The launchpad in New York

The big story that emerged out of baseball this weekend is that the new Yankee Stadium is a launchpad. Buster Olney, a guy who I normally agree with, wrote the article I linked, and he does give some pretty hard evidence that the new stadium is homer-friendly: in the first four official games, plus the first two unofficial games, there have been 28 home runs (the article was from yesterday morning, the Indians and Yankees totaled 3 home runs yesterday). For those of you keeping track at home, that’s more than four home runs a game. (To put this in perspective: in the 2007 season, 4,957 home runs were hit in Major League baseball games during the regular season. That’s 30 teams, playing 162 games, divided by two for overlap (someone correct me if my math is wrong, but I think I’m right) to total 2430 games. This means that in 2007, there was an average of just about two home runs per game.)

But here’s a thought: ever considered the fact that the Yankees pitching (and the Indians pitching, to a lesser extent, for that matter) is just bad? Remember the Indians of the late 90s? Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Eddie Murray, Matt Williams and others led the Indians to winning seasons because of their offense. The pitchers consisted of starters like past-his-prime Orel Hershiser, flash-in-the-pan Jaret Wright, that-guy-from-Geneva Brian Anderson, past-his-prime-part-deux Dennis Martinez and others. (Oh yeah, I almost forgot not-even-steroids-can-save-you-now Jason Grimsley.) In the bullpen, Paul Assenmacher (probably the best of the bunch), Eric “Ker” Plunk…and the biggest goat of them all, Jose Mesa.

Anyone noticing a trend here? In the 90s, Jacobs Field was a hitters park because the Indians lineup had at least two Hall-of-Famers, probably three. The guys I mentioned above have over 2000 home runs between them. They know how to hit.

But what happened in the 2000s? The Indians got some pitching! CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Bartolo Colon, and others forced opposing offenses to manufacture runs the old fashioned way, because you weren’t going to hit many home runs off of these guys. On the other side, since the Indians could no longer afford Hall of Fame power, they settled for the likes of Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, etc. Grady Sizemore is the only one out of that group who might hit 500 home runs in his career, and he isn’t even a power hitter! With good pitching on that side of the ball, and back-to-earth hitting on the other, Jacobs Progressive Field has become a pitchers park.

Now back to Yankee Stadium. First of all, it’s early. This stadium will probably be standing in the Bronx for another fifty years. That’s 8100 4050 games, assuming the Yankees never make the playoffs. You can’t judge how the ball jumps off the bat based on four games. The wind might have been weird for that series, space aliens might have taken an interest, who knows. The point is, the sample size is too small to make such generalizations.

Secondly, I know this might be hard for Yankees fans to believe, but it’s possible that your pitching just isn’t that good. On Saturday, during the Indians’ 22-4 drubbing of the Yankees, Indians hitters teed off against Wang (whose sinker is completely flat), Claggett (who was making his major league debut), Ramirez and Veras. Of the six home runs, three of them went to right field, and three of them went to left field. If the ball carries so much to right field, why did the Indians have no problem hitting them to left? (The hitters that hit them to left were DeRosa, Choo and Hafner. Choo and Hafner are left-handed, so they hit the ball the other way, and Choo hit his to left-center, a longer shot.) And if the ball was carrying in both directions, why didn’t the Yankees hit six home runs and score 22 runs?

Occam’s razor suggests that the solution to this problem is that the Yankees pitching was just worse than the Indians on Saturday. Before we go jumping to the conclusions “it’s the park, it’s the park! There’s no way they could spend $300 million on free agents and still stink! Who are they, the Mets?”, just remember that we’re four games in, and the new Yankee Stadium has a lot more games left to be played.

EDIT: Math correction.



Originally posted on Cleveland, Curveballs and Common Sense on April 20, 2009 at 4:55 AM. Post text content © 2009 Jimmy Sawczuk. All rights reserved.

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