The ball is flying: San Francisco's reconfigured park might be a game-changer for fantasy

Scott Pianowski
·4 min read

I thought I knew what to expect from the San Francisco Giants. I thought I had this story cold. Below .500 the last three years. Fairly anonymous roster, in the early phases of a theoretical rebuild. Oh, the name of the park changes every so often, but not much else does.

But 2020 feels so different (I know, say that again). Longtime manager Bruce Bochy finally retired, and Gabe Kapler stepped in. I’m certainly not confident that will work. But the one thing I always knew about the franchise, the one unavoidable constant — the playability of its beautiful but roomy ballpark — might be changing.

The Giants reconfigured the bullpens before the season started, and closed the stadium archways. The organization thought closed archways could affect the wind currents at the park, and judging from a tiny sample of games, that appears to be the case. The ball is flying out of here.

A pair of right-handed Padres hit homers in Tuesday’s game — Fernando Tatis Jr. hit an absurd shot to right field (off an inner-half slider) and Wil Myers took one out to center. This immediately got the attention of Andrew Baggarly, baseball scribe at The Athletic:

The real story was how those two home runs carried. The wind didn’t knock them down. If anything, it pushed them out.

Tatis’ drive left the bat at 100.6 mph with a launch angle of 33 degrees. According to Statcast, that combination resulted in a home run 46.3 percent of the time in major-league games last season. But not in this ballpark. And never in a night game here.

Wednesday’s game was even more juicy, morphing into home-run derby. Manny Machado and Trent Grisham homered for San Diego, while the Giants hit four taters and ultimately won the game, 8-7.

Mike Yastrzemski had the first and last laugh for the home team. He took a Chris Paddack pitch deep in the third inning, then walked off the win in the bottom of the ninth, splashing against lefty Matt Strahm. Both of the home runs were rockets, especially the game-winner (just listen to that sound, man). And it was the first time Yaz made a San Francisco splash; he didn’t reach McCovey Cove last year, although he did hit eight homers at home (13 on the road).

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 29:  Mike Yastrzemski #5 of the San Francisco Giants hits a walk off home run in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on July 29, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
This Mike Yastrzemski swing ended Wednesday night's win over San Diego. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

I know, it’s just two games. But this could be a seismic change for fantasy. A Giants home game has been a pitcher’s best friend for years, as the yard has played as one of the few extreme pitcher parks in the majors. I’m not suggesting this suddenly turns a San Francisco date into a softball game, but we might have to recalibrate what we expect in these confines.

Around baseball, we’ve seen changes like this before. Petco Park is still a pitcher-favoring yard, but it’s been more homer-friendly in recent years, likely because of structural changes done around the stadium. Several years ago, the playability of Fenway Park changed when the behind-the-plate structuring was remodeled. The old Arlington ballpark had some ebb and flow to it, depending on the contextual design of the time.

All sorts of disclaimers apply, of course. I did not major in Advanced Physics. The sample we’re considering is absurdly small. As anyone even mildly conversant in statistical analysis knows, we’ll need a lot more iterations before we can say with confidence what’s true and what isn’t.

But let’s at least accept there’s some plausible upside to this story. Maybe it helps sell you on Yaz, who was a difficult fantasy commodity to evaluate after his stunning 2019 breakthrough. Remember, he’s not some young hotshot finally getting a chance; he’s an older, well-traveled non-prospect who’s found his way late in the game. Yaz turns 30 on August 23. (Coincidentally, his famous grandfather, Carl, was born on August 22. So was my mom.)

And don’t forget about San Francisco veterans Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt, who both might return Thursday. This might be more fun than expected.

Science, man. I still don’t see the 2020 Giants going anywhere, but maybe this lineup (or visiting lineups) can make a splash. Get your paddleboards ready.

Hat tip for the story idea, XP Morgan. Appreciate you, ace.

Listen to the Yahoo Fantasy Baseball Podcast