JAYS FROM THE COUCH LOOKS AT THE LANDSCAPE OF HOME RUNS THIS SEASON FOR THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS & IN MLB
Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion unloaded on a pitch in Arizona that has yet to land, reaching an estimated 471 ft. It is the 3rd longest HR hit in baseball this season. This past offseason, two teams made changes to their field dimensions to affect the overall home run counts at their ballparks. The Marlins, who opened the doors on their new stadium in the 2012 season, made changes to their outfield walls to bring them in and make them shorter.
Centre field was previously 418ft, but now is 407ft, and down the lines the walls have been shortened to 7ft in height, giving outfielders the chance to make jumping plays more often. “Where Giancarlo Stanton is in right field, it’s going to be 7 feet, which gives Giancarlo the ability to jump up, reach over and steal home runs.” – David Samson (Marlins President) The Marlins believe these changes will help their style of play, but still be a very pitcher friendly ball park.
Above is the changes made in CF to Marlins Park
The other change was in Colorado, where they did the exact opposite to Marlins Park, trying to avoid their high home run totals as much as possible. In 2002 Coors field installed a humidor to house all their game balls in. Humidors are usually used by cigar aficionado’s to control the humidity in the tobacco leaves so they don’t dry out. The Rockies use theirs to make sure the baseballs don’t get dried out, and compress more when they are hit into the Rocky Mountain Air. Although the Humidor helped slightly, pitchers weren’t benefiting from the thin air and high altitudes of Colorado.
This season the Rockies decided to take another route and changed some of their field dimensions to stop this home run count from scaring pitchers taking the mound in Coors Field. In centre field and right centre field, the Rockies raised their walls by 8ft-9in, to match the out of town scoreboard that is in right field. Down the left field side, the wall will increase 8ft in height. The results so far this season… the home run count increased over the previous season. In the first half of the 2016 season, the Rockies played 42 games at home, and Coors Field surrendered 121 home runs, compared to the 92 home runs Coors Field had in the first 42 games of the 2015 season.
Last week I wrote a first half analysis for R.A. Dickey, a pitcher who is prone to giving up a lot of home runs throughout the season. Dickey has given up 20 home runs so far this season, compared to his 25 all of last year, and 24 in his 2012 Cy Young season. For someone who had a relatively good first half, to their standards, this number seemed really high. The numbers seemed oddly similar to the problems Coors Field were facing. After looking at the entire scope of the league, Dickey and Coors field weren’t alone, it seems as though the entire league had a massive power surge throughout the first half of the season.
The graph above shows the number of games played in each stadium in the first half of the season, and the home runs allowed in those parks in both last year and this year.
27 out of 30 teams in the MLB saw first half increases in home runs this year compared to last year. The Astros, Brewers, and Dodgers were the only teams that had more home runs in the first half of last year compared to this year. The Brewers’ Miller Park, in May of 2015, had 54 home runs which is close to the first half totals of some teams. The Astros’ Minute Maid Park, in a stretch of two games on May 1-2, had 14 home runs, an extremely high amount for a two game stretch, making their 2015 May numbers an extremely rare occurrence. Some teams saw an unparalleled increase this season. The Chicago White Sox had the biggest increase, with 40 HR more in 2016 than 2015, while their division foe, the Detroit Tigers, had 36 more home runs.
Some would chalk this up to poor starting pitching, but this isn’t the case. With strikeouts at an all time high this season, and managers using their bullpens more strategically than ever, it seems as though the hitters are simply out matching the great pitching on the mound. The surge in power seemed to have come in May/June, which were two of the three months in the past ten seasons that saw the most home runs, at 965 in May, and 1012 in June.
A cause of this power surge might actually be the weather. Two US weather scientific agencies, NASA and NOAA, recorded that the month of June, was almost a degree Celsius hotter, (1.62 Fahrenheit) worldwide than the average for the 20th century, and the hottest June recorded since the 1880’s. The warming and expansion of the baseball, makes it travel further, a lot further. The University of Massachusetts, conducted a study on baseballs at certain temperatures. The study shows the COR or coefficient of restitution, which measures the ratio of relative speeds after and before an impact. In this case they were looking at batted balls at different temperatures and speeds.
The balls were thrown at a velocity of 60mph and 100mph, at 25 Fahrenheit, 40, 70, and 120. At 60mph the COR was impacted by 2% from 40 Fahrenheit to 120 Fahrenheit. While at 100mph balls changed drastically from cold to hot temperatures, a ball hit 400ft at 120 degrees would have travelled nine feet less at 40 degrees, the difference between the trot around the bases and just a routine fly out. Many cities in the US and Canada have been experiencing days of 100 plus degrees.
The results of Colorado’s field changes are inconclusive. The effects of the hot summer we are having across North America, may be contributing to making the MLB a high scoring affair, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. This past June was the 15th month in a row that recorded above average temperatures for that month in the past decade. That increase in temperature during these Summer months, might just be putting balls just out of reach of outfielders glove or the walls built by the stadiums.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Larry Koester UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Spencer Redmond is a Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. His loves in life are the NBA, MLB, Stats, and his dog Parker.