• Is The New Yankee Stadium A Homer Haven?

    Posted by on April 19th, 2009 · Comments (29)

    Including an exhibition set against the Cubs, there’s only been a handful of games played at the new Yankee Stadium, to date. Yet, it seems like baseballs are flying out of the new ballpark in the Bronx. Wondering about this, on April 18th, as the Cleveland Indians were pounding the Yankees in the House that Stein Built, I dashed off the following question to Greg Rybarczyk who runs the website Hit Tracker and who knows a thing or two about homeruns, park factors, and such:

    The homeruns have been flying out of the new Yankee Stadium, especially to right field, albeit over just a few games. I was wondering if you’ve done any analysis on this, or had some thoughts on it, that you would be willing to share?

    Much to my pleasure, Greg Rybarczyk responded with the following:

    I have been watching the balls fly in the Bronx, and while what the Indians are doing today is far beyond anything I expected, I did expect more home runs in right field at the new park, due to the shorter fence in that direction. However, there is another factor that I am tracking that I think is at play as well: the ball in use this year in MLB seems to be slightly livelier than the ball used last year or in other recent years.

    As for the fence differences, I can best explain that by showing a diagram.
    [Click on the thumbnail below to enlarge it.]

     

     

    I created this by using actual prints from the new stadium, and by using high resolution satellite photos for the old stadium. You may have heard that the dimensions at the new park are the same as the old park, but that is not strictly true. In certain spots the distances are the same or similar, but there are significant differences in the fence line. As you can see in the diagram, most of right field is shorter in the new park, by as much as 9 feet, but more typically by 4-5 feet (the blue dotted lines in the corners are scale markings that are 4 feet apart.) In center field, the new park is actually a bit deeper, and in left field, the parks are very similar. From some analysis I’ve done on home runs, these differences would tend to increase home runs overall, and particularly in middle-to-lower power hitters.

    The fence distances are not the only difference: in a few places, the fence is shorter (particularly the right field corner). A typical conversion factor for fence height to distance is that lowering a fence by 1 foot is roughly equal to moving it 0.84 feet closer to home plate. So, with the right field fence being a couple feet shorter in the new park, this is like moving it in a foot and a half or so. Minor, but I thought I’d mention it.

    The possible lively ball is something I’ve been tracking by looking at average weather-neutralized home run distances. Let me explain that before I go on. I have tracked all home runs for the past three seasons, and for each, I have noted the altitude and weather that each was hit in. After figuring out how far a given home run actually flew (I call this “true distance”), my Hit Tracker program allows me to adjust the altitude and weather to a standard set of conditions and see how far the ball would have gone. I call that “standard distance”. The idea is that a home run hit in Coors Field, or a home run hit on a 100 degree day in Arlington, Texas, or a home run hit into a strong wind at Wrigley Field, can all be compared by taking out those atmospheric influences and comparing their standard distances.

    So, very early this season (actually on the second full day of games), I had already noticed that balls were seemingly flying farther than they usually do, so I checked my numbers, and noticed that the standard distances of all the home runs around MLB were a lot longer than those hit in 2008. Since then, I’ve continues tracking this, and what was little more than a feeling and some numbers off a very small sample size have become a lot more compelling: the first 350 home runs this year are flying, on average, about 6 feet farther than last year. The likellihood that such a difference could come about by chance is exceedingly low, less than 0.0031% the last time I ran the stats on that. I’ve tried to come up with some other possible ways that league-wide homers could be flying so much farther, given that the weather is already factored out, and the ball is the most likely explanation.

    Now, if these numbers wre happening in isolation, I’d be more cautious about theorizing on this, but we are at 2.26 home runs per game (a high rate considering it’s April, the coldest month of the year on average), and on the observation side, my own eyes (which have watched every one of the more than 15,000 home runs hit in the last 3 + seasons) tell me the ball is carrying farther, and lots of announcers (who also see a lot of fly balls hit) are saying the same thing. (You might also want to check out this thread from the “Book Blog” regarding the possible lively ball.)

