Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The new Yankee Stadium and fantasy stats

Everyone's making a big fuss about all the home runs that have been flying out of the "new" Yankee Stadium over the past weekend. Obviously when a new park witnesses 25 home runs in its first five games (including exhibition), that gets the attention of fantasy owners. Ditto for the 14-run inning the Indians posted in their 22-4 mashing of the Yankees last week.

So what's the deal? Is it the way the park is situated or the shape of the seating areas, creating some weird wind effects? Some media geniuses are already calling the stadium "Coors Field East." Hah, good one. So does that mean we should start changing how we approach our fantasy lineups whenever we've got guys playing in the Bronx, the way we used to with Denver (in the pre-humidor days)?

I'm not sold.

First of all, the sample size is way too small. Obviously the 22-4 game is going to skew the numbers a bit (eight homers in that one). There have also been two games so far at the stadium in which only one homer was hit.

There's another reason for all the longballs, too: Bad pitching. Two of the Indians' homers were surrendered by someone named Anthony Claggett, making his first major league appearance. Two apiece were allowed by Edwar Ramirez and Damaso Marte (2009 ERAs: 8.44 and 21.00). One came off Chien-Ming Wang, and you know how great he's been this year. Two of the Yanks' were served up by Fausto Carmona (groundball to flyball ratio this year: 0.78).

In other words, pitching probably has played the biggest role in all the dingers. Plus, it's only April, so who knows how the winds will change, along with the temperatures and humidity, over the course of the next five months in New York? Even a full season's worth of data might not be enough to really give us a sense of whether Yankee Stadium is homer-friendly. Consider this, as baseball researcher and author David Vincent points out in an article in the Daily News: Washington's Nationals Park averaged 1.85 home runs last year in its inaugural season, and so far this year is averaging 3.5 round-trippers a game. Is it global warming? El Nino? Or perhaps the Nats' awful pitching (team ERA: 5.40)? Or some combination of these, plus a small sample size?

Anyway, I'm not going to rush to pick up Cody Ransom all the sudden and start him in every home game until we get some more information. For now, treat your lineups the way you normally would, and don't overreact. The "old" Yankee Stadium was 14th in the majors in home runs allowed per game last year, pretty much average. Let's see how it stacks up after a full season's worth of games this year before we start to make any big adjustments, OK?

Of course, as I was writing this, three homers were hit at the stadium in the course of an inning and a half, by Kurt Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera. So what do I know?

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