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Ball Park Banter

new yanks

Mark Lamster, a longtime friend of Bronx Banter, has a long piece on the two new NYC ballparks over at Metropolis magazine:

For a certain kind of baseball enthusiast, the ultimate measure of these two parks rests on how they actually play. The new Yankee Stadium is a simulacra of the old, with dimensions that are roughly the same but different enough that it performs quite differently. (For the spectator, this lends it either an eerie cast or a pleasant familiarity.) In practice, shorter and closer outfield fences, a reduction of foul territory, and concourses open to the wind make Yankee Stadium one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball. Though the old yard always favored powerful lefties like Ruth, it now seems to favor anyone who shows up with a bat: its home-run rate is by far the highest in baseball. This has made it something of a laughingstock among seamheads, but what real detriment the hitter-friendly contours might pose, beyond making games longer, is a matter for debate. Some experts believe that hitters’ parks place undue stress on team pitching staffs, thereby reducing their chances at postseason success. Attendance, however, traditionally supports the validity of the league’s nineties-era marketing slogan: “Chicks dig the long ball.”

Regardless of gender, fans who want to see home runs would do well to avoid Citi Field, which seems as hostile to dingers as Yankee Stadium is friendly to them. Despite the Mets’ potent bats, their new home, with its prairie-scaled expanses, suppresses offense like no other in baseball. “The distances in the outfield and the power alleys, that’s where you can have some fun in establishing dimensions,” Barnert says. “You can create some unique areas where the ball can rattle around a bit.” It is that creativity, however, that many purists find aggravating. “It’s just so contrived,” says Jay Jaffe, a writer for Baseball Prospectus. “It drives me crazy.” The dimensions of the classic ballparks on which the Populous stadiums are modeled (such as Ebbets Field) were the product of their constrained urban lots. But Citi Field was built in the middle of a parking lot. And therein lies the strange paradox of the Populous stadiums: though they are painstakingly manufactured to appear idiosyncratic, the willfulness of their design is inescapable; and now that there are nearly 20 of them around the league, their heterogeneity has come to seem altogether homogenous.

When I first started attending games on my own, some 20 years ago, a ticket to the Yankee bleachers cost $1.50, pocket change even for a kid on a tight allowance. That same ticket now costs $14: not an unreasonable sum, but more than a movie and enough to keep a student on a limited budget from making it too much of a habit. The new stadium, for that matter, doesn’t beg that kind of relationship. It’s a special-occasion place, somewhere to visit a couple of times a season. Why empty your wallet for an entertainment event that might not be entertaining? (Even the best teams lose roughly 40 percent of their games.) When you’re stuck in the nosebleed seats, and a beer, a dog, and a bag of peanuts cost upward of 20 bucks, thoughts of exploitation inevitably percolate through the mind. It is in those moments that the fan-team compact seems hopelessly broken, and one begins to wonder about the difference between being a fan and being a chump. Sometimes it seems like there’s no difference at all.

Lamster’s second book, Master of Shadows, The Secret Diplomatic Career of the Painter Peter Paul Rubens is due out this fall. Dude, talk about well-rounded. Lamster is one of the best and brightest and I’m proud to call him a pal.


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1 Chyll Will   ~  Jul 23, 2009 11:33 am

I agree and would go further; there is a willful neglect of the effect that park dimensions would have on the style of play and how it effects the personnel at hand. One might argue with Yankee Stadium that the populist offense that is supported by the current dimensions could be minimized by effective pitching, which the Yanks may have thought about when they brought in CC and AJ and were counting on an effective Wang to produce ground balls and Jobba to just break bats and mow them down. Didn't necessarily go as planned, but it was a good thought, unless you consider that next year or beyond, if the dimensions are kept the same way, a dominant free agent pitcher may not want to sacrifice themselves in the crucible of NYC for the sake of his own team's perhaps inconsistent office, or att least not repeat the experiences of CC and AJ. It may be either a deterrent to quality pitching (especially with a pitching staff that has thus far produced mixed results), or it may drive up the cost of quality pitching in that a pitcher may have to be convinced (i.e. throw a lot of money at them) to give it a go and pretend that they've always wanted to play for the Yankees, never mind the short-term shock to their effectiveness.

Oh, and a word I've never seen before: simulacra. Nice! >;)

2 williamnyy23   ~  Jul 23, 2009 11:37 am

As a big fan and advocate of the new Stadium (who manages to go to a lot of games without being "exploited"), I obviously have a somewhat biased response to these kinds of articles. Having said that, it would be nice if some of them could get beyond cliche and actually deal with some facts.

