In Lloyd McClendon’s view, Safeco Field isn’t a bad ballpark for hitters. It’s a ballpark that has has seen its share of bad hitters. But that’s about to change.
Despite statistical evidence to the contrary, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon doesn’t buy into the idea that Safeco Field is a poor park for hitters.
“It’s false,” McClendon told reporters Thursday. “I mean that. Go to Comerica (Detroit) if you want to see a big ballpark. It’s 430 (feet to) straightway center and 415 in right-center. Safeco (deepest point of the park is 405 feet) is not a big place.”
Two years ago, in a move many believed long overdue, the Mariners shortened the fences at Safeco Field, bringing them in from four to 17 feet and standardizing the height of the outfield wall at eight feet. This hasn’t exactly been a boon to Seattle hitters.
Last year, the Mariners at home ranked 15th (and last) in the American League in runs (281), hits (619), doubles (105), batting average (.238), on-base percentage (.294) and OPS (.664) and 14th in total bases (965). On a more positive note, they ranked ninth in home runs (73).
But on the road, they ranked fifth in runs (353), seventh in hits (709), ninth in average (.249) and 10th in slugging (.387) and OPS (.687). Had the Mariners put up those numbers at Safeco, they would have made the postseason.
According to McClendon, the anemic numbers are not so much the result of Safeco being a poor hitters park as it is the fact that Seattle has featured poor hitters playing at Safeco, the lightly missed Justin Smoak popping immediately to mind.
“It (Safeco Field) used to be big,” McClendon said. “It’s not big anymore. The fences are in. Washington came in (last year), and made Safeco look real small (10 home runs in a three-game series Aug. 29-31). Nelson Cruz (playing for the Orioles) hit the ball out and made Safeco look real small.”
McClendon had a colorful way of describing Seattle’s poor stats at Safeco.
“It looks big when you’ve got guys that have their puppy muscles. When they get their man muscles, it becomes small. It’ll be small for us now, trust me.”
Mariners 4, Rangers 4
Getting a start at designated hitter, Mike Zunino crushed two home runs in Friday’s 4-4 tie with the Texas Rangers in Surprise, AZ. Zunino ripped a solo shot off Jon Edwards in the fourth inning and a two-run blast off Spencer Patton in the sixth, finishing 2-for-3.
Seattle starter Roenis Elias worked four innings and allowed two runs, including one earned, on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
Texas trailed 3-2 in the seventh before Mitch Moreland cracked a two-run homer off Tom Wilhelmsen. The Mariners tied the game in the eighth on a homer by Alex Jackson, Seattle’s 19-year-old 2014 first-round pick out of Rancho Bernado (CA.) High School.
The Mariners Friday sent LHP Lucas Luetge, C John Hicks, INFs Ketel Marte and Jesus Montero and OFs James Jones and Stefen Romero to AAA Tacoma, and assigned RHP Justin Germano, LHP Rafael Perez, INFs D.J. Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan and OF Franklin Gutierrez to their minor league camp.
Felix Hernandez will pitch Saturday against the Cubs. James Paxton will make his spring debut Sunday against the Rangers in Peoria . . . Hisashi Iwakuma will throw a simulated game Monday against minor leaguers rather than face the AL West rival Angels.