Several of us here at Pinstripe Alley have been using MLB the Show and Out of the Park Baseball to simulate the season that would be happening, or run some experiments in this time without live MLB action. OOTP in particular is great for seeing who would win a tournament of all-time great Yankees teams, or what would happen if Eduardo Nunez was turned into a superhuman.
In the haze of staying up late to watch KBO games, I came up with another idea: what would happen if the Yankees played in a little league stadium? Thankfully, OOTP can sort of answer that for us. So, I put the 2020 Yankees in four different scenarios with strange home field dimensions, and here’s what happened.
What if the Yankees played on a little league field?
After breaking the single season team home run record in 2018, the Yankees did it again in 2019. However, they no longer actually hold the record, as the 2019 Twins actually finished last year with more. One way to ensure the Yankees (or any other team) would break the record would be to play with fences at a little league distance.
Our first experiment was to change the distance to all fields to just 225 feet, which is what they are at Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, PA aka the home of the Little League World Series.
Unsurprisingly, the Yankees smashed the record, hitting 840 home runs as a team. Five different players broke the single season home run record, led by Giancarlo Stanton hitting 139. Four broke triple digits, including Aaron Judge, who only played 138 games after missing the start of the fictional full 2020 season. Gleyber Torres had the wildest home/road split, hitting 103 of his 115 at home.
As for the pitching side of things, all but two Yankees posted ERA figures over five. Gerrit Cole was the only pitcher to throw over 200 innings, keeping his ERA at a respectable 4.35. Poor Tommy Kahnle allowed 5.4 home runs per nine innings.
As a team, the Yankees tied the Astros for most wins in MLB with 105, but lost in the ALCS to Cleveland, allowing 47 runs in three home games in that series.
What if Yankee Stadium was 500 feet to all fields?
On the other hand, what if we made it near impossible to hit home runs? In addition to needing a moonshot to ever reach the wall, all fences have also been made 50 feet high.
As you might expect, home run numbers took a pretty dramatic dip. Stanton led the team with 30, 25 of which came on the road. However, other than that, it didn’t massively affect the Yankees’ offense. Instead of home runs, the team just picked up a lot of hits in general. Gleyber Torres hit .429 with 201 RBI, while DJ LeMahieu recorded 310 hits on the season and also broke the .400 batting average barrier. As a team, they hit 929 doubles. They did also lead the league in triples, but not by as much as you might expect.
It also really messed with the pitching staff. Cole again was the only one who had any sort of success, putting up a 132 ERA+. Poor Masahiro Tanaka allowed just 1.1 HR/9, the best since his rookie season. Instead of his home run bugaboo, he allowed 13 hits per nine and had an ERA over seven.
What if the Yankees played in the Polo Grounds?
Before moving into a home of their own, the Yankees played several seasons at the Polo Grounds. The stadium was where the Giants played from 1891 to 1957, when they moved from San Francisco. It was also a long-time home of the NFL Giants, leading to it’s odd shape. It was less than 300 feet to either foul pole, while dead center was 483.
If you put the 2020 Yankees in the Polo Grounds, it doesn’t seem to have as massive an effect. Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez all have good seasons, but also ones they could very easily put up in Yankee Stadium. Aaron Judge does suffer a bit of a hit, putting up just a 117 OPS+. There wasn’t any massive increase in triples as Brett Gardner led the team with five. The pitching is also close to something that you might expect in real life.
The Yankees also fall in the ALDS to Houston. On the whole, the Polo Grounds experiment was a disappointment.
What if the Yankees played in Steele Stadium?
If you’re unfamiliar with the the late 90s/early 00s video game series “Backyard Baseball,” you’ll be unaware of Steele Stadium.
The game features major league players as children as part of a fictional league played in places like backyards and parking lots. Steele Stadium is often the go-to field to play on for many people, as it features a short porch in center field. I used OOTP’s editor it get it to as close an approximation as I could.
This one took some getting used to for the Yankees as they hovered around .500 well beyond the halfway point of the season. They need a game 163 win over the Blue Jays to sneak into the playoffs as the second Wild Card.
The Yankees did not seem to take advantage of their new center field short porch. Gleyber Torres led the team in home runs with a very normal 41. Meanwhile, Mike Tauchman and Aaron Hicks found it tough to play in the field, both grading as negative defenders in center.
The Yankees fell in the ALCS to the Rays, scoring just one run in a series clinching loss at home.
Now that we’ve seen how the theoretical 2020 Yankees would do in some strange environments, what other strange dimensions would you like to see them play in?