Jan
07

After one year, a home run park but nothing else

By

Throughout the early part of 2009, the main story surrounding the new Yankee Stadium focused on the home runs. While we anticipated a home run-happy stadium, no one expected the ball to sail out of the park as much as it did. Earlier in the year, fans and analysts were quick to blame wind currents, and as Yankee officials defending their new home, Peter Gammons called it “one of the biggest jokes in baseball.”

Guess what? Joke’s on him. ESPN has released its park factors for the 2009 season, and Yankee Stadium was not a hitter’s park. While the stadium certainly inflated home run totals, it cut down on hits, doubles, triples and runs. Overall, the Stadium ranked 20th for runs with a park factor of 0.965.

Drilling down on these numbers, we see a marked decline in the propensity of the stadium to surrender extra-base hits. Its home run factor — 1.261 — lead the Majors, but it was tough to knock out non-home run hits. Its 0.810 doubles factor was 29th, and its 0.500 triples factor was the lowest mark in the big leagues. Perhaps that’s because the Yankees were not a particularly speedy team, but more likely than not, the outfield’s shorter fences turned would-be triples into either doubles or outs.

Despite these findings, the myth persisted throughout the season that Yankee Stadium was some hitter’s paradise. In large part, the Yanks’ gaudy offense drove this tale. After all, the team hit a ridiculous .284/.368/.490 at home with 136 home runs. But their opponents hit just .249/.325/.404, and while those hitters belted 101 home runs, the visiting teams’ offense tailed off by the end of the year.

Greg Rybarczyk from Hit Tracker and The Hardball Times explained why in the comments to this BTTF post. After running the numbers, he found that Yankee pitchers drastically cut down the number of home runs allowed and that, after June 1, Yankee batters accounted over 70 percent of the home runs at Yankee Stadium.

“The Yankees figured out how to clamp down on their opponents’ deep fly balls to right field, while maintaining their own ability to exploit the short porch. This was most likely a combination of more innings being thrown by better and/or healthier pitchers, and conscious effort to steer fly balls towards the deeper left field,” he wrote. “The Yankees learned how to leverage the idiosynchrasies of their park, while (unsurprisingly) their visitors did not (or could not).”

Right now, we have to wary about drawing too many conclusions from this data. It is, after all, just one year’s worth of data, and the Yankees featured a left-handed power-hitting lineup in 2009. Based on the available data, the team will again field a power-hitting lefty-heavy lineup this year, and as the year progresses, we’ll have to see how these trends stack up with more data behind them. Yankee Stadium wasn’t, as the critics said early on, a joke for hitters. It is a home run-friendly park that limits the damage done by balls that don’t clear the fence, and as the Yanks build a roster to suit their park, you can get that the team is well aware of these park factors.

Categories : Yankee Stadium

41 Comments»

  1. Jackson says:

    It seems crazy to me that irresponsibly jumping to conclusions after a few weeks could prove to be a bad idea. I’m think I’ll stick to what everyone in the MSM said, YSIII is a joke.

    And ARod looks like a first baseman.

  2. Rose says:

    Bandbox…

  3. the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

    Gammons said that?

    What a tool. It’s so difficult for me to maintain any level of respect for him.

    • Hobbes says:

      Why even try? the guy sucks. his talent is overinflated by ESPN that loves his Boston bias. He is more often wrong about things than not. And how the hell can you pretend to be a national sports reporter with such strong biases. The guy tried to be president of the Boston fan club for pete’s sake.

    • Master of all Trades. says:

      Peter Gammons is a Boston lap dog.
      This is the same man that said Jason Bay would rather play in Beirut then Citi Field. Nice job lappy.

    • BklynJT says:

      Wait a minute… I thought Peter Gammons was the biggest joke in baseball?

    • Hey ZZ says:

      For those who did not click on the link, this is the rest of the Gammons quote. Pretty intelligent stuff:

      “I’m tired of people saying it’s too early, we don’t have enough games. We have enough games. We know that this was not a very well-planned ballpark.”

      I wonder if he got that angry when he found out Ortiz and Manny were on the juice.

