Yankee Stadium Is Not A Joke

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Yankee Stadium Is Not A Joke
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

I keep on hearing negative reactions to the home runs being hit at Yankee Stadium and I can’t stand it anymore. Most of the comparisons are out of context. Even so, when did home runs becomes a bad thing? Below, I try to give a better perspective on the situation with facts and information from previous Yankee years. Please forgive me if I’ve made any errors with my calculations.

THE HOUSE THAT RUTH BUILT

The Yankees had shared the Polo Grounds until they decided to build their own stadium. People were skeptical whether or not the Yankees could fill such a large-capacity ballpark since most baseball stadiums could only accommodate about 30,000 people. However, the Yankees believed that their popularity, bolstered by the best hitter in the game, justified the gamble.

While 1923 Yankee Stadium was larger than the Polo Grounds at points, it was still significantly shorter to the corners than modern stadiums. The previous incarnation of Yankee Stadium opened with a distance of only 285 feet down the left field line and 296 to right. New Yankee Stadium is 318 feet to left and 314 to right.

In The House That Ruth Built, the infamous Murderer’s Row from the Yankees teams of the late 1920’s terrorized the American League. I can’t say whether or not the stadium played a big part in their massive power — but it couldn’t have hurt. During their reign, multiple Yankees would be in the top ten in homers. The Yankees would also decimate other teams in total home runs. Even without Babe Ruth’s homers, they would’ve had the most homers in two out of the three seasons listed below.

1926

  • Four Players in the Top 10 - Ruth 47, Lazzeri 18, Gehrig 16, Meusel 12
  • 121 team HRs, next was 72 by Saint Louis Browns

1927

1928

  • Top 2 HR leaders - 54 by Ruth, 27 by Gehrig
  • 133 team HRs, next was 89 by Philadelphia Athletics

Source: Baseball Reference AL Home Run Leaders, Baseball Reference AL Team Batting Totals

I was too lazy to crunch/post the rest of the numbers, but the Yankees led the AL in homers until 1932. They were 2nd that year and Jimmy Foxx had 58 jacks for the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1935, the Yankees finished 3rd in homers in their first season without Ruth but were only 8 from the league lead. Only one year removed from losing The Babe, the Yankees had a whopping 182 homers in 1936. This was 49 more homers than the next team (Gehrig had 47 that year). They continued to lead the league in bombs until 1947. I don’t think the 2009 Yankee bats are on the same level as  those in Murderer’s Row, but it’s obvious that the Yankees have always had a penchant for home runs (more on that below).

The fact is: all baseball teams create parks that favor the lineups they field. New Yankee Stadium may allow a ton of homers, but it was intentional to some degree. Yankee squads under Brian Cashman have typically been loaded with big bats. Similarly, NYS will aid Alex Rodriguez as he approaches the all-time homer record. While it may not be “The House That ARod Built”, his monster, incentive-laden contract certainly played a role in building the new park.

While people may contend otherwise, the dimensions of the new stadium are, according to the Yankees, identical to the old one next door.  The Yankees may have fudged the numbers and moved the walls a bit, and there are reports the walls are only eight feet tall. But the Yankees had to ensure that the new park was geared towards hitting longballs. The return on investment of ARod’s contract depends on it.  And can you imagine if Yankee Stadium was on pace for 50% LESS homers for the year? Instead of being a joke to Peter Gammons and other baseball writers, it would be a joke to the fans.

BRONX BOMBERS

As previously mentioned, Brian Cashman’s recent teams have been filled with power. Looking at the past few years, we can see that the Yankees have always had a ton of dingers. It’s also obvious that 2008 homer total, which many articles have mentioned, is not the best basis for comparison. The 2008 homer total represented the lowest total in five years. From 2004-2008, the homer total went down each successive year. So that may have factored into the Yankees decision to adjust the park to be more hitter-friendly as well.

  • The 2004 Yankees gave up 89 homers at home while hitting 126 for a total of 215.
  • The 2005 Yankees gave up 80 homers at home while hitting 126 for a total of 206.
  • The 2006 Yankees gave up 85 homers at home while hitting 111 for a total of 196.
  • The 2007 Yankees gave up 81 homers at home while hitting 107 for a total of 188.
  • The 2008 Yankees gave up 68 homers at home while hitting 92 for a total of 160.
  • The 2007 Phillies gave up 125 homers at home while hitting 116 for a total of 241.
  • The 2006 Phillies gave up 121 homers at home while hitting 112 for a total of 233.
  • The 2009 Yankees have given up 52 homers at home for a pace of 127.6.
  • The 2009 Yankees have hit 64 homers for a pace of for a pace of 157.1.
  • With a total of 116 homers in 33 home games, the 2009 Yankees are on pace for  284.7 home runs.

*Stats through 6/16 and may omit 6/15 depending on when Baseball Reference updates
Source: Baseball Reference Team Hitting Splits, Baseball Reference Team Pitching Splits

Looking at the numbers for 2009, it’s evident that the Yankee pitching has skewed the homer total more than the Yankee hitting. So it’s likely that number will fall into line unless the Yankee pitching continues to struggle. Currently, the Yankees are longer on pace to surpass the single season homer record that was set at Coors Field (303). Where do I think they’ll end up? The Phillies Citizens Bank Ballpark had 241 homers hit there in 2007 and I think New Yankee Stadium will probably surpass that number. The final number will likely be somewhere between 250-270 homers. Yankee pitching is likely to improve and the hitters will also go cold at some point. If Teixeira or ARod were injured, they might settle in right around the power numbers in Philadelphia.

CONCLUSION

It’s not wrong to say that the Yankees made a mistake(s) in building this park. At the same time, it’s extreme to call New Yankee Stadium a joke. It’s not even on pace to allow the most homers in one season at this point.  Citizens Bank Ballpark is on pace for another 240 this year — is that park a joke too?  The old stadium also allowed 215 homers as recently as 2004.  The Yankees will surely address the issue with an adjustment to the park in the offseason. Shortly thereafter, people will stop calling it a joke and it will simply be the American League’s premier hitters’ park.

READ MORE ABOUT THE YANKEES ON BIGLEAGUESCREW

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