Subterranean Home Park Blues

If all you watched was baseball pertaining to that Bronx team — and let’s face it, that describes a certain portion of this blog’s readership — you’d think that home run rates were off the charts this year given the major league-leading 1.81 homers per game that are being hit at Epic Fail Stadium. That’s not the case, as I point out in today’s Hit and Run:

When we last checked in on 2009 home-run rates, April was just about in the books, and was providing a strong indicator that this year’s overall home-run rate would finish ahead of last year’s. But while the performances of Adrian Gonzalez (22 homers) and Raul IbaƱez (20), and the frequency with which balls continue to fly out of Yankee Stadium (1.81 homers per team per game) suggest a homer-happy season, the reality is that rates have slowed considerably.

Through April 25 — the cutoff point for the data used in my previous piece — batters were homering in 2.79 percent of their plate appearances and averaging 1.082 home runs per team per game. By the end of the month — a period shortened by the World Baseball Classic having pushed Opening Day back a week — those figures had dropped to 2.71 percent and 1.051 per game. Thanks to a May where the fences seemed to move outward (2.58 percent and 0.999 per game), the overall rates are now ringers for last year’s numbers, and would be among the lowest of the post-strike era if the season had ended on June 9:

Year  HR/PA   HR/TmG
2009 2.61 1.009
2008 2.60 1.005
2007 2.63 1.020

The numbers are more revealing once they’re broken down by league, with the two new New York parks excluded:

Lg    2009   2008-td   2008-f
AL 1.032 0.858 1.002
NL 0.946 0.989 1.003
ML 0.986 0.928 1.003

Eliminating the New York parks from both years, we find that per-game home-run rates are up 6.3 percent over last year at this time [2008-td, for “to date”], but that the current figures would still finish 1.6 percent below the full-season 2008 rate [2008-f] because of a June-July uptick (1.073 per game) that pushed things back toward normalcy.

Also noted in the article is the recent Accuweather report discounting the meteorologists’ earlier theory about the new Yankee Stadium creating a wind tunnel in favor of, um, closer fences due to less gentles curves (a point my BP colleague Marc Normandin already hit. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

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