What change at Marlins Park may look like

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Changes may be on the way at Marlins Park.

As team president David Samson said the other day, the Marlins are considering moving in and lowering the fences at one of MLB’s toughest places to generate power.

Marlins considering moving in fences, possibly from in front of HR Sculpture to 392 foot sign in right.

Marlins considering moving in fences, possibly from in front of HR Sculpture to 392 foot sign in right.

From what I’m hearing, the modifications may not be too drastic. One consideration is tucking the fences in from basically where the yellow home run line is in front of the Home Run Sculpture in center to the 392 sign at the corner of the Marlins’ bullpen. So the trimming appears to be to center and right-center.

Unless the fences are lowered throughout, it won’t really impact the gap in left-center. Also, no scenario that I’m hearing would involve the walls in front of both bullpens.

If that is all there is for now, it’s a start towards making the ballpark play more fairly.

Other big parks, like Safeco (Seattle), Citi Field (New York Mets) and Petco (San Diego) have already moved in the fences. The Mets have done it twice.

It was obvious Marlins Park played big from the day it opened in 2012. Still, the team maintained it would give it three or four years to assess the power numbers. We’re wrapping up year four.

Not only is the park spacious, the ball simply doesn’t travel like in pretty much every other stadium. That fact is not surprising considering the park is at sea level.

The high fences — going from 11 1/2 feet to 13 feet — also make it even tougher to hit balls out. Now, obviously hitters are rewarded for monster shots.

Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates cleared the center field wall on Thursday in the Pirates 2-1 win over the Marlins. But Statcast projected that blast at 445 feet from home plate, making it one of the longest shots of the season in Miami.

In the same series, Andrew McCutchen had a 416 foot fly out to center. During the homestand, Miami’s Dee Gordon had a 409-foot fly out. Neither of those shots were even close to being gone.

Obviously, bringing in the fences, even to one side of the stadium isn’t going to automatically improve the club. But it is a start to creating a more consistent approach for the Marlins hitters. Some argue that the Marlins don’t homer much at home or on the road.

What statistical data doesn’t measure is the mental state of a player. This is the ballpark that the Marlins players are in most often, so why repeatedly frustrate your own players? Because, even if players aren’t publicly griping, they are privately. They’re trying to figure out approaches at home and away. This game is played best when players simplify. Having a home approach and road approach only complicates things.

One former Marlin recently told me, that “No place is worse than Miami,” in terms of home run difficulty.

Some suggest get new players. Well, they have, and the results have been similar. Hanley Ramirez (2012) was repeatedly frustrated by the building. Logan Morrison (2012-13) was outspoken about the place, and was traded. Justin Ruggiano in 2013 hit 18 home runs, with 15 on the road.

This year, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna each have one homer at home. That alone should say something.

Even if the home stadium isn’t homer-friendly, as an organization the Marlins felt their home park would produce plenty of doubles. Well, that hasn’t happened either.

The reason?

Normal depth for outfielders is like playing “no doubles” in most stadiums. Defenses will give up bloop hits over balls into the gaps.

The Marlins rank near the bottom in doubles at home. The other day, they had five in a win over the Pirates, but only one of those was a ball hit into the gap, by Yelich to left-center. The others were balls placed down the line, which would be doubles anywhere.

In terms of total doubles, there have been 205 hit at Marlins Park, with 87 by the Marlins. That number actually stacks up around the middle of the pack for all ballparks. So it’s not like no doubles are ever hit.

You have places like Coors Field, which is spacious, but the ball travels there. There have been 269 doubles hit in Colorado.

Marlins Park actually lines up closely with the other parks that recently moved in the fences. There have been 214 doubles at Safeco, with 109 by the Mariners.

Like the Marlins, the Padres made a number of offseason moves, and thought they’d contend this year. There have been 189 doubles at Petco — 86 by Padres.

Citi Field has had 200 doubles — 112 by the Mets. The Mets have great pitching, and they aren’t giving up much of anything.

Again, the park dimensions alone won’t improve the Marlins. The organization clearly need improvements across the board. But the fact the team isn’t producing doesn’t change the fact the ballpark has been an issue.

As for the theory, moving in the fences will somehow hurt the pitching. Should pitchers repeatedly be rewarded for giving up 418 foot shots?

Also, I expect the Marlins to rely more on analytics next year. With that being the case, then target ground-ball pitchers or pitchers with power arms. Simply, find pitchers who fit your park.

The plan can’t be to keep the status quo, and hope your pitchers can repeatedly rely on getting away with 400-plus foot fly outs.

Joe Frisaro

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