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Mr. Montgomery, Tear Down This Ballpark!

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Looking at the box score, the Phils’ 9-0 win Sunday at spacious Petco Park in San Diego was pretty smooth sailing. J.D. Durbin was never in trouble, and the scalding hot offense bloodied Padres ace Jake Peavy early before blowing it open against the bullpen.

But as an arguably wise guy might have said, sometimes you have to watch the games. In the top of the first, the Phils put two runners on against Peavy, but didn’t score. When Durbin took the mound, Brian Giles smashed his first pitch of the game deep into center field… where it landed in Aaron Rowand’s glove. Two more flyouts to Rowand later, Durbin was back in the dugout and on the way to his first big-league shutout.

Had the game been played at Citizens Bank Park, things might have gone differently: Giles’ hit likely would have carried well enough to leave the yard, and a young pitcher in his third start of the season would have found his "shutout" gone after throwing exactly one pitch. It’s not hard to imagine Durbin might have struggled, maybe not found his rhythm at all. The big park helped Durbin, as it made the difference between the excellent Phillies offense and the lousy Padres offense that much more stark.

With three wins in four games this past weekend, the Phils improved to 10-3 all-time at Petco, and I decided it would be interesting to see if the team has played well in other pitcher-friendly parks around the NL during the same time.

The short answer is "yes." The slightly longer answer is "holy crap, yes."

Ballpark 2004 2005 2006 2007 Phils record
AT&T (SF) 0.948 0.97 0.993 0.942 8-5
Busch (StL)^ 0.936 1.028 0.95 0.87 9-3
Dolphin (Mia) 0.898 0.883 0.898 1.099 15-19
Petco (SD) 0.837 0.803 0.86 0.87 10-3
RFK (Wash)* 0.899 0.86 0.942 0.89 16-15
Shea (NY) 0.974 0.963 0.902 0.913 17-16
Turner (Atl) 0.991 1.095 0.946 0.844 20-13
TOTAL 95-74 (.562)
CBP (Phi) 1.024 1.161 1.063 1.061 153-136 (.529)

^ Busch Park Factors include both "old Busch" (2004-2005) and the new stadium that opened in 2006

* RFK Park Factors include Olympic Stadium in Montreal, where the Expos played in 2004

From 2004 through the first 98 games of this season, the Phillies have played a bit more than the exact equivalent of a full season in the seven best "pitchers’ parks" of the league, determined by Park Factor. My methodology here was simple: I just looked at park factors since 2004, keeping in any facility with a PF of less than 1.0 (league average scoring) in at least three of the four seasons. As it happens, four of the seven are home to NL East opponents: Turner Field in Atlanta, New York’s Shea Stadium, Dolphins Stadium in Miami, and Washington’s RFK Stadium (and Olympic Stadium in Montreal, for 2004 only). The others are Petco, AT&T Park (formerly Pac Bell and other corporate names) in San Francisco, and old Busch/new Busch Stadiums in St. Louis (which conveniently have the same dimensions).

These parks have hosted good teams in that time: the Padres (2), Cardinals (3), Mets (1) and Braves (2) have accounted for eight of the 12 NL playoff entrants over those three years. But the Phillies have won 95 of the 169 games they’ve played in those seven parks, for a .562 winning percentage. They have a winning record at every stop except Florida. (Remember how the Marlins killed them through the first five months of 2004, especially in Miami.) And they've gone above .500 in each individual season's worth of visits to the seven parks.

That .562 mark compares favorably to the Phillies’ overall winning percentage since the start of 2004 (.521) as well as their all-time record at CBP (153-136, .529). Against mostly quality opponents, on the road, in pitchers’ parks, the Phillies have played their best ball over the past four seasons.

We noted last week that the Phils have been out-homered at CBP in each of its first four years; on the road, they've hit more home runs than opponents in three of the four seasons. Given that, and the Phils' success in the seven best pitchers' parks, we can hypothesize that pitcher-friendly parks blur the difference between weaker and stronger staffs but more sharply distinguish good offensive teams from bad ones. Hitter-friendly parks do the exact opposite--a fact that seems to significantly hurt the hard-hitting Phillies.

All this suggests, one, that the organization made an even bigger blunder in building CBP as a hitter-friendly park than we’d previously suspected; and two, that even the current pitching-weak Phillies team probably would be a playoff club in a Petco-like park.

Call in the bulldozers, and get that Petco architect on the next plane to Philadelphia!