June 16, 2009 [LINK / comment]
Home runs in New Yankee Stadium
The general public is gradually starting to realize something that I began pointing out over a year ago: that, contrary to numerous official announcements, New Yankee Stadium is not a virtual carbon copy of Old (or Renovated) Yankee Stadium in terms of the outfield configuration. In fact, the distance to the fence in right center field is markedly closer than it was in the old stadium, about 18 feet, according to my estimates. This is the reason for the huge increase in home runs at the new stadium, not the weather. Indeed, AccuWeather.com
analyzed the 29 games played and the 105 home runs hit at the new Stadium and determined that 20 of those home runs, all hit to right or right-center field, would not have been home runs at the old Stadium across the street.
See MLB.com; I cite AccuWeather.com below. I believe the current home run total at NYS is 115, about twice as many as there were last year at OYS (or RYS, if you wish). That article spells out something about which I wasn't sure until now: the height of the outfield fence is eight feet, two feet less than at OYS. So, the vaunted successor to the House That Ruth Built seems to be a measly little band box, a veritable home run heaven for left-handed hitters. In a way, however, that is actually closer to what Yankee Stadium was like in the old old days, before the tragic renovations of 1976. It's just that the Yankees can't exploit the superiority they used to enjoy with left-handed sluggers, especially Ruth and (switch-hitter) Mantle.
There was a similar story at Yahoo Sports [link via Bruce Orser]: "The new Yankee Stadium is a lot of things that the New York Yankees expected when they planned it. No one fathomed it would be the park that could break Coors Field's stranglehold on the single-season home run record of 303 in 1999." No one?
See, I told you so!
While it is true that I made no firm predictions about how many home runs there would be at New Yankee Stadium, I did make it clear more than once over a year before it opened that the right field fence was going to be closer than in the old stadium. In response to an e-mail message from a fan named Marcus Gilbert in February 2008 I wrote,
The dimensions of the new Yankee Stadium are not as close to those of the original as has been claimed. More to the point, the right field fence is parallel to the third base line, whereas the fence angles outward in the current version.
I first released a preliminary rendering of New Yankee Stadium in March 2008. This past January I wrote,
The Yankees want everyone to think that the outfield dimensions will be the same as at the old Yankee Stadium, but unless I have been misled by some of the blueprint images I've seen, that is definitely not the case in the power alleys.
And of course, anyone who has browsed this Web site and compared the new and old stadiums on either of those pages would see this right away. To make this 100% clear for everyone, I have come up with the following overlay diagram comparing the two Yankee Stadiums:
Don't blame the weather
One of the lamest excuses from the Yankees front office for all the home runs at New Yankee Stadium is the difference in wind currents. Well, that "urban legend" is falling by the wayside. There are a lot of gullible fans out there, but slowly the truth is getting out. Curiously, I had a hard time finding the widely-reported story at AccuWeather.com, but did find what Bernie Rayno wrote there on April 21:
The old Yankee stadium had more vertically stacked tiers and a large upper deck, acting like a solid wall in effect, which would cause the wind to swirl more and be less concentrated. The new Yankee stadium's tiers are less stacked, making a less sharp slope from the top of the stadium to the field. This shape could enable winds to blow across the field with less restriction. In addition, the slope of the seating would also lead to a "downslope" effect in the field which, depending on wind direction, would tend to cause air to lift up in the right field. Fly balls going into right field during a gusty west wind would be given more of a lift thus carrying the ball farther out into right field.
In other words, AccuWeather.com was itself part of the "spin machine" that kept alive that false notion, hence their apparent eagerness to rectify the true situation. As far as the possibility that the different shape of the grandstand may affect wind currents, these enlarged profiles illustrate this point more clearly:
It would take a huge amount of effort to measure wind in various locations to determine whether that phenomenon is a real one or not. At Candlestick Park, there was a similar belief that the 1972 enlargement, enclosing the outfield with a double-decked grandstand, affected winds, but I don't think there has been definitive proof of such an assertion.
Yankee Stadium II update
With all of these things in mind, I've made a revision to the New Yankee Stadium diagram, yet another change in plans in response to real-world news. Compared to the earlier version, the upper deck is a few rows deeper and the profile about 6-8 feet higher altogether. Also, the second deck seems to be even less steep than I thought before, with a slope of about 16 degrees rather than 18 degrees, but I may need to check other sources before deciding for sure. There is no change in the shape of the field, the first deck, or the bleachers. For the time being, I have left my proposed alternative configuration (with the outfield fences pushed back 10-15 feet) the way it is, so you can see which parts of the diagram were revised.
And just for the record, the difference in the outfield fence distances is so great that it is even apparent in these scaled-down thumbnail images.
Nats in the Big Apple
And speaking of the New Yankee Stadium, the forlorn, luckless, leaderless Washington Nationals begin a three-game series at New York tonight. The Nats' best starting pitcher Shairon Martis (5-1) faces some guy named C.C. Sabathia with a slightly worse record (5-4), so it should be a pretty even matchup ... NOT! Well, at least the Nats' left-handed slugger Adam Dunn ought to be good for a few more home runs in cozy little New Yankee Stadium. At 17 for the year, he is currently five behind the three league leaders. WUSA-TV's Brett Haber just said that if the Nationals sweep the Yankees, Manny Acta might get to keep his job.
The mail bag
I've fallen behind in communications once again, but have received from very helpful input recently from Bruce Orser, John Pastier (author of the superb reference book Ballparks Yesterday and Today), Ron Selter, Jonathan Veilleux, and Cesar Gomez, who sent me some Citi Field photos. (Stay tuned.) Plus, I still have some ballpark photos to post from John Minor. And that's not including the (friendly) flak I got for my feeble attempts at discussing hockey! Mike Zurawski disputes my contention about the historical status of hockey arenas, citing Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers) and Soldier Field (Chicago Bears). Possibly, but those are exceptional cases, and I don't recall a big fans' movement to keep Soldier Field looking the way it used to when they did that horrible renovation to it several years ago. (To my surprise, Mike approves of that renovation.) My point was more about fans, that hockey fans are more nostalgic about their "home ice" than football fans are about their home fields.
Speaking of hockey, did I ever mention that I used to ice skate? At least I think so. I'd better check my sources first.