Monday, February 1, 2016

Park orientation and other physical specifications

"It is desirable that the line from home base through the pitcher's plate to second base shall run East Northeast." - Official Baseball Rules, section 1.04.

It makes perfect sense to have the batter hitting toward the East-Northeast in most of the country, because winds typically come out of the Southwest in summer. That minimizes the wind effect, since the batter rarely hits into the wind, and gets little benefit from any trailing wind because he has an enormous grandstand behind him, blocking the breezes. On the other hand, it may be worth noting that the East Northeast rule was conceived before there were parks in Miami and San Diego, where the wind patterns are dramatically different. Marlins Park and Petco are laid out in reasonable compliance with rule 1.04, but perhaps they should not be. Left-handed hitters in Marlins Park hit Southeast into right center - directly into the Atlantic breezes when the roof is retracted. (This point is more theoretical than realistic because Marlins management rarely opts to play a game with the roof open.) Right-handed pull hitters in San Diego will find that the left field line is due Northwest from home plate, which would be nice in Miami, but is directly into the wind in San Diego. The July wind charts for these cities are shown below. (Click to enlarge and study.)

The chart below shows the orientation of the major league ballparks, the distance of the fences, and the height of the fences (parens following distance). If the centerfield dimension contains two numbers, the first is the distance to straightaway center, and the second is the deepest part of the park.

PF (HR) represents the 2014-2015 park factor for home runs only, expressed as a percent. The split is LH/RH.  In order to be listed as having a significant impact, the park must have shown at least a 10% effect in that direction in both years. An "x" indicates that there was no statistically significant trend. The raw data comes from

Ballpark Orientations (Google Maps)
 PF (HR) Center
LF line
RF line
Parks where the batter hits approximately due north to straightaway center

North NW NE
Coors Field, Denver +26/+32 415 (8) 347 (8) 350 (17)
Chase Field, Phoenix Retractable x/x 407 (25) 330 (8) 335 (8)
Progressive Field, Cleveland x/x 405/410 (8) 325 (19) 325 (8)
Petco Park, San Diego x/x 396 (7) 334 (4) 322 (12)
Rogers Centre, Toronto Retractable x/x 400 (10) 328 (10) 328 (10)
Parks where the batter hits approximately north by northeast (22.5 degrees azimuth) to straightaway center

Wrigley Field, Chicago x/+29 412 (11) 355 (15) 353 (15)
Turner Field, Atlanta x/x 400 (8) 335 (8) 330 (8)
Camden Yards, Baltimore +29/x 400 (7) 333 (7) 318 (25)
Nationals Park, D.C. x/x 402 (12) 337 (8) 335 (12)
Dodger Stadium, L.A x/x 400 (8) 330 (4) 330 (4)
Citi Field, New York (Queens) x/x 408 (8) 335  (8) 330 (8)
Citizens Band Park, Philadelphia * x/+40 401/409 (6) 329  (9) 330 (13)
* Note: centerfield in Citizens Band Park is not quite north or NNE, but actually about 13 degrees azimuth - about halfway between NNE and north
Parks where the batter hits approximately northeast (45) to straightaway center, therefore due north to the left field line, due east to right

NE North East
Fenway Park, Boston -31/x 390/420 (9) 310  (37) 302  (5)
Kauffman Stadium, KC  -14/-22 410 (9) 330 (9) 330 (9)
Angel Stadium, Anaheim -22/x 396 (8)  347 (8) 350 (18)
Safeco Field, Seattle Retractable x/x 401 (8) 331 (8) 326 (8)
Tropicana Field, Tampa-St. Pete Domed x/-15 404 (10) 315  (10) 322  (10)
Parks where the batter hits approximately east by northeast (67.5) to straightaway center - as suggested by the rule book!

Busch Stadium, St.L. x/x 400 (9) 336 (9) 335 (9)
Oakland Coliseum, Oakland x/-16 400 (8) 330 (8) 330 (8)
Yankee Stadium, NY (Bronx) +54/x 408  (14) 318 (8) 314 (10)
Parks where the batter hits approximately due east (90) to straightaway center

East NE SE
Target Field, Minneapolis x/x 403/411  (7) 339 (13) 328 (23)
AT&T Park, San Francisco -44/-31 399/421 (8) 339 (8) 309 (25)
Parks where the batter hits approximately east by southeast (112.5) to straightaway center

PNC Park, Pittsburgh -x/x 399/410 (10) 325  (6) 320  (21)
The Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati +30/+14 404 (8) 328 (12) 325  (8)
Parks where the batter hits approximately southeast (135) to straightaway center, therefore due east to left, due south to right

SE East South
U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago x/x 400 (8) 330 (8) 335 (8)
Marlins Park, Miami* Retractable -30/-20 407 (8) 344 (8) 335  (8)
Globe Life Ballpark, Arlington x/x 400/407  (8) 332  (14) 325  (8)
Miller Park, Milwaukee Retractable +59/x 400 (10) 344 (10) 345 (10)
* Note: Marlins Park is quite a few degrees from southeast, but is not any closer to east by southeast
Parks where the batter hits approximately south by southeast (157.5) to straightaway center

Comerica Park, Detroit -24/x 420 (8) 345 (8) 330 (8)
Parks where the batter hits approximately north by northwest (337.5) to straightaway center.

Minute Maid Park, Houston Retractable +23/x 409 (9) 315 (21) 326 (7)

The following shows the average (summer) climate factors for the major league stadiums. Covered stadiums are always shown as 72 degrees and zero wind. The typical wind direction for any city in any month may be obtained through the NRCS. Extremes are highlighted in red.

