The Padres filled one of their big holes this weekend, signing former Mets poster boy Mike Piazza to a one-year deal with options.
Piazza will have the opportunity to catch as much as he wants, and according to the Associated Press, the 12-time All Star hopes to catch 100 games while DHing during interleague play and getting a few innings in at first base.
The Padres, meanwhile, are constructing their lineup around Piazza next season. According to FoxSport’s Ken Rosenthal, Piazza will clean up in San Diego. But will he be any good?
Last season, for the Mets, Piazza was fairly good. In the weak field of NL catchers, Piazza had a 25.1 VORP, good for third highest. In 442 plate appearances, Piazza 19 home runs for the Mets but with a career-low OBP of .326 and a career-low slugging percentage of .452. Behind the plate, Piazza was abysmal, throwing out just 13 of 95 would-be base stealers for a Major League-worst caught stealing percentage of 13.7.
In San Diego, however, Piazza doesn’t stand to be any better, and in fact, he should be noticeably worse. PETCO Park, the Padres’ home field, is infamous for being a pitcher’s park. In fact, PETCO is a killer on right-handed batters. Last season, its home run index was 51 for right-handed batters. In other words, it was 49 percent harder to hit home runs in PETCO than in the rest of the parks in the National League.
Last year, playing in Shea Stadium, with an RHB-HR index of 86, Piazza hit 10 home runs at home in 202 at-bats. If he gets the same 202 at-bats in PETCO, it’s reasonable to estimate that Piazza would hit about 5 or 6 home runs. His doubles will decrease too. Additionally, PETCO’s Batting Average index is a 91, compared with 101 for Shea. Piazza, a lifetime .311/.382/.555 hitter, may very well hit .240 next year with an OBP under .320. Vinny Castilla hitting behind Piazza is no David Wright. Pitchers will challenge Piazza in San Diego knowing that the ballpark favors the guy on the mound and not the aging slugger at the plate.
Right now, the Padres are relying to Piazza to return them to the postseason, but their faith may be misplaced. Piazza, an old 37 with a weak arm, won’t have much luck throwing out base runners next year, and in PETCO, his offense will be largely neutralized. While the Padres and their fans may finally have the star they want to boost their lineup in Mike Piazza, this future Hall of Famer’s glow won’t be too bright in San Diego.