On the eve of Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, I wrote a piece about the shape of the field at the new park. While team officials had long claimed the new field would have the same dimensions of the old, an overlay of the two fields proved otherwise. With flat fences dominating the left- and right-field power alleys in the stadium, I predicted a hitters’ park. Little did I realize what George had wrought.
The story of the offense is well worn by now. Home runs at the new park are on pace to challenge home run records. Fly balls into right field are sailing over the wall. It’s the wind currents. Yadda yadda yadda.
While we can’t really dispute the home run explosion anymore, the meteorologist at AccuWeather.com are sticking up for the wind. The weather is not to blame, says Tim Buckley. Rather, the fences are.
Buckley’s piece leads with the graphic below, and it’s hard to dispute his findings. In fact, I had been researching a similar piece to find out if the fences were impacting the game, and Buckley and his researchers basically did it for me. They examined “detailed schematics” of the two stadiums and concluded that the new park’s differences have “significant implications.” He writes:
In right field, the newfound homer haven, the wall structure is slightly different than the old park. The main difference involves curvature. The gentle curve from right field to center field seen in the original Yankee Stadium has largely been eliminated at the new stadium. This is due in large part to the presence of a manual scoreboard embedded within the wall. Losing this curvature has resulted in a right field that is shorter by 4 to 5 feet on average, but up to 9 feet in spots.
Not only is the famed short porch even shorter in the new stadium, but the walls themselves are not as tall. In the old ballpark, the walls in right field stood at a height of approximately 10 feet. At this height, it was difficult for outfielders to scale the wall and attempt to rob a home run over the fence. Fast forward to 2009, and the outfielders have been scaling the wall without any trouble. The result? The new outfield fences only rise to a height of 8 feet, adding to the ease hitting a home run to right.
Taking into account the dimensions of the field and wall height, AccuWeather.com has calculated that 19 percent (20 out of 105) home runs would not have flown out of the old stadium. If the first 29 games are any indication, 293 home runs will be hit by the end of the year at the new Yankee Stadium, just short of the record of 303 home runs hit at Denver’s Coors Field in 1999. If this is the case, as many as 56 home runs could be attributed to the size of the new playing field
As to the weather, Buckley sums it up: “There has been no consistent pattern observed in the wind speed and direction that would lead to an increase in home runs so far this year.”
Over the next few days, we’ll have more on the design choices that went into the new stadium and Major League Baseball’s reaction to it. For now, we seem to know the culprit, and it is as we predicted it would be in April. The fences carry some of the blame.
In the end, though, the question remains: Does it matter? Both the Yankees and their opponents are hitting in the same park, and if the Yanks’ pitchers are better, the Yanks’ bats stand to benefit. The fans love the homer barrage, and it makes the games never out of reach. I think we’ll all have to learn to live with a homer-happy stadium, and we’ll have to like it. After all, chicks and Mark Teixeira dig the long ball.