In football, it is 100 yards between end zones, and it takes 10 yards to make a first down. This doesn’t change no matter what city or stadium a game is being played in. Crowd noise and weather varies by location, but the actual field dimensions don’t change. It’s the same in basketball, hockey, soccer, and tennis too.
Baseball is different from most sports because the dimensions of the playing field vary drastically. It’s 90 feet between bases, and 60 feet, six inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate no matter where you go, but the outfield wall is pretty much arbitrarily placed and sized at every ballpark, with no uniformity.
In some parks, it is 302 feet down the line, in others, it is 330 feet. Some parks have a center field fence 400 feet away, while others push it to 420 feet. Wall heights range from four feet tall to 37 feet tall. Some teams will even move how far away the fences are between seasons.
Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, is one park that is legendary for stifling offense, and much of it is due to the size of the field, as well as being located in the damp pacific northwest where a ball doesn’t carry well in the air. The Texas Rangers are well aware of Safeco’s suffocating abilities, and lived through another offensive dud in Seattle during a 1-0 loss to the Mariners on Saturday night.
The Rangers have now played at Safeco Field 45 times since 2008. In those 45 games, the Rangers’ offense is averaging 3.7 runs per game. Over the same five years, in all games, the Rangers’ offense averaged 5.1 runs per game. That is a 27% decrease in offense during games played in Safeco. That is significant.
The difference is exaggerated in 2012. Through eight games played in Safeco, the Rangers are averaging 2.1 runs per game, compared to 5.0 runs per game for the season, a 58% decrease. The Rangers have been shut out five times in 2012, and two of those shutouts came at Safeco Field.
While it is true that Seattle typically ranks well in terms of team ERA in a season, much of that ranking is due to the advantage of pitching in Safeco 81 times each season. Under closer scrutiny, we can see that it isn’t the Mariners pitching staff that is keeping the Rangers bats quiet on its own.
Against Seattle, in Arlington, over the last five seasons the Rangers are scoring 5.7 runs per game, a 10% increase over their average in the same time period. In 2012, they are scoring 5.3 runs per game, a modest 3% bump from the season average.
It is the same Rangers offense, and the same Mariners pitching, that has delivered the Rangers scoring 3.7 runs per game in Seattle, and 5.7 runs per game in Texas since 2008. That is a 51% increase in offense, solely because of a change in location. In 2012, it’s a 145% difference.
Despite the relative offensive ineptitude, the Rangers have still managed to compile a 25-20 record in Safeco since 2008, which is a rather decent road record in a tough ballpark. It also proves that the offensive struggles are not isolated to just the home run hitting Rangers, but that the Rangers pitchers are also able to quiet Seattle bats.
Safeco is a unique animal. According to ESPN.com, no park is a bigger wet blanket to offenses than Seattle’s home park. The Rangers only have one more game left to play in Safeco in 2012, and they will gladly shake its dust off their feet as they leave town, hopefully after a 12-2 victory.
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