Last night I found myself messing around on Hit Tracker Online, as I am wont to do when I feel like staring at a bunch of numbers somewhere other than Baseball-Reference. After some sorting, I identified this home run by Robinson Cano as probably the worst home run of the young season. It was a pop-up down the right-field line at Yankee Stadium that escaped the field by maybe a foot and a half.
I tweeted that out, and the responses were what you'd expect. People thought it was cheap and embarrassing, and called Yankee Stadium a Little League ballpark. The sentiment was that that fly ball should not have been able to reach the seats in a Major League stadium.
And this is nothing new. Not for New York. Ever since the new park opened in 2009, people have been ripping it to shreds for its home-run friendliness. It's been called a bandbox that gives homers away like the people in the back of a Pepsi MAX pick-up truck give away cans of Pepsi MAX, and baseball fans really don't seem to like a stadium that expensive making things so easy -- so cheap -- for the hitters. A Google search for "new Yankee stadium" + mockery yields nearly 60,000 results.
So given all the criticism of the Yankees' new home, I've decided to take this opportunity to come to the ballpark's defense. I don't know if I necessarily want to believe what I'm going to say. Watching that Cano home run get out leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, too, for whatever reason. But there are a few pertinent points that I think more people need to understand.
Firstly, new Yankee Stadium is not exceptionally homer-prone. It is, naturally, rather generous, but it doesn't stand out as such. ESPN's park factors put it in the same company as US Cellular and Coors Field, just a step ahead of Camden Yards. The park factors engineered by my friend Matthew Carruth at StatCorner, meanwhile, additionally include Great American Ballpark and Citizens Bank among its peers in this category. Yankee Stadium allows more dingers to be hit than most other parks in the league, but the ball doesn't fly out of there with the extraordinary frequency so many believe. So what if it's relatively easy to hit a ball out down the right-field line? It's relatively easy to hit a ball out down most foul lines.
Secondly, while Yankee Stadium sees a lot of longballs, things actually balance out such that overall run-scoring isn't inflated to a crazy degree. The StatCorner park factors show that Yankee Stadium reduces singles, doubles, and triples. Games at Yankee Stadium since it opened have averaged 10.3 runs, while Yankees road games have averaged 9.7 runs over the same span of time. Run scoring isn't out of control in New York the way it is in, say, Denver or Chicago.
And thirdly, while people clearly don't like the idea of Yankee Stadium being homer-friendly, that's only one end of the spectrum. Yankee Stadium allows a lot of home runs. Target Field kills them. Petco kills them. Safeco kills them. Busch kills them. A common response when a player barely hits the ball out in Yankee Stadium is that it "isn't fair". Is it fair when someone in San Diego hits the ball on the nose and sees his fly get caught in front of the track? During his time as a Padre, Adrian Gonzalez posted an .809 OPS at home, and a .960 OPS on the road. Is that "fair"?
No, of course it isn't. It's just unfair to the hitters instead of the pitchers, which for some reason people find more acceptable. Since it opened, Petco has reduced overall run-scoring by something like 15-20%, which is absolutely insane, but low-scoring games are seen more favorably than high-scoring games, because high-scoring games make a mockery of the sport, while low-scoring games return it to its traditional roots, or something. I'll grant that low-scoring games can be more enjoyable to watch just because they're quicker, but you can't deride one extreme without deriding the other as well. If Yankee Stadium makes a mockery of baseball because it allows too many home runs, places like Petco and Safeco make a mockery of baseball because they allow too few.
Ultimately, I think this just comes down to people looking for any reason they can get to hate on the Yankees. It sounds so stupid written out, but what other reason can there be? Yankee Stadium is not the most homer-friendly park in the league, and nobody really cares about US Cellular. Yankee Stadium is not anywhere close to being the most hitter-friendly park in the league overall, with a bunch of other stadia higher on the list. And while Yankee Stadium is kind to batters, what about the other end? What about the pitcher-friendly environments? There are parks that reduce homers and runs just as much as Yankee Stadium increases them, and there are parks that are even more extreme in the opposite direction. When you get right down to it, it doesn't make sense to pick Yankee Stadium as the whipping boy.
I hate that Cano homer, too. I hate that it got out. I don't think baseballs hit with that force and trajectory ought to go for big league home runs. But what it comes down to is that Yankee Stadium is not the kindest ballpark for home-run hitters, nor the most extreme overall, so I can't sit here and rationally complain that it's ruining the game any more than a number of other places might be. Sure, I would like to. But you can't always get what you want.