The winds of change are blowing through Baltimore, and their effects will be felt throughout the AL East. On Tuesday, Nathan Ruiz of The Baltimore Sun reported that the Orioles had begun construction to expand the left-field dimensions of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Renovations are expected to be completed by Opening Day.
It’s no surprise given Camden’s infamy as one of the hitter-friendliest parks in baseball. The combination of the left field dimensions with bottom-of-the-barrel pitching staffs has created a long ball explosion, with Oriole Park far outpacing the field in home runs over the past three years.
According to Ruiz, the plan is to alter both the height and distance of the wall from the left-field foul pole to left-center by the bullpens to try to rein in the skyrocketing home run rates. Currently, the seven-foot wall is the shortest left-centerfield wall in baseball, and at a distance of 364 feet is one of the closest to home plate. The renovations will see the wall raised to twelve feet high and moved back by as much as 30 feet in some places.
For a Yankees team that has hit more home runs (70) at Camden than any other visiting team while owning the third-best wRC+ (141) in the last three years, this development is unwelcome news. We’ve seen several Bombers start hot streaks with successful series at Baltimore. And no Yankee has gained more of a reputation for feasting at Oriole Park in recent years more than Gleyber Torres.
When Torres erupted offensively in 2019, he shattered the power ceilings of all his prospect scouting reports, putting the league on notice as a potential perennial MVP candidate. His 38 home runs made him the second-ever middle infielder to reach that tally before turning 23. The 13 alone against the Orioles set a new divisional era record for long balls against a single opponent. It got to the point where even Gary Thorne was at a loss for words over what he was seeing the Yankees’ second baseman do to the Orioles.
The instant I read Ruiz’s piece, my mind turned to Torres. I wondered how much he had benefitted from Camden’s hitter-friendly left field wall. With that in mind, let’s re-contextualize Torres’ 2019 ownership of the Orioles pitchers’ souls and see how he would have performed with these new dimensions.
Above is an image of Torres’ batted balls at Camden in 2019. I was a bit surprised — for some reason I falsely remembered an even greater tally of home runs. That said, slashing .400/.500/1.167 with seven home runs, 10 RBI, and a 310 wRC+ in nine games in Baltimore is nothing to shake a stick at. Because the planned renovations extend only as far as the left-center bullpens, only the circled trio of hits have the potential to have been impacted by the expanded dimensions. So let’s take a look at each one individually.
Torres’ first home run of the season, this one travelled 400 feet and would have been a no-doubter even with the dimension alterations.
Three innings later, he clubbed this one for his second home run of the night. It travelled 390 feet right over the 364 foot sign, so assuming the fence gets moved back thirty feet and raised from seven to 12 feet tall, we’ll award Torres a double here.
Finally, we have this wall-scraper that barely made it over Dwight Smith Jr.’s glove. Even with a wall only ten feet farther back, I’m confident this would have been converted into an out, albeit one requiring a nice running grab by the Orioles’ left fielder.
So there you have it, had the 2019 Orioles played in a park with the planned reconfiguration of the left field wall, two of Torres’ home runs would have instead gone for a double and a flyout. When you plug this in to FanGraphs’ 2019 calculation of wOBA, Torres’ wOBA goes from .358 ... to .358.
So, not quite the result I was expecting, as if I’m being honest, I thought he’d lose anywhere from 10 to 20 points in wOBA being penalized by a deeper left field wall in Camden. If anything, this exercise reinforces that it’s healthy to challenge our preconceived notions, and that the popular narrative is not always a factually correct one. Yes, Gleyber Torres punished the Orioles in 2019 in a manner I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a hitter punish a single opposing team. However, it was not because of Oriole Park’s soon-to-be former hitter-friendly left field.