If you don’t follow MLB Memes on Twitter, I highly recommend doing so. They make fun of everyone and every team (although I would say they make fun of the Yankees more than others…) and some of things they post are genuinely funny. After news broke that Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz signed a 4 year/$57 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, MLB Memes posted a photo of a graveyard that said “Nelson Cruz in Safeco Field, where power hitters go to die”. I laughed because it is true.
When the Mariners swiped Robinson Cano from the Yankees in the off-season last year, I was upset. There went our power-hitter and it was something the Yankees never quite recovered from. Being the spiteful person that I am, I really did not want to see Cano’s home run totals be high. I got my wish. He only hit 14 home runs in 2014. To put that number into perspective, he hit 27 in 2013 and 33 in 2012. He was still incredibly productive, with an average over .300 most of the year, but his home run numbers dropped significantly without that short right field porch Yankee Stadium offered him.
Cano’s example begs the question if Nelson Cruz will see similar drop offs in his power numbers. My guess is they will drop. Camden Yards, where Cruz slugged his way through 2014, is a pretty good hitters ballpark. Safeco Field is cavernous. Some people will argue that the power numbers come from a hitter-friendly park (such as Camden Yards, or Yankee Stadium in Cano’s case), which is totally valid. For example, Troy Tulowitzki could be considered a power hitter at Coors Field, but not even close whenever he is on the road. Ball parks have a lot to do with it, but raw power is something else.
Nelson Cruz has raw power. That was never the question. The question is if he will be able to make a meaningful difference in Seattle. He will make a big impact in terms of getting runs in, but will that be all? Do the Mariners want to spend so much money on these power hitters when they know full well that their ball park is a graveyard of power hitters? I would have signed Cruz myself, but I think they also need to play small ball in their big ball park. Seattle will be very good in 2015, but it won’t be because of the long ball.