The San Francisco Giants are renovating Oracle Park and moving the on-field bullpens to the outfield, according to SF Giants president of baseball operations,Farhan Zaidi. The Giants are also considering other renovations by moving in the fences in right field to make Oracle Ballpark more hitter friendly.
Oracle Park is a pitcher’s friendly park, and that played to the Giants disadvantage this season in which they struggled to score runs. This past season, the Giants suffered their second-worst home record in modern franchise history (since 1900), winning only 35-46.
The lack of home-field advantage in 2019 is present in the stats. It doesn’t take a math nerd from MIT to explain the numbers. It’s hard to ignore the simple math. The Giants were ranked #29 in home runs in 2019, and that’s with a juiced ball.
The Giants scored more runs on the road than at Oracle Park, 407 to 271. They crushed 41 more home runs on the road, and finished last in the league in home runs at home. Batters averaged .248 on the road, while hitting nearly 20 points lower at Oracle with a .229 batting average.
“Moving the bullpens into the outfield and moving certain parts of the fences in (even the left-center power alley would be a possibility) would address what have been persistently anemic offensive performances that have scared away potential power-hitting free agents,” said Ryan Gorcey from the San Francisco Examiner.
Old Timey Tradition Bites the Dust
The Giants were one of three teams that utilized the retro setup of on-field bullpens located on either side of the field in foul territory. The pens can be dangerous for fielders, especially for visiting players not used to close proximity of the pens to the field of play.
“The primary objective there, as we’ve talked about over this year, is safety,” explained Zaidi.
When the Giants originally opened the new ballpark in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco in 2000, the architects opted for a retro feel that would include bullpen mounds on the field along foul territory, a tradition dating back to a century ago. The new renovations would improve the offensive outlook for the Giants.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s are the only other teams that use on-field bullpens. Both of their stadiums are considered the worst in major league baseball. The Tropicana in St. Petersburg, Florida, the only domed stadium in MLB, has serious problems attracting fans to home games the last few seasons.
The A’s shared their stadium with the Oakland Raiders. The wide configuration gave extra space to house the bullpens. It also created the most foul territory in all of baseball.
Goodbye Triples Alley?
Fans would love to see the Giants move the bullpen to Triples Alley. The power alley in left-center field tops out at 421 feet from home plate. Locals dubbed it ‘Triples Alley’ because its where home runs go to die. The wind whipping off San Francisco Bay creates an invisible wall in which balls lose momentum upon arrival.
“Personally, I feel if you hit a ball 400 feet, it should be a home run,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “We should all be open minded to making a change.”
According to the Mercury News, “Since the ballpark opened in 2000, there have been 2,521 home runs hit in San Francisco, which ranks as the fewest home runs hit inside any of the 21 stadiums that have been played in continuously for the last 20 years.”
Moving the bullpen and the Oracle Ballpark fences in right field by 30-40 feet will provide Giants hitters with a shorter porch. It will also give the team a much-needed space to house the new bullpens. With extra space along the foul lines, the Giants can add a couple of extra rows of premium seats to generate additional revenue with the renovations.
“We’ve made a lot of progress on designs that would have them move out to the outfield and potentially alter some of the dimensions out there,” said Zaidi. “I would still view the dimensions and the plans that we’ve looked at as maintaining the spirit of this park. It is still going to be largely a pitchers park.”
The Giants always level the bullpen mounds after the season, but the process will be permanent this time. Groundskeepers are removing the hard clay and steel plates below the mounds as well. Bullpens will be in CF/RCF next year, and the dimensions will change as a result. pic.twitter.com/88eW2AtdVm
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) October 1, 2019
Step into the Giants Ballpark Freezer
Mark Twain once joked that the worst winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. As a former resident of San Francisco, I can attest to the bizarre yet frigid summers in the Bay Area. One moment, it’s perfect summer weather at 80 degrees with light blue sunny skies. The next moment, the fog quickly rolls in. The temperature drops 30 degrees while you’re trapped under a grey blanket of fog and mist.
The proximity to the San Francisco Bay is what makes Oracle Ballpark both beautiful and frustrating. Giants fans and visiting fans ranked the ballpark one of the best in the country. The venue has a retro feel, with exposed steel beams and brick walls. It boasts modern amenities, with gourmet food and beer options. The San Francisco Bay makes for a picturesque backdrop if you’re looking to improve your Instagram game. Oracle Ballpark sucks, however, if you’re a power hitter.
It’s tough enough to fight the colder elements of the summer in San Francisco, but it’s costing the team dingers. In other ballparks, those hot, sweaty, sweltering summer nights help the balls rocket out of the park. Fly balls that die on the warning track in April and late September are often home runs in July and August. That is, with the exception of San Francisco.
The Giants were in the thick of the NL wild-card hunt heading into the final month of the season. Their postseason hopes died when the Giants went 6-13 at their home park in September. The Giants barely averaged three runs per game. Overall this season, the Giants scored 5.02 runs per game on the road. However, they only scored 3.34 runs at home in Oracle Ballpark.
“There’s a feeling that, if we could have sustained offense a little bit better in this park, it would have certainly put us in a better position,” said Zaidi.
The Giants inability to score runs in their own ballpark in September hurt their chances to make one final postseason before Bochy retired.
Earlier this year, the Oakland Raiders lost their lease on Oakland Stadium. The Raiders asked the Giants for permission to play home games at Oracle Ballpark in San Francisco. They politely told owner Mark Davis to bugger off.