Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Um, Yeah, Maybe Not

The New Yankee Stadium was all the rage early in the 2009 season. It was a brand new, expensive stadium for the best and most successful franchise in all of American professional sports, so there was going to be intrigue no matter what. When balls started flying out of the park at a very high rate, intrigue turned into a frenzy of attention.

Media outlets started keeping a daily track of the amount of home runs hit at the new stadium and everybody from analysts to fans wanted to get their two cents in. Peter Gammons was particularly outspoken, and before the season was even two months old said of the new stadium, "Any player that's played there will tell you that it's become one of the biggest jokes in baseball". Gammons also had this gem at the same early juncture of the season: "I'm tired of people saying it's early, we don't have enough games. We have enough games. We know that this was not a very well-planned ballpark." Gammons was not even close to the only one chiming in, but as usual his remarks were so biased and so over the top that they are the best to have fun with. After 20 some odd games we have enough information to know that the ballpark as a whole was not very well-planned just because a lot of home runs have been hit? That makes sense.

The problem, if you are dealing objectively of course, was that it was entirely too early. After 20 games, the Stadium was on pace for 300 home runs. After 81, there were 231 hit. I'm not a math major, but even I can figure out there was a significant correction in the way of a substantial decrease in home run pace the rest of the way. 75 through 20 games, 156 over the next 61 games. While 231 is still a lot and was also the most in baseball, it is not grossly above the Old Yankee Stadium high (216 in 2005). This is especially true when you consider that the team that called the New Stadium home in 2009 was the best offense and hit the most home runs. When you factor in the wild home run pace for the first 20 games, there wasn't even anything that abnormal at all about the way the New Yankee Stadium played. It was really just that wild pace for the first 20 games. Over the last 61 games, it played at a 208 home run pace. Again, that's just not out of line with big home run hitting Yankee teams in recent years at the Old Stadium. So it was way, way, way too early.

What's more, as I discussed during the season, home runs are not what makes parks what they are, as home runs are not what decide wins and losses. Runs do, so therefore they are what makes parks what they are. Last I checked, the home run is not the only way to score runs, so again they do not decided what is an "offensive" park or "defensive" park. The Old Yankee Stadium, with it's short right field porch, always allowed a good deal of home runs. Yet because of it's expansive right center and center and ultra-big left-center, it always played at a slight pitchers park. Guess what? At the end of the 2009 season, The New Yankee Stadium played just the same.

According to ESPN's 2009 Park Factors http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor/_/sort/HRFactor), The New Yankee Stadium ranked 20th in baseball. With a mark of 0.965 we see that the stadium actually limited scoring (1.00 is a neutral park, anything below stifles scoring, anything above helps create runs), hence it being a slight pitchers park, as it has always been.

What makes Gammon's criticisms particularly fantastic is that Fenway, as it always does, played as even more of a hitter's park than The New Yankee Stadium did as a pitcher's park with a mark of 1.072 for 2009. It was first in doubles hit (shocking), while the New Yankee Stadium came in second to last in doubles and last in triples hit for the season. But it's important to remember, only home runs matter. Doubles don't help score runs.

Despite Gammons wanting to reach a conclusion after less than two months, even after a full season we still need more data. That's the main point I'm making here. Any stadium needs a few years before we really figure out how it's going to play. But based on the data we have so far, the New Yankee Stadium is going to play pretty much like the old one. The fences are a little closer and shorter in places, and that may have some impact. And who knows, there may be a reversal to what we saw in April and May, and maybe that will end up being how the stadium plays. For now, however, especially considering the similarities of the New Stadium in its first season to the Old Stadium, one thing we do know is that all the criticism was very premature.

5 comments:

the gm at work said...

What will be supremely interesting is to see what happens in April and May 2010 at NYS. I'm not claiming to be a meteorologist, and I know nothing about the weather conditions at the new ballpark, but I do know that typical wind currents change over the course of the year. It might just be typical April and May weather conditions that make the ball fly out of that ballpark early in the season.

Either that or players coming back from the Dominican all winter and still feeling the positive effects of an effective doping program.

Ross Kaplan said...

If any new NY based stadium was a joke in was CitiField. I personally liked it better than Yankee Stadium with its better amnenities, beer selection not to mention Shake Shack, but who builds a stadium whose own team can't home runs out of. The dimensions of that field need some vast improvement.

Anonymous said...

Wow,

This is a strong post. I'm glad there's no one that reads this blog that loves Peter Gammons and also thinks Yankee Stadium is a launching pad for home runs. That person would probably be pissed to read this.

bandi

Anonymous said...

Bandi

I saw this post late last night. I decided that in lieu of sending money to Haiti, I would do a much better deed and not reply to this post.

As usual, your comment was hilarious. I love this blog.

--the Gunn

PF said...

as i told bandi earlier today when he told me he was going to try and stir the pot (which takes some of the edge off of it, by the way), this post was not directed at gunn (or anyone for that matter). i didn't take the criticism of yankee stadium personally. i could care less how that park plays, as long as the yankees are winning. they could put right field just past the infield dirt and it wouldn't bother me. i just thought the criticism was over the top, almost as if the stadium had done something seriously wrong to people. it's a baseball stadium allowing a few home runs! first and foremost, this post was about how the home run situation normalized. second, it was about the reaction i already mentioned above. peter gammons was an example of someone who was very outspoken, and while i have a great deal of respect for gammons, he needs to be a little bit more professional than that. saying that we've seen enough after not even two months is just plain wrong, as we saw the rest of the season. but he couldn't wait to rush to a judgement and make something that ended up not being a big deal seem like a really big deal.