clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Yankees haven't taken full advantage of their home ballpark

The Yankees have an extreme stadium when it comes to home runs, a fact everyone knows. Even with this knowledge, the team's roster construction doesn't gain too much of a home field advantage.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most unique aspects of baseball that isn't seen in any other sport is the individuality of venues. Each and every team's stadium features different dimensions, climates, and park factors that can change the way baseball is played. A game in San Diego is drastically different from one in Colorado, and home teams can construct their rosters to best fit their home parks.

That's why you heard that Brian McCann's swing ‘fits' Yankee Stadium, or why Aaron Hicks could hit more home runs in New York than he did in Minnesota. Yankee Stadium stands out in it its own way: a propensity for the long ball. Each year the ballpark ranks in the top of the league when it comes to home runs. Last year, it had the fourth most home runs above average, trailing only Miller Park (Brewers), Camden Yards (Orioles), and Wrigley Field (Chicago). In 2016, it is at the top of the list. For runs in general, Yankee Stadium consistently ranks in the top half of the league, and the short porch in right field is notorious. Left handed hitters can shoot home runs to right field that wouldn't make it out in any other stadium, giving the field the second best in the league for left handed home runs.

When a team has extreme park factors, they can often use it to their advantage. The Orioles stack their lineup with power hitters who can hit bombs, while the Padres grab pitchers whose profiles are conducive to Petco Field. The Royals built an outfield that can handle Kauffman Stadium's specious dimensions, and the Rockies have tried (key word: tried) to gain an offensive advantage in their bandbox of a ballpark we call Coors Field.

Knowing the extremes of Yankee Stadium, there's some easily exploitable ways for the Bombers to gain an edge. Stacking their rotation and bullpen with arms who induce groundballs and strike guys out, while other teams and their pitchers watch balls fly out of the yard, would be one way to utilize the stadium to gain an advantage. Another way would be to fill the lineup with left handed power, or, at least, hitters who can drive the ball to right field. Given that extra base hits aren't favorable at Yankee Stadium, an outfield based on speed and range wouldn't be quite as important as one with strong arms and bats.

Although the Yankees have reflected a couple of these ideas onto the roster, it's still less than you'd expect. New York's lineup has the third highest groundball rate in baseball, which is the exact opposite of what you want. Yankee Stadium is built for flyballs and home runs, and that's not happening in the Yankees' lineup. And that short porch? Well, the Yankees have a decent amount of lefties, but they don't pull the ball nearly as often as you'd want, as they rank in the middle of the pack in baseball. In addition, right handed hitters on the Yankees rarely hit toward the short porch, as they are near the bottom of the league when it comes to hitting the ball the opposite way.

On the pitching side of things, it's much better. Yankees arms are excellent at striking hitters out (they have the fourth highest K/9 in baseball). More strikeouts mean less balls in play, and a lower chance of giving up the long ball. Speaking of home runs, an excellent way to limit them is with plenty of groundballs, and the Yankees have the fifth highest groundball rate in the game. Their home run per flyball rate is, as expected, third highest in baseball because of the home park, but their HR/9 is near league average because of all the groundballs.

Yankees outfielders (save for Carlos Beltran) feature solid-to-excellent range, which is nothing to complain about. That said, the effect has been dampened in the cozy Yankee Stadium, opposed to a bigger park.

The roster is built well for pitchers in Yankee Stadium, and they've been able to gain an edge on that side of the ball. You could probably figure that out on your own, though, considering how good the pitching is compared to the offense. The offense, unfortunately, has struggled, and the Yankees haven't been able to use their home park to gain an edge. It's not something that will kill the team, but when the bats are this quiet, any lost advantage is amplified.