    So, according to Greg Rybarczyk’s research, it should be easier to hit homeruns in this Yankee Stadium – compared to the last one – as a result of the way the outfield fences have been set up in the new park and perhaps also because of the balls being used (everywhere in baseball today). Reading this, I asked Greg this follow-up question:

    How many games should we be looking at, in terms of games played at the new Yankee Stadium, to reach a point where we’ll know for sure if it’s the park, the ball, or some combination of both?

    To this, he replied:

    As for how many games, it’s hard to say exactly, as different people have different thresholds of “certainty”, but I would think it would be a good idea to get at least a couple of complete runs through the Yankees rotation before you can say anything for sure, as you would want some confidence that it isn’t just bad outings or maybe injuries affecting the pitchers. Also, that should give a better cross-section of weather conditions, whereas the first few games might be influenced a lot by a common period of wind/temperature…

    However, like anything, the amount of time you need to discern an effect depends on the magnitude of the effect, i.e. the bigger the underlying effect, the sooner it becomes apparent. So, if we go another week with 4-5 homers a game, several of the “questionable” variety, that would push our certainty up considerably…

    Very interesting stuff, huh? We’ll have to give this a little more time…say…until the middle of May…to be more sure. But, again, based on what Greg is sharing here, it looks like we should expect to see more homers hit in this Yankee Stadium than we saw in the last one.

    My thanks to Greg Rybarczyk for providing this information and for allowing it to be shared here. If you haven’t checked out his work at Hit Trackerwell…you should check it out – and bookmark the site. Greg’s doing incredible work there and it’s a wonderful service for all baseball fans – as it’s cutting-edge, entertaining and educating.

    Comments on Is The New Yankee Stadium A Homer Haven?

    1. NewStadiumInsider
      April 19th, 2009 | 9:11 am

      Fascinating, in-depth analysis. It should be noted that a reader of River Ave Blues had predicted this would happen before the first game (after seeing the exhibitions):

      http://riveraveblues.com/2009/04/anticipating-a-hitters-park-10299/

    2. April 19th, 2009 | 9:24 am

      [...] are too happy about this. For more on our new bandbox head on over to WasWatching.com and check out this post. And some more from Ken [...]

    3. April 19th, 2009 | 9:31 am

      Ross – thanks for the link. I had not seen that one until now. It’s interesting. Keith, the RAB reader who supplied the graphic of the 2 Stadium comparison for RAB, has LF and LCF in the new Stadium being a lot shorter. However, as Greg points out, that’s not true.

      Greg Rybarczyk used actual prints from the new stadium and high resolution satellite photos for the old stadium. So, not knowing what RAB reader Keith used and knowing what Greg used, I’d trust the data here – and say that the truth is, as Greg states: Most of right field is shorter in the new park, by as much as 9 feet, but more typically by 4-5 feet. In center field, the new park is actually a bit deeper, and in left field, the parks are very similar.

      So, while both features may be suggesting the same thing, one is overstating it, slightly, in terms of what’s happening in LF.

      That said, I can share that, when you watch the games on TV, and are there in person, it does SEEM like LF is shorter in the new Stadium – at least to my eye. Therefore, I can see why someone would want to suggest it. But, again, Greg’s findings say that it’s not true – - LF is the same, CF is deeper, and RF is shorter. That’s it.

    4. April 19th, 2009 | 9:47 am

      [...] over at Was Watching talked to a home-run expert who has some interesting data on the dimensions at the new [...]

    5. April 19th, 2009 | 10:02 am

      [...] Here is a good piece on the dimensions of the Stadium. Not as exact as we thought. Especially in RF.   [...]

    6. OnceIWasAYankeeFan
      April 19th, 2009 | 10:15 am

      So the wild thought of the day becomes “if there are going to be more homers at Yankee Stadium, all things considered, is this a good or a bad thing? Will it help or hurt the club overall?”

      If you figure more homers to right field by Jeter and all the lefties in the lineup, maybe it helps. But are the Yankees well situated if a lot of games become homer-fests? The alternative to the offense scoring more runs is that the No-Name Bullpen gives up more homers too, and that bridge to Mo becomes even more rickety.

