Kevin Correia and the effect of PETCO Park

San Diego Padres pitcher Kevin Correia sits alone in the dugout before his start against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 9, 2010 in Denver.  Colorado hosts National League West division leader San Diego for three game series before the All-Star game break.        UPI/Gary C. Caskey Photo via Newscom

Kevin Correia - UPI/Gary C. Caskey (Newscom)

In the Kevin Correia thread over at Bucs Dugout, a long discussion broke out today about PETCO Park’s effect on Correia’s 2010 numbers. After reading through the debate, I decided to see what I could figure out.

Correia allowed 20 home runs in 145 innings in 2010, despite a well above average groundball rate. This is especially odd, as PETCO Park is notorious for suppressing home runs. StatCorner’s home run factors for PETCO are 59 for left-handed batters and 95 for right-handers. That makes sense considering PETCO’s dimensions.

PNC Park is much less forgiving in right field, which does not exactly bode well for a right-handed pitcher who struggled to keep the ball inside PETCO’s spacious confines. Let’s check the spray charts to see if Correia would have allowed more home runs if he pitched in PNC Park.

Katron.org provides a useful tool that displays MLB Gameday hit locations in any MLB stadium. So we can take every batted ball that Correia allowed at PETCO Park in 2010 and show its hit location at PNC Park. Here is each batted ball that resulted in an out.

As you can see, there is nothing of any great interest here. One fly ball was caught right where the PNC Park right-center field wall would have been located. Other than that, all batted balls were well within the outfield walls. In other words, San Diego outfielders were not tracking down 400-foot warning track shots when Correia was on the mound. Next, let’s look at all home runs Correia allowed at PETCO Park.

Again, nothing too interesting. One home run at PETCO probably would have died in PNC’s Northside Notch in left-center field. All other home runs would have easily cleared the PNC Park boundaries. Next, let’s look at the hits allowed by Correia that were not home runs. Things are about to get interesting.

As many as 12 batted balls seem to have landed at or behind PNC Park’s outfield wall. Obviously, 12 additional home runs would have destroyed Correia’s season stats. But there is a flaw in this data. Each of these points indicates the location in which batted ball was first touched by a fielder, not where it first hit the ground. Thus, if a ball is lined into the right-center field gap and picked up by the center fielder after it comes to a rest at the wall, the hit location is recorded as being on the warning track. That very well could be the issue here. Most of these 12 batted balls were recorded on or near the PETCO Park warning track.

Fortunately, we do not have to stop here. We can go to the video. So I went back and checked out the highlights. By my count, about four or five of these batted balls landed on the PETCO Park warning track and probably would have cleared the PNC Park fence. A few example replays are at the bottom of this post.

Despite an already high home run rate at PETCO Park in 2010, it appears the park actually saved Correia about four or five additional bombs. Of course, it is difficult to separate park effects from random variation. Over 14% of Correia’s fly balls cleared the fence in 2010, and these additional home runs would have upped that total to around 18%. That is unsustainable, and well above his career rate of 10.1%. So even though PETCO probably saved Correia from a few home runs, that does not necessarily mean his home run rate will spike even higher when pitching at PNC Park. Simple regression to the mean will likely compensate for the venue switch, at least somewhat.

Author: Matt Bandi

Matt has covered the Pirates at Wait ‘Til Next Year, Pittsburgh Lumber Co. and now Pirates Prospects. He served as Pirates team expert for Heater Magazine in 2009 and 2010 and has contributed to Graphical Player 2009, 2010 and 2011. Matt was also the editor of the 2011 and 2012 Pirates Prospects Annuals.

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  • Larry Faria

    I wouldn’t worry about Kevin. He had a bad year, losing his concentration and getting the ball up in the zone. That’s understandable, losing his kid brother, 9 years his junior, who he mentored when their parents divorced. It must have been like losing a son. Notice that he gave up the majority of his homers at home, in one of the toughest places to hit homers? I hate to see him go, but he probably needed to leave San Diego.

  • http://bucstradewinds.net Dave

    Another thing to consider, the range of McCutchen and Tabata. How many of the hits would have been outs? How many of the homeruns would have been saved if the inning would not been extended by those hits? Guess 2011 will let us know those answers.

    • http://pittsburghlumberco.com Matt Bandi

      The Padres also had some outfielders who could cover a lot of ground. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing there weren’t many cheap hits dropping in.

  • Jamie Hoyle

    While the home runs Correia yielded were disconcerting, the biggest problem was his ability to throw strikes when he needed to. Several times during the season Correia had an opposing pitcher 0-2 only to walk him on six pitches. Invariably, the next hitter would hit one out and blow the game open.

    Correia struggled with mechanical flaws all season. It popped up in his first start and lingered all year; his front side would fly open and the ball would sail on him. He never made an adjustment or showed a willingness to accept assistance from Darren Ballsley.

    He would frequently get ahead with fastballs, then nibble with off-speed stuff trying to get guys to chase only to walk them. He really never showed an ability to command his breaking pitches consistently.

    I have a hard time seeing him rebounding and having much success. I got the impression he was both distracted by his brother’s death (understandable), but also that he entered the season thinking he had ‘figured it out’ and didn’t need advice from anyone to be successful.

  • Nate

    I think you’d be much better off checking out his 2009 stats to see what he is really capable of. That said, Petco doesn’t just surpress home runs, it surpresses all types of hits. Look at Correia’s stats from that year, one thing is not like the other: 3.91 ERA, 1.303 WHIP, 17 hr’s, 97 ERA+. Even while putting up very solid numbers all around, when park adjusted he was still slightly below average. I don’t think other GM’s truly see how much of an effect the park really has on pitching, as evidenced by Kevin’s contract. At best Correia a slightly below average starter or a very good long reliever. Worth a multi-year deal at $4 million a year? I wouldn’t have done it.

  • Big harv

    i think he will be a great fit for the Pirates.

  • sonoda

    I think you need to take into consideration the marine layer, the atmosphere and wind patterns of petco park. I’m a San Diegan and I go to the games. The wind whips into petco between the high rises of downtown into right field. It gets downright miserable at night…of course anything below 65 is miserable for me. There’s more to a ballpark than just the dimensions.