  4. It was just amazing to me that no one credited the Yankees offense with having to do with the inflated power numbers and rather pointed to some scientific engineering failure.

    • A.D. says:

      Yankees win the WS and the payroll is focused on. In general the Yanks team on the field rarely gets credit for its accomplishments.

  5. A.D. says:

    Hmmm maybe the Yanks aren’t idiots after all, and figure while the Yanks had a very strong top of the rotation in the 2nd half, the bottom of the rotation was less than spectacular.

    That said aren’t park factors, like UZR, best looked at over a 3 to 5 year period? Will be interesting to see how it develops.

    • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

      UZR is best looked at over at least a three year period because the sample size for fielding data in a given year is about 50% of the sample size for offense data. In other words, a typical offensive player will get twice as many PAs than fielding chances, which is why you want to elongate the sample size for fielding data before drawing any definitive conclusions.

      So, I dont think they’re entirely analogous, but it is worth watching to see how YSIII plays in 2010.

    • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

      h/t to this: http://www.walkoffwalk.com/201.....ouble.html

  6. Jake H says:

    I did think that there were fewer extra base hits.

  7. JeffG says:

    You know what else may have contributed to less HRs in the second half of the parks life? CMW not giving up a bizzillion longballs to the Indians.

  8. Mike Axisa says:

    ESPN’s park factors go back to 2001, and 2009 was the only year the NYS would have led the league with a 1.261 HR factor. In fact, it wouldn’t even have ranked second in any of those years.

    • Marcus says:

      I think this is an important point to add to Ben’s post. It gives a bit of context, because the argument from those like Olney and Gammons was not that it was a “hitter’s park” (i.e., a high run-scoring park), but rather that it was a “bandbox”. They were remarking on the home runs leaving the park at a very high rate.

      But if you look at the historic home run factors on ESPN’s site, you see that in 2001, Cleveland had a factor over 2(!) when NYS is just 1.26 this year. Huge difference. It shows that all MLB parks were pretty even in # of HRs compared to previous years.

      It would be great to see a response from Olney to the final HR factors, but I don’t expect one from Gammons.

      • YankFan says:

        But the numbers from the early 00′s is misleading I believe. Weren’t HR’s in total down this year, along w/ some body weight.
        Doesn’t take away completely but a portion of the argument.

    • JFH says:

      “it is, after all, just one year’s worth of data”

      interesting that in 2005 YS park factor was #1 on the list and in 2006 it was #28. i think that underscores the above quote by BK.

  9. crapula says:

    The Yankees simply have no sense of fairness or of ensuring a level playing field for all clubs. What heartless bastards.

  10. Doug says:

    Homerun breakdown in the new stadium:

    April: 28 HRs/7 games = 4.00 HR/g
    May: 59 HRs/16 games = 3.69 HR/g
    June: 34 HRs/13 games = 2.62 HR/g
    July: 40 HRs/16 games = 2.50 HR/g
    August: 41 HRs/13 games = 3.15 HR/g
    September: 35 HRs/16 games = 2.19 HR/g
    Postseason: 12 HRs/8 games = 1.50 HR/g

    The park played real small early in the season. But as the season progressed, fewer and fewer homeruns were hit (outside of an August uptick), most likely due to pitchers learning how to pitch there.

    Therefore, would expect the lower HR totals to continue into the future, probably settling in quite nicely in the 2.25-2.75 HR/g range.

    • Dwnflfan says:

      Nice data Doug.

      When you factor in the Yankees replaced Ransom, Pena & Berroa at 3B with Alex Rodriguez in May it makes the later numbers even more telling. (A-Rod had 1 HR by Mid-May). Yankee third basemen not named A-Rod had 0 HR’s last year.

  11. CB says:

    NYS was the 20th hardest run scoring environment in baseball. 21 – Safeco. 22 – citifield.

    How many story lines were written about how inordinately difficult it is to score at Citi and it was the ball park that killed the mets? Same exact thing you here about Safeco – for example how many times have you how the ball park just destroyed Adrian Beltre?

    NYS was marginally more conducive to scoring than those two parks but it was something of a disgrace to the game.