Ballpark Orientations (Google Maps)
Avg July temp
Avg July wind
Coors Field, Denver 73 8 5100
Chase Field, Phoenix Retractable 72 0 1100
Progressive Field, Cleveland 72 8 800
Petco Park, San Diego 71 6 0
Rogers Centre, Toronto Retractable 72 0 600
Wrigley Field, Chicago 73 9 600
Turner Field, Atlanta 80 7 1000
Camden Yards, Baltimore 76 7 100
Nationals Park, D.C. 79 6 0
Dodger Stadium, L.A 74 8 100
Citi Field, New York (Queens) 75 6 0
Citizens Band Park, Philadelphia * 78 9 0
Fenway Park, Boston 74 11 0
Kauffman Stadium, KC  78 9 1000
Angel Stadium, Anaheim 74
7 100
Safeco Field, Seattle Retractable 72 0 400
Tropicana Field, Tampa-St. Pete Domed 72 0 0
Busch Stadium, St.L. 80 8 600
Oakland Coliseum, Oakland 61 10 0
Yankee Stadium, NY (Bronx) 75 6 0
Target Field, Minneapolis 73 9 800
AT&T Park, San Francisco 63 13 0
PNC Park, Pittsburgh 73 8 1200
The Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati 76 5 800
U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago 73 9 600
Marlins Park, Miami* Retractable 72 0 0
Globe Life Ballpark, Arlington 86 7 600
Miller Park, Milwaukee Retractable 72 0 700
Comerica Park, Detroit 74 9 600
Minute Maid Park, Houston Retractable 72 0 100
Normal range 71-80 0-9 0-1200

Summary for 2014-2015:

Parks favorable to all home run hitters: Coors Field, The Great American Ballpark

Parks favorable to right-handed home run hitters: Citizens Band Park, Wrigley Field

Parks favorable to left-handed home run hitters: Miller Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards

Parks unfavorable to all home run hitters: AT&T Park, Marlins Park

Parks unfavorable to right-handed home run hitters: Tropicana Field, Oakland Coliseum

Parks unfavorable to left-handed home run hitters: Fenway Park, Angel Stadium

Most major league franchises now do a significant amount of statistical analysis, and generally use their data to neutralize their parks to whatever extent is reasonably possible, that is to say, they try to make them extremely friendly neither to hitters nor pitchers. For example, if there are too many homers, management may raise or extend the fences; if there are have too few homers, they may block the wind or bring the fences in. Because of this constant tinkering, some of the more extreme park effects have been neutralized, so places like Citi Field, Petco, Safeco and even venerable Wrigley Field seem to be closer to neutral than in the past. You can bet that other places like Marlins Park and Comerica, and maybe even Yankee Stadium, will experience some tinkering in the future.

In some cases, it would be impossible to create anything close to a neutral ballpark on the existing site.
  • Denver's altitude is a permanent fixture, and they have no plans to move the fences back any farther than they are. Only the remodeled Wrigley is farther down the lines. It would make perfect sense to make the fences at Coors 375' away along the lines, but it is unlikely to happen because it just doesn't seem sufficiently traditional.
  • The Dallas area is not going to get moderate temperatures in summer. That's the only remaining place in the country where major league baseball is constantly played in intense heat, now that the teams in Tampa, Miami, Houston and Phoenix are all playing indoors. Given that the Arlington stadium is quite new, the Rangers will probably not be getting a roof any time soon.
  • You may think of California as a warm place, and it is in general, but the San Francisco Bay area is the coldest and windiest major urban area in the contiguous United States in the summer. On an average July day, it's ten degrees colder in San Francisco than in "frigid" Minneapolis, and that's excluding the wind-chill, which would make the gap even wider! Like the Texas Rangers, the Giants and As are not going to be playing in neutral weather conditions unless they play in an indoor stadium. That means that AT&T Park will undoubtedly continue to be a right-handed pitcher's dream for many years. As for Oakland, who knows? The fate of that team and that stadium has been the subject of an ongoing debate for as long as I can remember.
  • It seems that iconic Fenway Park will continue to be an extremely negative venue for left-handed power. The right field line in Fenway is already the shortest in the majors, and the fence ... well, you probably have a higher fence in your back yard, so there just doesn't seem to be any additional way to help lefties out. Coors and Fenway face the same problem in opposite directions. Neither a 375' line not a 280' one provide a credible solution which is consistent with MLB's overall presentation. Both solutions could be quite logical, but they just aren't going to happen, especially in a park whose dimensions are considered to be a cultural treasure that connects today's baseball to the game's storied past.

In some other cases, the solutions may exist, but are not immediately evident or desired.
  • Nobody has quite determined how to keep the homers from flying out of Miller Park, for example, because analysts have not yet determined why the ball flies out of there in the first place. The fences are high and distant; the climate is fully controlled; the altitude is moderate. There seems to be nothing about the location favorable to flight distance. In fact, the previous ballpark, which was literally on the adjoining lot, was a pitchers' park.
  • In my opinion, the Royals will not tinker with Kauffman Park for a long time. They currently have a team built around small ball. Almost every visiting team has more home run power than the Royals, so the fact that their stadium suppresses homers works in their favor. If they were to somehow suddenly end up with Stanton, Harper or Trout on the team, you could bet that they would start messin' with the place.
  • The Angels have two of the game's premier right-handed hitters on the team, and no left-handed power hitter suffering from the park. (Their only power-hitting lefty, Kole Calhoun, hits great there!) If Pujols and Trout were lefties, they'd probably be thinking about bringing in that 350' right field foul line, and/or cutting down that 18' fence in right field, but as it stands, visiting teams are likely to have more left-handed power than the Angels. Given that situation, their stadium's tendency to suppress left-handed home runs probably works to their advantage, and tinkering would produce no benefit. (The park is also slightly unfavorable to right-handed home run hitters - the tendency is small, but consistent from year-to-year.)

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