After years of speculation and waiting, Seattle Mariners fans can bask in the glory of a smaller Safeco Field outfield in 2013.
On Tuesday, the Mariners front office made the announcement that the organization will bring in the outfield fences for next season and the foreseeable future.
The proposed changes will be minor, with one possible exception, and the effects to the Mariners’ offense will likely not appear in eye-popping numbers.
The right field line will remain untouched all the way down the wall to the right field power alley, while the biggest changes will happen in the left field power alley and the hand operated scoreboard in left field.
The fences in left center field will come in from 390-378 feet and the fence in left field will come down eight feet because the scoreboard will move behind the field of play.
Removing the extra eight feet will likely allow more line drive home runs, as the distance required to clear the fence will shrink.
While Mariners hitters may be excited about these changes, it is necessary for us as fans to analyze the changes and ensure our expectations for offensive change are realistic.
While the moving the walls in will allow more home runs this coming year, offensive output will not drastically change.
A large reason going deep in Safeco is tough is because of the thick sea-level air present in Seattle, something a dimension change cannot remove. In addition to the thick air, the present jet stream coming in from left field will continue knocking down fly balls in front of the wall for outs.
For years, right-handed, free agent hitters have also avoided Safeco due to the dimensions in left-center and left field. It will likely take two to three years before player records can quantify the effects of the altered dimensions and remove the stigma from Safeco.
As a result, free agent hitters may not want to give Safeco a chance until numbers can reflect the impact of the changed field a few years down the road.
The immediate benefit of the change is the appeal to fans, many of who have lost confidence due to nearly a decade of offensive incompetence. While moving in the fences may not produce the desired results for fans, the move creates the illusion that the Mariners are willing to adjust their field to lure in upper tier hitting talent.
The bottom line is, the Mariners made a much needed and much awaited change. While it may not produce the desired results, the overall benefit outweighs the potential downfall of decreased pitcher performance.