3 williamnyy23   ~  Jul 23, 2009 11:41 am

[1] B-R.com lists YSIII park factor at 103, which is pretty much the same as every other ballpark in the division except SkyDome. Detroit, Chicago and Texas are also in the same range. YSIII is not an outlier in this regard.

4 RagingTartabull   ~  Jul 23, 2009 11:52 am

The cost of attending a game argument is well worn out at this point. I went to the game on Tuesday, and I'm going tonight (and I'm by no means Thurston Howell III) and I think I'll still be able to pay my ConEd bill.

The point I agree wholeheartedly with is the shortcomings of Populous/HOK designed ballparks. From the hill in Houston to overhang in Flushing, its gotten ridiculous. There's nothing "cute" or "retro" about contrived idiosyncrasies. It was fun 15 years ago with Camden Yards, now its just predictable.

5 williamnyy23   ~  Jul 23, 2009 11:56 am

[4] I agree with that point, which is why I am glad the Yankees decided to combine the look of YSI and YSII. Instead of going with a cliched throwback stadium, they simply rebuilt both versions of their own. When I walk into YSIII, I feel like I have been going there for years because it reminds me of the old ones.

Of course, in trying to emulating Ebbets Field, the Mets also did the same thing, which would be pretty cool if they were the Dodgers.

6 Diane Firstman   ~  Jul 23, 2009 12:00 pm


Given their rash of injuries, "Trolley Dodgers" seems to be a poor allusion for the Mets.

7 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jul 23, 2009 12:07 pm

[3] Though I include them in my series previews, I've become highly skeptical of B-Ref's park factors. It seems as though over the past year or two they've ceased to reflect my impressions of how certain parks play. I wonder if they adjusted their equation.

8 Shaun P.   ~  Jul 23, 2009 12:22 pm

[3] [7] I seem to recall a BP article from a few years ago, arguing that an overall park factor was rather silly, and that component park factors - ie, how the park suppress/doesn't suppress runs, HR, 2B, 3B, etc - was of far more value.

Lo and behold, that's how ESPN.com publishes their park factors.

YS2.0 is:

12th in MLB in runs (1.039, just behind Fenway at 1.052)
1st in MLB in HR (1.468, way ahead of Chase at 1.332)
8th in MLB in H (1.048, just ahead of Cincy at 1.046)
27th(!) in MLB in 2B (0.839, just ahead of Petco at 0.833)
29th(!!) in MLB in 3B (0.404, comfortably behind Dodger Stadium but ahead of the Cell)
9th in MLB in BB (1.059, just ahead of Arlington at 1.053)

FWIW, outside of the triples park factor (2.500 at Coors, the next five are all over 1.4), no other park factor is over 1.4 except for YS2.0 in HR.

So by these numbers, YS2.0 is not to bad at all. But if you're prone to the longball, watch out! (Schilling and Blyleven would not have liked pitching there.)

9 williamnyy23   ~  Jul 23, 2009 12:23 pm

[7] I am always skeptical of any formula I can't reproduce (especially fielding metrics), but I don't think you need to get that sophisticated to illustrate that YSIII is not a hitter's haven. In two more games this season, the Yankees have only scored 12 more runs at home. Also, the staff ERA is 4.48 at home versus 4.32 on the road. Also, a month ago I posted some figures showing the Yankees were behind their runs at home pace from several of the past few seasons.

While more HRs are definitely being hit, offense has not spiked as much as some would think.

10 williamnyy23   ~  Jul 23, 2009 12:26 pm

[8] Thanks. Exactly what I was getting at in [9]. Assuming the Yankees see the extra HRs as a problem, it seems as if the situation would be easily remedied by removing the scoreboard and pushing the fence back 5-7 feet.

11 Shaun P.   ~  Jul 23, 2009 12:39 pm

[10] There's one thing I agree with Trost on - I wouldn't make any changes yet. Get YS1.2 down completely, and wait a couple more years, see what happens. Park factors based on a single year of data are notoriously unreliable - a part of a season, even more so. Three years' data is preferred.

Still, runs down, HR up does NOT equal hitters paradise. Small sample size warning, but look at what the places does to doubles and triples! What made Coors a hitters' paradise was not all the HR hit there, it was because Coors boosted offense across the board - singles, doubles, triples, and HR. But people only talked about the HR.

