19 April 2009

Jet Stream Stadium

If you're a Canadian goose who happens to be a baseball fan, you might enjoy an easy wind-aided jaunt from Yankee Stadium to Citi Field to enjoy literal bird's eye views of the new ballyard palaces. The distance, shortest among crosstown rivalries, is only 6.6 miles. Of course, you might get sucked into a jet engine, but that's another story.

Like most baseball fans, I watched in wonder as the New Yankee Stadium opened and immediately turned into... a hitter's park? Small sample sizes be damned, the place has already recorded 20 home runs in 4 games. With the Oakland Anemics Athletics coming to town, that average will likely drop. Still, it'd be nice for Giambi to rekindle that old short porch aim for this series, and for Holliday to connect down the LF line for his first in an A's uniform.

Green-and-gold performance aside, there are probably hundreds of engineering students and professionals champing at the bit to determine the cause for the Bronx power spike. The Yankees have undoubtedly had their own studies done as well prior to construction, but it's so curious that the ball just flies to right even though the old and new stadiums have the same orientation, and are only several hundred feet apart. Players and coaches are already blaming the phenomenon on prevailing winds, which appear to be a bigger factor in the new digs than the old digs. From an amateur perspective, there's an explanation for the wind problem. It's the Stadium's open layout.

Old Yankee Stadium has a small footprint, and was designed by Osborn Engineering to make the most of very limited space. That meant putting in the massive overhanging upper deck, narrow concourses and ramps, and walls everywhere. New Yankee Stadium was designed by HOK Populous in response to Old Yankee's deficiencies. Where walls once stood, there are now open concourses. All three concourses are open to the field. The upper deck, which is where most winds will come in before swirling around the seating bowl, has two sets of openings. Besides the concourse, the back of the upper deck has the now familiar fence instead of Old Yankee's slits-in-concrete. The upper deck itself is not as steep as before. The roof is more extensive in New Yankee, but it's hard to say how much of an effect it has on the wind as a whole.

Over in Queens, Citi Field has racked up 10 HR's in 6 games. Its new orientation (NE instead of Shea's ENE) and cavernous RF makes Citi Field a pitcher's park more in the mold of PETCO or AT&T than any other East Coast ballpark. Side note: The Mets' roster has no major lefty bats other than Carlos Delgado, who will soon be a free agent.

To understand the big difference between the two parks, I've constructed a quick overlay of New Yankee Stadium's field over Citi Field.

Even without the weird notch (pointless affectation) in Citi's RF, it can nearly envelop New Yankee's field.

I haven't had a chance to see every homer hit at New Yankee so far, but from what I could gather at least 3 landed in the RF first row, including Jorge Posada's controversial pinch hit job earlier today. None of those would've gone out at Citi Field, and it could be argued that Old Yankee would've contained those flies as well. The Yankees claim that New and Old have the same dimensions, so what gives? It'll be some time before we know. One other thing about the environment: In only one of the four games so far has the temperature been above 70 degrees at first pitch.

Historically, teams have averaged a 1 HR/game, with the trend fluttering above 1 during the steroid era. If this trend doesn't settle down during the season, the Yanks will have major problems grooming and signing pitchers. Big parks like Safeco and Comerica had their fences brought in over time, just like Old Yankee Stadium. It's much harder to expand a bandbox. For now, some of us can delight in the horrified looks on the Yankees' brass as they realize their new home has just become Arlington or Denver.