The Most Obvious Stat Enhancer
Not all Major League Ballparks are created equal. The lack of regulation when it comes to the creation of new stadiums of MLB has lead to some interesting statistics. Heights and distances of outfield walls, roofs, and even humidifiers might of had just as much of an effect on the history of America's past time as, let's say, steroids.
When the new Yankee Stadium was christened in 2009, home run numbers seemed to skyrocket. Eighty seven dingers were hit in the first 23 games (that is a clip of 3.78 HRs per game). With short fences in right and left field and the lack of distance to those walls (318 and 314), Yankee Stadium became a bandbox that helped seven of the ten Yankee regulars hit more than twenty home runs.
Now it's obvious that only 82 of the team's games are being played at home but still Yankee Stadium must of increased stats, right? Mark Teixeira hit 39 home runs in 2009, one of his top numbers for his career. Twenty four of them went over the walls at Yankee Stadium, that's roughly 62 percent. Alex Rodriguez hit 60 percent of his 30 home runs at Yankee Stadium and of Robinson Cano's career high 25 in 09', 56 percent were at home.
The argument that the Yankees won more games in 2009 because of their bandbox is not a logical one. Both teams play on the same field with the same fences. While the stadium doesn't help a team win a game it does help a player win an MVP or, most apparently, boost his stats. This doesn't seem like such a big deal but in the game today, where stats are the bible and home runs write the paychecks, the differences in America's ballparks are dictating history the best way they can.
Perhaps the most feared hitter in the game, Albert Pujols, is a good case study. In 2009 Pujols hit 25 of his 47 home runs at Busch Stadium, right around 53 percent. 2008 saw Albert hit 51 percent at home, 2007 38 percent at home, and 2006 49 percent at home.
If 2007 is dismissed, its apparent when Pujols tends to get a hold of one, it's going out of most ballparks. Perhaps the greatest player of this generation splits his home runs almost evenly between road parks and his home in St. Louis. This should say something about the state of baseball.
Now that aside, it's time to look at the effect on history. When steroids came into the picture, it was no coincidence that a record that stood since 1961 was broken so many times in so few years. Steroids were the main reason for this.
Baseball today, apparently and hopefully, is clean. Records will still be broken and its just a question of whether or not this small ballparks can be a factor. The answer isn't so clear, for instance Ryan Howard has played in one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in the majors and has regularly put up forty plus home runs. The thing with Howard is, if he remarkably finds himself in the home run race, something that is so apparently unlikely, Howard could be a beneficiary of his home park. Howard's splits actually favor away ballparks but its just a hypothetical situation. Howard has won an MVP award and has influenced countless others, if he hit over, say, 60 percent of his home runs at Citizens Bank then there could be a real discussion that his stats are inflated because of his ballpark.
In the end, as it is with most of these discussions, you can't take anything for granted. Steroids definitely have had a major influence on the history of baseball but so has night games, west coast trips, the designated hitter, extended seasons, and the wild card. Whether or not we can add the influence of some of America's ballparks is a debate that really can't be won.
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