As MLB moves toward a bubble format for the remainder of the postseason, the National League teams find themselves heading to Texas to play in Houston and Arlington, while the American League teams are headed to sunny California to play in San Diego and Los Angeles.
What this means for all the teams involved is that even though the Astros, Dodgers, and Padres are all in the Division Series, none of them get to claim true home field advantage, as they won’t be playing in their home parks, or, in fact, parks they see very often at all.
With AL teams — and especially AL East teams — not seeing a ton of play at Petco Park, it seemed like a good time to visit the home of the San Diego Padres to see what it might look like for the Rays and Yankees this week.
One thing is for certain, fans of both teams will definitely be missing out on the live experience. When we polled Padres fans online about their favorite parts of the park, we heard great responses about its location, vibe, and great craft beer. Alas.
Rays at Petco
Based on limited historical experience, the Rays have a definite edge over the Yankees at Petco. In fact, up until 2019, the Rays were among a very small group of teams to have gone completely undefeated at the park.
In six games played in San Diego the Rays have a 5-1 record at the park, with series played in 2004 and as recently as 2019.
The one Rays batter who’s probably happiest to be playing at Petco Park is Willy Adames, and it doesn’t have anything to do with Petco itself — just that it’s not Tropicana Field! Over his career, the Rays star shortstop is now 24% below average (76 wRC+) in The Trop but 35% above average (135 wRC+) away from it. He’s even experimented with tinted glasses at home, so the ticket for Adames might just be a nice west coast playoff bubble.
But the Rays also have an edge over the Yankees in that they have actual former Padres players on their roster, and those players have made quite the splash this postseason already.
Hunter Renfroe — who came as part of the Tommy Pham trade — may not have massive postseason numbers just yet, but he does own the biggest moment from the Wild Card with a grand slam in game two of the series. But he’s not a stranger to hitting those at Petco Park, either.
Manuel Margot, meanwhile, who has dealt with both COVID-19 and the death of his father this season, is having a huge postseason resurgence, hitting .429/.429/.857 with one home run and three RBIs so far.
Both Renfroe and Margot spent four seasons in San Diego, and while neither had All-Star type numbers for the Padres, their experience — especially in the physical outfield — will certainly give the Rays an advantage.
Transposing the trajectories of every fly ball the Rays hit so far this season into the dimensions of Petco Park, it turns out that the Rays would have gained two homers, bringing their total from 80 to 82, had they played there this season (Mike Petriello did a similar exercise with slightly different parameters).
As Margot surely remembers, Petco is a little bit more hitter-friendly than Tropicana, especially for right-handed pull power. This blast was a double in St. Petersburgh, but would have been a home run in 17 cities, including San Diego.
Yankees at Petco
The Yankees haven’t had nearly as much luck a Petco. Their six-game history at the park gives them a record of 2-4, and the last time they played in San Diego was in 2016, meaning the park is much more fresh in the memory of the Rays than it is the Yankees.
A key advantage the Yankees have is in former Miami Marlins superstar Giancarlo Stanton, who has plenty of experience at Petco during his time with the Marlins, having played there 19 times, which is more than the the Rays and Yankees combined. In that time he has established a rent-free residence in the minds of Padres fans by absolutely dominating at the stadium.
Just how good has he been? Well there’s the 12 walks, the 15 RBIs (and 11 runs scored), the... ugh, the eight home runs, and a .323 average with a 1.190 OPS. And transposing his fly balls to into Petco? He’d have hit seven there, not the six he hit in real life, because Petco is a nice place for a massively strong, right-handed line-drive pull hitter. So yeah. He’s pretty scary.
But there are other Yankees who won’t be as happy to leave the friendly, short-to-right confines of Yankee Stadium. If DJ LeMahieu had spent all of his time in San Diego, he’d have lost four of his nine homers.
Like this one, which is only a home run in the Bronx:
Or this one, which is also only a home run in the Bronx:
Those two would have looked a lot more like this one, which, you guessed it, would have only been a home run had it been in the Bronx:
Overall, the Yankees would have lost seven of their home runs had they spent all of their time in Petco Park. But they’d still have hit 91 home runs there, which is nine more than the Rays virtual Petco tally.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, neither team has enough of an advantage as to tip things one way or the other. The Rays will be the “home” team for the first two games of the series, then the Yankees will get “home” advantage for the remaining number of games.
Of course, the Rays regular season record of 8-2 against the Yankees doesn’t hurt their case either.