    Regarding the home run factor – 1.26 isn’t particularly high. Arizona and the Cell have been frequently higher over the years. In fact the old yankee stadium has home run factors much higher during some years. In 2005 I believe the home run park factor for the old stadium was around 1.4.

  12. Will says:

    In 2000, 266 HRs were hit in Enron field (leading it to become known as 10 run field). By 2002, that figure was down to 158. I think we need to wait a little longer to see just how much of a HR haven YSIII really is.

  13. king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

    After running the numbers, he found that Yankee pitchers drastically cut down the number of home runs allowed and that, after June 1, Yankee batters accounted over 70 percent of the home runs at Yankee Stadiumare really, really good.

    Fixed.

  14. Reality Check says:

    Peter Gammons is a sloppy faced joke and a Masshole.

  15. Wouter says:

    I’m unforutnately not in a position to look this up at the moment, but why would the low triples park factor be due to the yankees not being a fast team? Doesn’t the park factor compare how many triples the yankees hit on the road vs. at YS, and likewise for their opponents? The only way I can see it coming into play is that, because the Yankees do not hit a lot of triples, one triple more or less might make a bigger relative difference, and as such put bigger error bars on the estimate of said park factor. Which is another reason why you need more data, it’s not all about home runs (like is pointed out in the article).

    I do wonder (though this might be more of a question for another forum), is it possible to influence/bias park factors by assembling a team that fits your ball park? For example, a whole lineup of lefty pull hitters would have inflated totals at YS, while being average homerun hitters on the road. If the lineup would be filled with righty pull hitters, you still might see more homers hit at the Stadium, but not such a large spike. Of course, I might be making wrong assumptions about the machinations of park factors now, so I apologize if I’m making a fundamental error somewhere.

  16. Dan says:

    Please overlay fenway park over Yankee Stadium to show the biggest joke in baseball.
    I give credit to Peter for writing the first weekly national baseball column and starting a trend that only the Boston Globe seems to follow today. He earned his spot in the HOF and when he got in, he also earned the right to stop trying to be neutral and unabashedly root for his favorite team. He lost his fastball when he had his stroke and lost his usefulness as a national correspondant.

  17. Moshe Mandel says:

    I wrote a very similar article the other day, complete with Greg’s work, but omitted your very important final paragraph. I think it is too soon to draw strong conclusions from this data. I do think that it does tell us the people complaining about the park’s effects on 2009 needed to shut up.

  18. Yazman says:

    Wouldn’t it make sense to base park data on visiting teams only, and adjust for the relative strength/weakness of the home pitching staff?

  19. mstaggerlee says:

    A scale would have been helpful on the old vs. new stadium overlay, but I’d guess that the maximum deviation between the 2 fields would be around a yard (slightly right of the 385 mark in RF) – maybe huge in a game of inches, maybe not. It might also be interesting to see how many HRs left this park that would’ve been long outs across the street.

    I wouldn’t completely dismiss the wind current issue, either. I think the new stadium may “behave” very differently after the old one comes down.

  20. MikeD says:

    I’m not sure saying ESPN “released” its 2009 Park Factors is correct, since it’s compiled as the season progresses and can be checked daily. I’ve noted it many times whenever the new Yankees Stadium was referred to as a hitter’s paradise, or “Coors East,” as Buster Olney called it. Olney even mocked anyone who questioned him, suggesting he might want to not draw conclusions based on such as small sample size.

    While the initial reaction from the Olney’s and Gammons was clearly wrong, we probably should get at least another year of data before drawing any final conclusion. That said, considering the new Yankee Stadium is very similar in field dimensions to the former Yankee Stadium, it’s not all that susprising that it played more as a pitcher’s park. Yankee Stadium (all versions) has always been a pretty good HR-hitter’s park because of right field, but has always depressed doubles and triples and hits overall.

    We may find next year that Yankee Stadium is not quite HR-friendly as it was this year, and we may see a few more doubles. Yet it’ll probably play as it Yankee Stadium(s) always has: More favorable to pitchers.

  21. Bill Style says:

    I wrote 23 pages on this exact topic last semester, came up with same conclusion and focused on multiple factors also mentioned in this article. Enjoyed pickin apart each and every sentence while reading through!

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