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Cards look to make Busch Stadium more hitter-friendly

St. Louis CardinalsWith the team’s offense in the toilet, the St. Louis Cardinals are looking to make Busch Stadium more hitter-friendly, including moving in the fences.

We’re always a little skeptical of short-term fixes to long-term organizational changes, and there’s a little panic coming out of the team’s front office when it comes to diminished offense numbers this season. The main argument is that what would have been homers in other parks are just long outs in Busch Stadium.

But it’s a considerably more complicated situation. These days Busch Stadium is a very pitcher-friendly venue, a number backed up by research from the likes of Ballpark Reference. But that’s not always been true: In 2013, when the Cardinals were the top-scoring team in baseball, the park’s numbers for considerably more neutral. Of course, performances on the field help shape those ballpark factors, and in 2013 the lineup featured the likes of Carlos Beltran, Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Yadler Molina and the first-base tandem of Allen Craig and Mike Adams. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The Cardinals are exploring internally how their downtown ballpark has become detrimental to their offense and what changes to its dimensions or their approach could correct a competitive disadvantage, an official confirmed Saturday.

“The numbers don’t lie,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations. “What we’re trying to understand is what’s changed at Busch. We’re taking a look at this, we’re studying this, and we’re looking for what we can do to perhaps improve the offense in the future.”…

Factors that have muted the offense at Busch are under review. This is the first season with a humidor in use at the ballpark, and the theory behind its use is regulating the baseball’s storage from season to season, sweltering summer to a Missouri fall. A wind study of the new ballpark was conducted before Ballpark Village’s construction, and there’s an idea within the team that the high-rise in center field may have changed how the ballpark plays. The facets in the outfield wall — it’s not a smooth arc — have long been part of how it caters to pitchers and used to be a playground for doubles.

Yes, there have been some physical changes to Busch Stadium in the past few years. Compare the 2013 lineups with today’s, and it’s clear that there’s been some drop-off on the talent level as well. All eight position players are in double figures when it comes to homers, but the team is batting .240 as a whole–versus .269 in 2013. Everyone in baseball is swinging for the fences, setting up plenty of feast-or-famine situations. The notion of building a roster suited to a venue seems to be antiquated, with teams now building a lineup based on analytics (bat speed, bat angle, etc.) and then seeking to adjust the venue.

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