      Yeah, I know, I am the resident non-Yankee fan. If you are the confident type, you’ll figure the new stadium will be a big net advantage. But I think if you were worried about the bullpen before, you’ve got to have a nagging thought in the back of your mind that shorter distances and livelier balls will not be a help.

    7. April 19th, 2009 | 10:44 am

      You know, the FIRST Yankee Stadium was 296′ down the RF line and had a 4′ high wall. So, I don’t think the RF line is the issue in the new park – it’s RCF. (In the first YS, IIRC, it was 407′ in RCF.)

    8. April 19th, 2009 | 10:45 am

      OnceIWasAYankeeFan wrote:

      So the wild thought of the day becomes “if there are going to be more homers at Yankee Stadium, all things considered, is this a good or a bad thing? Will it help or hurt the club overall?”

      Well, they’ve lost 67% of their home games in the new park, to date. ;-)

    9. keithk
      April 19th, 2009 | 11:50 am

      I was the guy who supplied the info for the RAB post. I got my info here:

      http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/YankeeStadium_II.html

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Hittracker’s measurements were more accurate, but I think the message is the same. We’ve gone from a nuetral park to a hitter’s park and the Yanks are denying the dimensions are different.

    10. Evan3457
      April 19th, 2009 | 12:00 pm

      Generally, a hitter’s park is a bad thing, as pitching is the hardest part of a team to develop in a consistent unit. There have been many good teams in hitters parks, and some champions, but over the long history of baseball, severe hitters parks lead to bad pitching staffs, and young pitchers that fail to develop.

      The old, old Yankee Stadium was a pitcher’s park, mostly. Yes, it had the porch in right, but left-hand power hitters were relatively rare. The right-field side, especially down the line, helped hitters, but starting from deep right-center, and all the way around to straightaway left, it was a severe pitcher’s park.

      This was true in the remodeled old park as well, but not as severe, especially after they moved the fences in a couple of times. Deep left-center was 467 in the old, old park, and still 430 after remodeling. It was moved in a couple of more times and became 399 by the time it closed.
      ========================================

      It is likely the ball has been jacked up for this season, because of the economic downturn. Traditionally, fans have always come out to see offense and home runs, and have come out less often to see top pitching. The owners are not above messing with the ball to try to mitigate the drop in ticket sales due to the downturn by fiddling with the baseball.

      If this is so, then, very soon, you’ll see MLB release the results of a study done by the manufacturer saying the ball is the same as last year’s. Then you’ll know the “fix is in”.

      Either that, or the steroid and HGH players have moved on to SARMS, or something else.
      =======================================
      This new Yankee Stadium may well be more of a launching pad. Or it may just be that the Yanks will have to stop pitching Veras, Marte, Edwar, Claggett, and even Wang for awhile.

      If Burnett gives up 4 home runs today, then the Yanks are in big trouble for this season.

    11. April 19th, 2009 | 12:01 pm

      [...] Rybarczyk, who runs the meticulously-researched Web site Hit Tracker, offered a similarly meticulously-researched analysis of the New Yankee Stadium on the blog Was [...]

    12. April 19th, 2009 | 12:24 pm

      keithk wrote:

      I was the guy who supplied the info for the RAB post. I got my info here:
      http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/YankeeStadium_II.html
      I wouldn’t be surprised if Hittracker’s measurements were more accurate, but I think the message is the same. We’ve gone from a nuetral park to a hitter’s park and the Yanks are denying the dimensions are different.

      Keith – thanks for the additional information! Agreed, because of the RF/RCF difference, we’re going to see more HRs there – no matter what the Yankees claim.

    13. ebecklc
      April 19th, 2009 | 1:07 pm

      Is there a way to view the home run data comparing this season to only the early part of the season?

      Is it possible that home runs go farther in the beginning of the year due to factors like pitchers still building up arm strength?

    14. April 19th, 2009 | 1:37 pm

      ebecklc wrote:

      Is it possible that home runs go farther in the beginning of the year due to factors like pitchers still building up arm strength?

