In 2020, Marlins Park should be more favorable to hitters than ever before. As announced Wednesday morning, the team is reducing the dimensions in center field and right-center field. The Fish are also partnering with Shaw Sports Turf to install a synthetic grass surface.
Last season, straightaway center field was 407 feet from home plate; in 2020, it will be only 400. The right-center field distance is being reduced from 392 to 387 feet.
From CEO Derek Jeter:
“As we enhance the playing surface at Marlins Park, we felt it was also appropriate to take the opportunity to evaluate our outfield dimensions,” said Jeter. “We made the decision to adjust the distance of the outfield fence, which will now be more in line with the field dimensions you see across many of today’s ballparks.”
The stadium opened in 2012 with extreme pitcher-friendly dimensions. Four years later, the Marlins brought in their fences and lowered it in several places as well, but since then, home games have continued to suppress offense. According to ESPN’s Park Factors, dingers were 17.2% less common in Little Havana last season compared to the average MLB venue.
Some fans grew frustrated with the low-scoring style of play, and it’s been speculated that accomplished free agent hitters were deterred from signing with Miami because of the anticipated drop in their individual production. This week, the Marlins upgraded their lineup with the acquisitions of Jonathan Villar and Jesús Aguilar, but they arrived via trade and waiver claim, respectively (so neither chose to join the Fish).
2019 Marlins Home/Road Splits
Because raw counting stats should be higher for Marlins batters moving forward, that makes them more attractive targets in fantasy baseball leagues. Just one small step in generating interest among casual fans.
However, another consequence of the altered dimensions could be longer games. Trotting around the bases, removing pitchers who are struggling to keep the ball in play...that takes extra time. The 2019 Marlins had an average time of game of three hours and five minutes, tied for fifth-quickest in Major League Baseball.
President of baseball operations Michael Hill cites Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as an inspiration for the change in playing surface. The new Texas Rangers ballpark—debuting in 2020—also uses the same product.
Speaking on the Miami Marlins Podcast, Hill acknowledges that Marlins Park already had a “fast” infield, meaning ground balls maintained their velocity when making contact with the grass. He anticipates that to still be the case with the new turf.