There have been a number of comments/questions so far regarding Petco Park, so that's as good a place as any to start.
As far as plain old quality of life, it's tough to compete with San Diego. Though my wife is from Mexico City, she moved to San Diego when she was in junior high so she's essentially a native. On the other hand, when we met I was East Coast personified - born in Philly, grew up in DC, and my entire extended family in Connecticut. I had never even been to California. Therefore, whenever she talked about San Diego, which was all the time, I thought to myself, "Southern California... yeah, right." Now that I'm here, I'll be the first to admit that she was on to something.
I'm not alone - SI recently did a study of all the ballparks, and Petco ranked #1 in MLB for the surrounding neighborhood and atmosphere. Petco, itself, is a beautfiul park, and the playing surface is recognized by players as the best in the league. Finally, many baseball players live in San Diego and for good reason.
So, as it pertains to our ability to lure players, San Diego and Petco Park are huge selling points, as they should be.
Now let's talk about how the park actually plays. There isn't a dispute that this is a pitcher's park (unless you talk to our pitching coach, Darren Balsley). In the 4+ years of the park, the National League has combined across all venues for an approximate average of .265 with a .335 obp and a .425 slg. However, batters at Petco have combined to hit .244 with a .312 obp and a .377 slg.
Every ballpark, to some degree, becomes a lightning rod in the first few years as people try to figure out how it plays, and since Petco is a rather extreme park it has received a lot of attention. As evidenced by all the comments, Petco is very much in everyone's mind this spring. That's probably because the Padres have hit .215 with a .296 obp and a .309 slg at home. That line isn't going to lead to a lot of runs, and when teams don't hit they look lethargic. Do you know what our opponents have hit in Petco so far this year? Try .207/.279/.308.
In each of the past 4+ seasons, the Padres have had a higher OPS than our opponents while playing in Petco. The total line since the opening: .246/.321/.379 for the Padres and .243/.303/.376 for the opposition. Over 342 games, that's a significant spread. So big deal - Petco suppresses run scoring, and we all already knew that. What is interesting to me is the relative aspect of this puzzle. Scoring runs in an absolute world isn't as important as in the relative world in which we compete - you win by scoring more runs than your opponent, not by scoring a certain number of runs.
Given the difference in batting lines between the Padres and their opponents, one would expect the Padres to have had a winning record at home, which has been the case. The Padres worst home record in Petco came in the inaugural season when the 2004 team posted a 42-39 record at home (interestingly, that team had the best home batting stats of any Padres team in Petco). The total record at Petco for the Padres, including this season, is 186-156, which pro-rates to an annual record of 44-37 at home. Does anyone happen to know what the average record at home has been for all Major League teams since the beginning of 2004? Drum roll....
44 and 37.
That relatively superficial analysis tells me two things: one that is discouraging and one that is encouraging. The encouraging takeaway is that the Padres are solid at home, and the way Petco plays in terms of wins and losses is on par with other home ballparks. So our fans have plenty of reasons to come to Petco to enjoy the best atmosphere in all of Major League Baseball while also watching a winning team. The discouraging takeaway is that I'd rather be on the high end of the spectrum rather than the middle. Last year's team moved in that direction, as we posted a 47-34 season at home, which outside of 1998 was the best home record in 19 years for the Padres.
A lot of questions regarding the park pertained to specific personnel and certain attributes that our players need in order to be successful here. I'll try to tackle those questions in Part II sometime later this week.
In the meantime, fans of the Padres should remember that the only four year run of consecutive winning seasons in franchise history has coincided with our four years with Petco as our home.