      I dunno – remember, because of the WBC, spring training was longer this year – giving the pitchers even more time this season, compared to last year, to get ready for the season.

      FWIW, I was at O.D. on Thursday and CC was throwing 95, after throwing 100 pitches, in the 5th inning. Sounds like his arm was up to speed – if you want to use one pitcher as an example.

    15. OnceIWasAYankeeFan
      April 19th, 2009 | 1:59 pm

      Usually its the hitters who are behind at the start of the year, and balls fly further as the weather warms up.

      Certainly that homer today was a “New Yankee Stadium” special – first row of the closer-in bleachers.

    16. April 20th, 2009 | 10:32 am

      [...] The right-field wall. Did you see this report at Was Watching? I had wondered about the exact dimensions of the new ballpark vs. the old one. Sure, the standard [...]

    17. April 20th, 2009 | 10:40 am

      [...] in part, what Greg Rybarczyk of Hit Tracker argues: So, very early this season (actually on the second full day of games), I had already noticed that [...]

    18. April 20th, 2009 | 10:40 pm

      [...] According to Greg Rybarczyk of the Web site Hit Tracker, the balls being juiced is a legitimate possibility. “So, very early this season (actually on the second full day of games), I had already noticed that balls were seemingly flying farther than they usually do, so I checked my numbers, and noticed that the standard distances of all the home runs around MLB were a lot longer than those hit in 2008. Since then, I’ve continues tracking this, and what was little more than a feeling and some numbers off a very small sample size have become a lot more compelling: the first 350 home runs this year are flying, on average, about 6 feet farther than last year.” [...]

    19. April 21st, 2009 | 12:14 pm

      [...] of the 20 home runs hit out of the new Yankee Stadium so far. Or could the homers come from a closer right-field wall and different major league ball? [Gothamist, [...]

    20. nikez22
      April 21st, 2009 | 4:37 pm

      its unreal how fast the balls are flying out of the stadium. was watching the bronx is burning the other night since msg is airing now on sundays at 9pm (http://www.msg.com/summerof77/), and it made me wonder how many hr’s reggie jackson would hit if he were in the new stadium lol. the series is pretty sweet even if you have seen it too cuz mr.october, sparky lyle, ron guidry, and others all recap on the 77′ season. looking forward to a good year of yankee baseball

    21. April 22nd, 2009 | 1:06 am

      [...] New Yankee Stadium is slightly shorter in right field. [link] [...]

    22. April 25th, 2009 | 11:48 am

      [...] than a week after appearing at WasWatching.com, Greg Rybarczyk made it to ESPN to talk about the new Yankees Stadium’s homer-happiness. (Hat [...]

    23. May 21st, 2009 | 9:00 am

      [...] “exact” dimensions of the field (as long as you take “exact” to mean “close enough that we don’t think anyone will notice”), the new ballpark by definition cannot be the [...]

    24. May 24th, 2009 | 8:31 am

      [...] all those homeruns fly out of the new Yankee Stadium, and seeing a few issues already this season around fan interference and [...]

    25. June 1st, 2009 | 11:36 pm

      [...] I’m starting to think it’s the wind/jet-stream to right combined with the shorter distances to the power-alley in right field that’s causing all this [...]

    26. June 9th, 2009 | 6:36 pm

      [...] Bloggers noticed this earlier in the season. [...]

    27. June 10th, 2009 | 2:17 pm

      [...] at Yankee Stadium won’t improve your mood this morning, but we have to do it. Thanks to Was Watching we already knew the right field dimensions were smaller than in the old Stadium. Well, now Accu [...]

    28. June 30th, 2009 | 1:01 pm

      [...] the way wind traveled travelled through the new Stadium was responsible for the additional HRs. Greg Rybarczyk determined that the dimensions of the park are not, in fact, exactly the same as the old Yankee Stadium. [...]

    29. August 11th, 2009 | 11:42 pm

      [...] no truth to the rumor that Lonn Trost intends to have Jeter’s new fence moved in nine feet from where the original fence [...]

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