Prior to the start of the 2010 season, Joe pondered if the new Yankee Stadium would still be as home run-friendly as it was last April. Noting that “perception of Yankee Stadium as a bandbox started in April and was based mostly on a game where Cleveland hit six home runs,” he wondered if the stadium would play truer to its late-2009 trends or its early-season long-ball tendencies.
Well, with the first homestand of the season behind us, the Yanks and their opponents hit 13 home runs or just over two round-trippers a game. Opponents hit four of those in 210 plate appearances, good for a home run rate of one long ball every 52.5 plate appearances. The Yankees hit nine of those or one every 24.89 plate appearances. If those figures look awfully similar to the 2009 rates, well, that’s because they are. The Yanks are still very good at hitting home runs at home, and through six games, the team’s pitchers have been even stingier with the long ball than they were last year.
This long-standing home run reality, though, hasn’t stopped writers from proclaiming a slow-down in the home run rate. Take a peek at this AP article from Ronald Blum. He alleges that the stadium “no longer is playing like a bandbox.” Never mind the fact that it hasn’t since last May. It’s time to play Let’s Create a Meme, and this year’s winner is the opposite of a bandbox.
In the article, Blum alleges that because there were two homerless games already this season, something must be different, but the Yankees are having none of it. “Guys have been making good pitches and going about their business the right way. I don’t think I’ve noticed any difference at all,” Joba Chamberlain said. “I guess at the end of the season we’ll see how everything compares, but I don’t think it’s any different.”
Andy Pettitte was one of the stadium’s early critics, and he had trouble at the start of 2009 trusting his stuff in the new park. Since then, he’s grown accustomed to it. “Last year it was just early, we had winds that were ripping straight out, and now what we’ve got is we’ve got winds that are going dead in.” Pettitte said. “So it’s definitely to left field I believe has played a lot different on this homestand than it did on the first couple of homestands last year. Toward the end of the season last year, I felt like it really started playing pretty fair. Right field is short. That’s all there is to it. But the rest of the ballpark plays actually pretty big.”
Therein lies the rub. The stadium was slightly home run-happy last year, but that’s because the Yankees had a home run-happy lineup of left-handed sluggers. The team is primed to exploit that advantage again this year, but otherwise, the stadium has suppressed non-home run extra-base hits. It plays, in other words, like a fair baseball stadium, and those who criticized its home runs have been notably silent since early last spring.