered. Besides, as Tim Marchman points out, the park hasn't necessarily killed the Mets' offense more than the players who constitute the Mets' offense have.

The Mets have actually hit more home runs per game at Citi Field than they have on the road. And though Tristan Cockcroft provides an interesting read on the park's effects and how it's "gobbling up home runs at an alarming rate," he neglects to note that the ESPN.com park factor data he cites in his article shows Citi as a slight plus park for home runs.

I do think, on the other hand, that many of the balls on Cockcroft's massive list of home runs eaten up by Citi Field probably would have left Shea Stadium. That's certainly how it has looked to the eye, at least. Still, that data -- provided by Greg Rybarczyk's amazing HitTracker -- doesn't consider atmospheric conditions or light stanchions or the batter's eye or any of the myriad factors that affect how a park plays, so I'm not sure it's entirely accurate to say that Citi has swallowed every one of those homers. Maybe some of them wouldn't have even been hit so hard at Shea, under lights that supposedly made it more difficult to bat.

I guess what I'm saying is that something pretty weird has been going on at Citi Field, and I haven't yet seen a convincing explanation, nor one that I think has adequately considered just how impotent the Mets' offense has been, regardless of where it's playing.

To the eye, it has looked as though the left-field porch is one place hitters might be able to take advantage of, and the way righty pull-hitter Gary Sheffield has succeeded at Citi Field could speak to that. But Sheff's just one example, and he hits the ball hard enough that it's equally easy to say he's simply enjoying a career renaissance and would be hitting the ball out of any Major League park.

The HitTracker data for Citi Field shows that a heavy proportion of home runs have traveled out to left field, but then again, that was the case at Shea Stadium last year, too.

What I do know is this: The Mets, most notably Wright, are hitting the ball the opposite way more frequently this year. And if that's intentional, they should probably stop. I'm no hitting coach and I'll never purport to be, but the Mets have not hit a single home run to the opposite field in 2009 according to baseball-reference (Fernando Tatis' blast to right-center in Pittsburgh must count as center field, I guess).

Obviously, there are times and places for going the opposite way and good hitters do it naturally, but forcing it more frequently than it is necessary does not seem like a good idea. Power -- power that the Mets have so often lacked this year -- comes most easily from pulling the ball.

And maybe the difference in the stats listed at the beginning of this article has nothing to do with a different approach. It's certainly possible that the difference in Wright's distribution this season is an effect of whatever's caused his drop in home run total, not the cause of that drop. Plus, due to injuries and roster changes, the Mets have an entirely different cast of characters in their lineup now than they did for most of 2008, so the change in that stat could just be due to the change in personnel.

Who knows? Maybe someone does, or maybe someone will go figure it out. I might try, but I don't have time. I'm getting married on Saturday; give me a break.

All I know is that, like Marchman, I'm not satisfied to say "Citi Field is an offensive graveyard where no hitter will ever succeed." I'm also not comfortable saying, "the Mets should be chock full of gap hitters and should not even try to hit home runs," because home runs are a really easy way to score runs and the Mets' opponents haven't had nearly as many problems hitting home runs at Citi as the Mets have.

All I'm really comfortable saying for sure, once again, is that it's probably too early to conclude anything except that I don't know squat.

I'm in your head, Rob Neyer: Rob Neyer, in a post to his blog on Monday, referred to Johan Santana as "The Great Santana" and took credit for making up the nickname. But alas.

I know Rob reads the excellent Baseball Think Factory newsstand, which links my pieces with some frequency, so it's possible he subconsciously remembered the nickname or it's possible that, as they say, great minds think alike. But if he really wants to take credit for the moniker, he should, because if I hadn't discovered his writing when I was in high school, I'm pretty sure I never would have ended up in this career.

Ted Berg is the senior editorial producer for SNY.tv. He can be reached at tberg@sny.tv or via the Flushing Fussing Facebook group.
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