When the Reds were designing GABP, baseball was in the middle of the 'steroids' era, where 'Chicks dig the long ball.' Consequently, the original drawings had a short right-field fence, likely designed with the intention of maximizing the values of star left-handed hitters Ken Griffey Jr and Adam Dunn. After this idea was nixed by MLB's front office, GABP was redesigned to have short fences all around. Ever since, GABP has given up at or near to the top of HR's each year.
I tihnk the makeup of our team is wrong for this ballpark. The Philadelphia Phillies proved last year that you can win in a HR-friendly ballpark. Here's the type of team that would succeed at GABP, and how you can build that team on a budget.
PITCHERS: In evaluating pitchers, I would focus on 2 characteristics: K/9 and GB/FB ratio. I would focus on K/9 because that lowers the number of balls in play that need to be turned into outs. The Reds were 4th in MLB in K/9 last year, and with the current makeup of the staff, could repeat this. What killed the Reds was a BABIP that ranked near the bottom of the league, and allowing the most HRs, both of which can be addressed with the GB/FB ratio, as described below.
Due to the small dimensions of our ballpark, pitchers give up more home runs off of fly balls here than they will on the road. In 2008, the Reds led all of baseball in HRs given up at home, with 111 versus giving up 90 hrs on the road (9th most). Given that we play half our games at home, it would be an advantage to give up fewer fly balls. My first order of business would be to obtain pitchers who induce ground balls. We currently have mainly FB pitchers, or pitchers who give up a lot of HRs (Harang, Cueto, and Arroyo). If I were the Reds pitching coaches, I work with these guys to get downward movement on their pitches to make them less prone to the HR
HITTERS: I don't think it comes as any surprise that my preference would be to get hitters who get on base and hitters who can hit the longball to drive them in. Without any data to back this claim up, I would think that slap hitters wouldn't succeed as well here as they may in larger ballparks because, with the outfield walls shorter here, outfielders can play a couple steps closer to the infield without worrying as much about the ball getting over their heads. This would affect a slap hitter more than a power hitter. Additionally, the grounds crew is going to make life hard on a slap hitter (see below).
OBP and SLG have constantly been linked to increasing run production, much more than AVG. I would focus OBP and SLG more than AVG in my evaluation of players.
DEFENSE: With a pitching staff that induces more ground balls, and with less square feet to cover in the outfield, this team should emphasize its infield defense first. As we learned with the Rays last year, a good defense can turn an otherwise good rotation into a fantastic one. After enduring a season of Keppinger, Hairston, and Cabrera at shortstop, we should be able to understand the difference a good defensive shortstop makes. The ability to turn batted balls into outs, combined with the high K/9 and improved GB/FB ratios above, would make this pitching staff succeed in GABP.
Given that we have to operate on a budget, we can't afford a player without weaknesses. As such, I would put my defensive liabilities in the corner outfield spots. Adam Dunn's defense cost the Reds less in GABP than it would cost the Padres, Dodgers, or A's in their respective parks for two reasons: less territory to cover, and more FB's turn into HRs anyway in GABP. Additionally, with the new focus on GB/FB, there would be less opportunities for the team's defensive liabilities.
GROUNDS CREW: Yes, the grounds crew can get into the act of helping the Reds win as well. Since they are in charge of grooming the field, they can choose the height of the infield and outfield grass. Since the Reds pitchers are ground ball pitchers, longer grass is better (a la Wrigley, from what I've heard). Since the Reds' corner outfielders aren't great covering territory, outfield grass being a little longer is helpful as well.
CONCLUSION: This needs to start in the minors. It needs to be the mantra for management in trades, free agency signings, and drafting. Given the signings of Willy Taveras and trade for Ramon Hernandez, I don't know that my plan is being followed. And I worry about this team's ability to win in this ballpark as a result.