Phil Nevin

Phil Nevin.jpg

Phil Nevin was a great Padre.  So why was he so bad everywhere else?

Phil Nevin’s worst season in San Diego (min. 150 AB): .279/.339/.487 in 2003
Phil
Nevin’s best season outside of San Diego (min. 150 AB): .239/.323/.438
in 2006, split between the Rangers, Cubs, and Brewers

So why was he so successful with one club, but not with any others?

Nevin,
who was selected #1 overall in the 1992 draft by the Houston Astros,
played in 12 seasons.  6.5 of them were with the San Diego Padres,
where he hit .288/.359/.503, and 156 of his 208 career home runs.

The other 6.5 were spent between the Astros, Tigers, Angels, Rangers, Cubs, and Brewers, he hit .229/.303/.398. 

Nevin
played in San Diego from the ages of 28-34.  By the time he left, he
was well into his natural decline.  Still, 504 of his final 558 at-bats
were in hitter-friendly parks: Wrigley and Ameriquest Fields. 

He
played in two different parks in San Diego, Qualcomm and Petco, both
pitchers’ parks.  But that didn’t seem to deter him, and he certainly
seemed to play well in NL West parks.  Of all stadiums where he had at
least 50 at-bats, five of the ten where he was most productive were in
the NL West:

1. Coors Field: .364/.462/.705, 184 tOPS+
5. AT&T Park: .321/.387/.511, 121 tOPS+
8. Qualcomm Stadium: .390/.359/.502, 111 tOPS+
9. Dodger Stadium: .282/.352/.509, 110 tOPS+
10. Chase Field: .284/.330/.521, 107 tOPS+

He didn’t fare as well at his own home parks, outside of Qualcomm:

12. Petco Park: .264/.346/.438, 94 tOPS+
14. Ameriquest Field: .246/.309/.469, 90 tOPS+
17. Tiger Stadium: .241/.325/.418, 83 tOPS+
17. HHH Metrodome: .259/.338/.397, 83 tOPS+

Though he only had 44 plate appearances at the Astrodome, he did worse there than at any stadium where he did have 50 at-bats:

24. Astrodome: .079/.205/.158, -7 tOPS+

The only other home park in which he performed well was Wrigley Field, which was his home park for just 67 games:

6. Wrigley Field: .288/.360/.540, 119 tOPS+

Nevin
was a groundball hitter (43.1%), which goes a long way towards his
success in traditional pitchers’ parks.  He also showed a tremendous
ability to hit with Ducks On The Pond:

Bases Empty: .267/.331/.462, 94 tOPS+
Runner on 1: .274/.339/.493, 103 tOPS+
Runner on 2: .262/.377/.445, 104 tOPS+
Runner on 3: .236/.355/.382, 85 tOPS+
Runners on 1,2: .226/.320/.478, 95 tOPS+
Runners on 1,3: .333/.343/.497, 105 tOPS+
Runners on 2,3: .301/.438/.534, 141 tOPS+
Bases Loaded: .397/.422/.621, 155 tOPS+

That’s
a .422 OBP with bases loaded.  Compared to other third NL third basemen
during this time, this is pretty good.  For instance:

Chipper Jones: .313/.361/.527, 85 tOPS+
Robin Ventura: .340/.370/.676, 154 tOPS+
Adrian Beltre: .267/.303/.453, 91 tOPS+

During
his seasons in San Diego, Nevin averaged 2.05 BtWins, compared to an
average of -5.78 with his other clubs.  It seems that he was simply a
player who fit his own park very well, as well as the parks within his
division. 

His groundball rate played very well in the
pitchers’ parks where he played most of his career, despite his
struggles in the Astrodome, where he had very limited playing time. 
Had the Astros kept him, his style would have fit the park until they
moved to Minute Maid Park in 1999. 

On the other hand, he
likely would have done even better in the NL East, as the top three
parks for him, in terms of performance, show:

1. Dolphin Stadium: .346/.449/.604, 159 tOPS+
2. Shea Stadium: .344/.394/.613, 145 tOPS+
3. Turner Field: .324/.360/.549, 121 tOPS+
11. Stade Olympique: .259/.302/.556, 106 tOPS+

In
a division that featured third basemen like Edgardo Alfonzo, Chipper
Jones, and Mike Lowell, it’s doubtful he could have fit in quite as
well as he did in San Diego (unless the Expos had inserted him for Doug
Strange or Shane Andrews), but it’s the only division where he could
have done better, performance-wise.

Once he left the NL West,
his success left him.  True, he was into his decline by then at age
34.  So it appears that timing, combined with environment, was really
the key for Nevin.

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