12 Ben   ~  Jul 23, 2009 1:01 pm

I went to CITIFIELD a few weeks back but still haven't been to YSIII. CITIFIELD, meh. I felt like I was visiting a Fred Wilpon candy binge. It was nice, had very little to do with baseball and yes, was idiosynchratic just cause it could be. How about open-air causeways - yes. How about a wiffle-ball field for the kids - yes. How about a bridge in Right - yes. Why not. Lots of cool wheelchair accesible seats - yes. It has everything and was pretty exhausting.

It made me yearn for YSII, sitting in the upper deck, too frozen with vertigo to venture from my seat and totally absorbed in the far-away figures on the BASEBALL FIELD!

I've heard YSIII is also a little distracting, but not as bad. (RANT ALERT) Godammit, I don't need to shop at the ball park. And hot dogs are fine. And I don't need constant entertainment. They way I see it, if a kid can't concentrate on the game and families need to be enticed to come to the ballpark with all sorts of amenities - well shit, maybe they don't like baseball. It's a slow game. You have to pay attention. It's not for everyone.

Alright. Sorry. I'm done.

13 RagingTartabull   ~  Jul 23, 2009 1:31 pm

Well I don't know if I'd call having wheelchair accessibility "idiosyncratic just cause". Everything else though, yeah.

That said I still wanna hit up Citi by the end of the year just to give it a look.

14 a.O   ~  Jul 23, 2009 2:17 pm

The irony of this whole Hughes "not stretched out" situation, of course, is that the team willingly forsook a lights-out set-up man and obvious future closer in favor of a mediocre fourth starter. Now that it realizes just how valuable it is to have a great set-up guy, it is refusing to make the same mistake with Hughes.

But it's all for naught, because Joba cannot stay in the rotation for the rest of the year if he is to start in the post-season, and Hughes will need extra innings if he is to be able to be a starter for most of next season. So, the two should just be switched over a few-week period. Joba can start and pitch four innings (he does that anyway), and Hughes can pitch another two. Gradually, that can be reversed, with Hughes eventually starting and Joba appearing as needed.

15 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jul 23, 2009 3:15 pm

1. I find the Stadium debate (as to runs, hrs, etc.) a bit silly, I confess. It is both too early and too prone to media distortion. It is also EASY to fix the short right field porch if it is determined that they want to. I'll stand by for comments about how when they fix it the stadium suddenly becomes a pitcher's park, because outside of HRs (to right) it isn't generating more offense, even as is. I would absolutely hold off on even weighing this till the end of the year, and can see the logic to waiting for two years, as well.

2. aO. I argued the same way a few days back, about expecting a gradual switch-over of Joba and Phil ... but I have now decided I am getting out of the 'solve the pitching problem' game. I will (reluctantly) conclude that Girardi, Cashman, and their brain trust know a bit more than I do, and can see the same issues approaching and are not asleep at the switch. I'm also enjoying Phil in the 8th a whole lot, I see it mattering a whole lot with the Sultan of Bruney pitching the way he is and no Marte-sightings. Someone said they can skip Joba a few times rest of the way and if he holds at 6 innings per, he might be all right into the playoffs. I'm not so sure but ... I'm outa the business. (For this week, anyhow.)

3. BoSox hot on the trail of V Mart, rumor has it. So, apparently, are the Rays.

16 Ben   ~  Jul 23, 2009 3:49 pm

[13.] You're right. Wheelchair acces isn't idiosynchratic. Some of the features are cool and helpful. You can walk all around the park and still see the field. That's interesting.

At one point in the second inning my wife scanned the seats and said: Where is everyone? cause it was only half filled. We looked towards the eating pavilion and walkways and there they all were. it was a sellout probably, but there is just a lot to do there. It's easy to forget about the game.

The shabby play of the home team doesn't help either ; )

17 FreddySez   ~  Jul 23, 2009 3:50 pm

[1] I'm about to read the full article and I'm sure it will be great, but he took a big hit right off the bat with simulacra.

That's the plural. The new Yankee Stadium is a simulacrum of the old.

18 monkeypants   ~  Jul 23, 2009 3:53 pm

[9] The issue is not solely whether NYS is a "hitter's" ballpark, it is also a matter of the aesthetic of the game that the park produces. It is playing as a slight hitters park according to espn.com (PF 103 or so, good for 12th out of 30 stadiums), but #1 with respect to HRs.

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