Marlins Park plays big and is the toughest place to homer in the majors
The weekend before the Reds’ Todd Frazier won the All-Star Home Run Derby, he couldn’t slug his way out of Marlins Park.
Marlins right-hander Dan Haren counted two or three balls hit by Frazier in the four-game series that would have been homers in Cincinnati but came down short of the distant fences in Miami. Haren said the vast dimensions cost the Reds four or five homers, including a couple in the game he pitched and won.
“I love Marlins Park,” Haren said.
Most pitchers do. The ballpark’s colorful home-run sculpture doesn’t get much use because Marlins Park is the toughest place in the majors to hit a homer.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami’s $325 million slugger, has long contended the park doesn’t play fair. But visiting managers say they find the contrast to bandboxes elsewhere refreshing, and Marlins officials have thus far resisted calls to move in the fences.
This year has been a huge disappointment for the injury-ravaged Marlins, but team president David Samson said the organization’s recipe for success remains pitching and defence, with ballpark dimensions to match. While changes will be considered after the season, it’s possible the fences will remain as they are, even with the Home Run Derby coming to town in 2017, Samson said.
“There is certainly evidence it’s a ballpark favourable for pitchers,” Samson said. “However, we believe it’s a pretty fair ballpark. After the initial thought from some players that it played too big, there is certainly evidence it plays big, but that it plays fair.”
As Miami begins a homestand Tuesday against the Nationals, only 60 homers have been hit this season at Marlins Park, the second-lowest total in the majors ahead of Atlanta’s Turner Field with 59. There have been 96 homers in Miami’s road games.
Since Marlins Park opened in 2012, it has yielded the fewest homers in the majors — 361 in 290 games, an average of 1.2 per game. And that’s with Stanton on the home team.
“This place plays big,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “You’ve got to earn it to get it out.”
The power alleys are distant — 384 feet to left-centre field, 392 to right-centre and 422 to centre. The wall is high, ranging from 11 1/2 to 13 1/2 feet. And the ball doesn’t carry well under a retractable roof that is almost always closed.
The Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon counted himself fortunate to homer during his visit to Miami this year. His ball cleared the wall near the 335 sign down the rightfield line.
“It’s just a tough park to hit in,” Blackmon said, “being that it’s big, and the ball seems to just never come down, but doesn’t go far, either.”
The Rockies’ Coors Field is at the opposite extreme from Marlins Park — a slugger’s paradise.
“I wouldn’t say either is fair,” Stanton said. “Obviously, a hitter is going to want to be at Coors, and a pitcher is going to want to be here.” What is the ideal? “Way in between,” he said. While playing at home, Stanton has hit some of the longest homers in the majors this year. One sailed through the centrefield camera well, and another landed near the 502-foot sign in centre.
So tailoring Marlins Park to him isn’t necessary.
“There’s no ballpark that can hold Giancarlo,” Samson said. “I’ve said it to him — he’s not even a thought as we look at this. He hits home runs anywhere. We’re looking at the impact on pitchers and other players, not Giancarlo.”
Stanton began this week tied for the NL lead in home runs even though he has been on the disabled list since June 27 with a broken hand. He has hit 125 home runs since 2012, the most in the league, according to STATs.
More than half of them — 68 — have come at Marlins Park.
In this Aug. 28, 2012, file photo, the home run sculpture at Marlins Park lights up after Marlins’ Justin Ruggiano hit a solo home run during the first inning of a game against the Washington Nationals in Miami.