The New York Yankees used four home runs to score six runs in their 7-3 victory over the Mets at Yankee Stadium last night, and this morning, the grumbling about the hitter-friendly dimensions of the new stadium is audible in Mets country. Detractors have been bashing the field in the Bronx from nearly the first moment it replaced the original Yankee Stadium in 2009. The most common charge is that it's a bandbox, baseball slang for a ballpark with short fences that favor home run hitters. The Yankees, of course, have a long tradition of stocking their roster with sluggers. But is the beef legitimate? Are the Yankees getting cheap victories because they built their stadium to give them an advantage?
Although credible people argue that this is the case, the statistics--and logic--suggest otherwise. Firstly, it's not like the fences roll back when the opposing team comes to bat. Opponents have the benefit of a short fence in right field every bit as much as the home team. Secondly, Yankee players are hitting home runs at a similarly torrid pace in other ballparks this year. Compared to the team with the second most home runs thus far this season, the Cincinnati Reds, the Yankees hit fewer of their home runs at home (60% versus 65% of Cincy's homers), and compared to the team with the second most home runs in the American League, the stats aren't particularly damning either (55% of the Cleveland Indians' home runs were hit at home). The Yankees are simply hitting a lot of home runs--here, there, everywhere. When two of your hitters are in the top three in the MLB in homers (Curtis Granderson with 15, Mark Teixeira with 12), you will see players in pinstripes making the home-run trot fairly often.
Thirdly, it's true that home runs did increase from 2008 to 2009, when the Yankees moved from the House That Ruth Built to Yankee Stadium II, but this correlates with the fortunes of the Yankees overall. 2008 was the first year Joe Girardi served as skipper, and the team was in a rebuilding phase--the Yanks didn't make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. In 2009, the Bronx Bombers won the World Series, and won 103 games, boosted in no small part by the 39 home runs contributed by Teixeira, in his first year with the club.
Lastly, detractors point to the so-called right field porch as the reason Yankee Stadium seems to give away cheap home runs. The truth is there are several stadiums with short fences in right, including the Red Sox's Fenway Park. The dimensions of Yankee Stadium II are officially the same as those of the original stadium. Critics use aerial photography to suggest that this is a lie. And baseball veterans online and in the media regularly assert that home runs to right in Yankee Stadium have the speed and trajectory of an easy out in other stadiums.
Fine. But only one of the home runs from last night's win could be attributed to the advantage of the stadium's dimensions in right. And it was a 348-foot blast. The short right field is supposed to favor left-handed batters. Fine. But only Curtis Granderson is left-handed among the four Yankees who homered last night. All four of the Yankees' homers were bona fide bombs.
There are other arguments, including blaming the homers on how the new stadium is situated, ostensibly to take advantage of wind patterns in that area. We're getting pretty deep into the land of conspiracy theory at this point.
Consider this: ESPN ranks Yankee Stadium as the 12th most homer-friendly park in MLB, and ESPN loves to crunch numbers to reduce statistics to kernels of truth. And the truth is your average ballpark is homer-friendly to the 2011 edition of the New York Yankees, not just Yankee Stadium.