Oracle Park

Brandon Belt expresses mixed feeling on potential Oracle Park changes

Brandon Belt expresses mixed feeling on potential Oracle Park changes

WASHINGTON D.C. -- If the Giants do ultimately decide to remodel their ballpark this offseason, you might expect Brandon Belt to be the first one lined up in Triples Alley with a jackhammer. 

Nobody has had tougher luck at Oracle Park in recent years than the Giants' first baseman. There's no precise way to know just how many home runs the 421-foot alley has cost Belt, but it's a fair to assume that he would have at least a couple of 20-homer seasons by now, possibly as many as four, with more forgiving dimensions.

Just look at what happened last Friday night. 

In the 18th inning, Mr. 18th Inning led off with a mammoth blast to right-center. It left the bat at 106 mph. It was going to land an estimated 428 feet from the plate. It was a double off the top of the wall.

But on Tuesday, while discussing an article from The Athletic revealing that the Giants are internally considering moving their fences in, Belt said he's torn. 

"It just depends on what they want out of the team," he said. "If they want a pitching-and-defense oriented team, keeping the park the same would be helpful. But if they want more homers, and that's just what they want on the team, yeah, you're probably going to have to change the dimensions a little bit. I'd like to see the bullpens moved out of the field of play, anyway, and the logical place to put them seems like Triples Alley. But that's a cool part of the ballpark. 

"It's hard to say because I see both sides. I've definitely been affected by the dimensions of the park, there's no doubt about it, but in the end if me having to play in a bad hitters' ballpark gets me to play in a good organization, I'm alright with that. I've enjoyed my time here. Yeah it does suck having some hits taken away from you -- having walk-off homers taken away from you -- but to play with the guys I've gotten to play with and play with the organization, I would make that trade."

The Giants have tried to build around players like Belt, who bring a good glove and solid approach at the plate. But they have acknowledged in recent years that the game has left them by. Seeking right-handed power two offseasons ago, Bobby Evans swung trades for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria.

That didn't provide what was hoped. 

Farhan Zaidi is now in charge, and he may lead the charge for a change in Triples Alley. He told The Athletic that there's a lot of evaluation to be done, but he certainly understands how important the issue is. Zaidi's Dodgers led the league in homers last season, crushing 102 more than the Giants. 

"The way teams are, as the surge in power numbers has become a bigger part of a winning formula for teams around the league, that's something we have to take a look at," he told The Athletic. 

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As Zaidi and others in management evaluate their choices, perhaps they'll find that moving the fences in will have unexpected benefits. Bruce Bochy has long felt that some of his hitters are impacted mentally by the harsh realities of their home park. Belt said it took him years to figure that part of it out, and it can mess with your swing when you leave San Francisco, too. 

"I think what can happen if you're not careful -- and it happened to me when I was younger and I had to learn to get used to it -- it can not only put you in slumps, it can prolong slumps as well," he said. "Mentally, you know what should be a hit and you know what should be a home run, and when it doesn't happen time and time again, mentally that's hard to overcome."

Giants brass considering moving in outfield fences at Oracle Park

Giants brass considering moving in outfield fences at Oracle Park

From top to bottom, front office to roster, players and manager, the Giants are going through changes. Cue your Black Sabbath -- changes could be coming to Oracle Park, too. 

Andrew Baggarly and Eno Sarris of The Athletic reported Tuesday that multiple people in the Giants' brass are exploring the idea of making changes to the park, including moving in the fences in right-center field where Triples Alley is currently constructed. 

“We’re a long way from having real traction and momentum on this issue, so there would be a lot more we have to do,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told The Athletic. “Objectively, how would it impact the type of game played in our park? We’d want to look at how it would affect us organizationally now and going forward. But at this point, for practical issues like the bullpens or broader long-range philosophical or strategic issues about where the game is going, I think we’re at least opening up the discussion on it."

Since the ballpark opened in 2000, the Giants have hit fewer home runs at their home field than any other MLB team. The Giants rank last in the NL with only 10 home runs this season, and only the Tigers (7) are behind them.

“You also have to continue to track whether you’ve become so idiosyncratic that you become an outlier in a way where it may ultimately become a disadvantage for you," Zaidi continued. "The way teams are, as the surge in power numbers has become a bigger part of a winning formula for teams around the league, that’s something we have to take a look at.”

Though Bruce Bochy won't be in San Francisco past this season, he has managed the Giants since 2007 and agrees that changes need to be made. 

“It’s worth it, I think, for all of us to sit down and talk about it and do what we think is the best thing for our team,” Bochy said to The Athletic. "(Triples Alley) would be a great place to put the bullpens. There’s room out there. Personally, I feel if you hit a ball 400 feet, it should be a home run.

"So yeah, I think we should all be open minded to making a change.”

There is no area of a ballpark less hitter-friendly in the game than Triples Alley. Right-center field at Oracle Park is 421 feet away from home plate and 25 feet high. 

A left-handed hitter like Brandon Belt seems to be at a big disadvantage. "High Drive" park factors show that Belt could have hit over 100 home runs over the past four seasons instead of his actual 67 if he played in Baltimore. 

"I mean, if you think it’s fair that we should be able to hit, you know, 20 to 30 more home runs if we played in another park, maybe then yeah, it might be unfair in that respect," Belt said to The Athletic when asked if it's fair hitting at Oracle Park. "But it’s not unfair in the respect that there’s a lot of outfield out there. You can get a lot of hits if you hit the ball at the right angles and stuff like that. And there’s a lot of room to run.

"You can, you know, get a lot of extra-base hits. But yeah, you’re not going to get the home runs that you think you might get in another place. So it’s fair, and it’s unfair in those respects.”

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In his career Belt has hit 29 more home runs away from San Francisco than at home (in 15 more games). However, his slugging percentage is five points higher at home (.458) than on the road (.453). 

Changes are coming to the Giants, and perhaps that means more home runs, too.

Giants announce smallest home crowd in nearly nine years amid perfect storm

Giants announce smallest home crowd in nearly nine years amid perfect storm

SAN FRANCISCO -- After two-plus years of struggles, the Giants are starting to see huge changes in the seats at Oracle Park. 

The announced attendance for Monday night's game against the Padres, the fourth home game of the year, was just 28,625. That was the ballpark's first crowd under 30,000 since May 27, 2010 -- two days before the organization called up a top prospect named Buster Posey. 

"You hate to see it, but it's going to be up to us to play good baseball and get them back here and start winning games," manager Bruce Bochy said. "There's nothing we can control other than that, make some noise and create some excitement here."

The decline has been gradual as the franchise has taken a downturn on the field. A sellout streak that started late in that 2010 season ended at a National League-record 530 games in July of 2017, but the attendance never got lower than 37,797 that season, even as the Giants lost 98 games. Last year, the attendance regularly dipped below that, with a low of 35,041 on April 11. 

The Giants could always count on a large season ticket base, but last month they announced that they had gone from about 30,000 season ticket holders to 26,000. Still, some around the team were surprised Saturday when the Giants drew just 31,828 for the first weekend home game of the year. Two days later, the number dropped a bit further.

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It was a bit of a perfect storm Monday, as the Giants played the Padres -- who don't draw well on the road -- in misty weather, with the NCAA championship game going on. But the announced attendance isn't actually about people in the seats. It accounts for purchased tickets, and this was the lowest number in nearly a decade

The Giants didn't exactly give those in attendance a reason to return right away. They blew a 5-0 lead and lost 6-5 to the Padres, falling to 3-8 on the season.