Record: 9-3; First in the Northern Division, 2.0 Games ahead of Visalia
As the San Jose Giants returned home this past week, there was one very big change. Perhaps no one noticed it before the bullpen pitchers; the bullpen was no longer fenced in in front of the right field wall. That was because the right field wall had moved in nearly 15 feet.
Over the offseason, the windstorms that battered the Bay Area hit Municipal Stadium hard, and a section of the right field fence right behind the old hometeam bullpen collapsed. The stadium needed a new fence, and they got it.
But the new fence creates a couple of significant differences for the park. The most notable are the bullpens. The distance down the lines used to be around 340 feet, but then a shorter fence would jut in along the warning track, shortening the distance from the plate by nearly nearly 20 feet to enclose the bullpen, then going back out to the regular fence. Now, the fence down the lines is 320 feet in both directions, and the bullpens have been moved away from the playing surface. For the visitors, the bullpen has been moved behind the left field fence. The hometown bullpen is now located behind foul territory in right.
The other major change results in the right-center field gap. Before the change, the wall in right field shot to a deep 395 feet before rounding back in to 390 feet to straight away center. With the new wall, the gap has been closed by thirty feet to 365.
San Jose's Baseball Operations Coordinator Joe Ritzo talked about the reason for the old dimensions and the new ones. "The old Municipal Stadium fence was always so deep out in right-center field (395 feet) because they used to play football games here many, many years ago…Now that the football-playing days here at the Muni are long gone, there was no reason to keep the fence back so deep."
The new stadium is now symmetrical, an unusual configuration in the current era of minor league baseball. It is also a noticeably smaller park, with both the foul pole lines and gaps being moved in, although center field remains the same distance. This brings up some interesting possibilities for the team's power potential.
Ritzo thinks the changes will affect play, but not substantially. "I think the new dimensions will make Municipal Stadium more favorable to the hitters, but it's still a nice place to pitch," he says. "The ball doesn't carry particularly well here in the evenings and it's a relatively high fence all the way around. There are still many more ballparks in the California League, primarily down south, where the hitters are going to have more success."
Ritzo does also note that this team's power is not in its power, so it's unlikely that the Giants will see any significant increase this year. However, he does note that there are other times that the fence might have helped. "Now, two years ago, when you had so many great power hitters here ([Nate] Schierholtz, [Eddy] Martinez-Esteve, [Eliezer] Alfonzo, [John] Bowker, [Travis] Ishikawa) is when a closer fence really could have made more of an impact."
One would have to think that left-handed hitters could do better with the shorter fence. And while the team does not have a lot of hitters known for their power, their best power hitter, Adam Witter, is left handed.
Player of the Week: Dave McKae
The strength of the San Jose team has been its pitching, with a 3.08 ERA being good for second in the league. The senior from UC Davis has keyed that, with two excellent starts in the past week. He took the team's first loss on an unearned run given up on April 11th, but followed that up on the 17th with 6.2 innings of scoreless ball. Between the two starts, he walked no one.
By The Numbers: .356
.356 is San Jose's slugging percentage through 11 games, seventh in a ten team league. As good as San Jose has been so far, the team has not hit the ball overwhelmingly hard. They are also sixth in batting average (.252) and seventh in on-base percentage (.329). However, the team has been more effective in run scoring, with 58, fifth best in the league.
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