Marlins Park's New Dimensions Are Already Creating More Home Runs
Mickey Mantle once said, “When I hit a home run I usually didn't care where it went. So long as it was a home run was all that mattered.”
His sentiment was not necessarily shared by members of the Miami Marlins after their new home stadium opened in 2012, as players complained about its massive outfield, which made it difficult to hit home runs.
Their concerns were finally addressed after last season, and the stadium underwent renovations prior to the 2016 season. Most notably, the fence in center field was moved in 11 feet, and the outfield walls were lowered throughout, although the dimensions down the lines and in each power alley (left and right center) remained the same.
The Marlins wanted to create a pitcher’s park when the stadium was built, and they were successful in doing so. According to ESPN’s Park Factor, Marlins Park ranked 29th in its three-year average park factor for home runs, and it was 28th last season.
Since 2012, the amount of home runs hit in Miami has never ranked higher than 28th, or in other words, better than the 3rd-fewest.
|Year||Total HR||Rank||League Average HR||Difference|
Not only did Marlins Park rank toward the bottom of stadiums for home runs hit every season, but it also wasn't even close to what the league average was.
The closest the team came was within roughly 35 home runs in 2014, but over a four-year span since the park's existence, they averaged just under 54 home runs fewer than the league average stadium.
However, through 11 home games this season, the home run park factor for Marlins Park is up to 1.250, which currently ranks seventh. There have been 22 home runs hit there, which is currently a 162-home run pace or almost 50 more than have ever been hit in that stadium. The Marlins haven’t even played 15 percent of their home games yet this season, so the sample size needs to be taken into account, but so far, it looks like the new dimensions are having an immediate impact.
In their 11 home games, there have been eight with at least 2 home runs hit, which is roughly 73 percent of the time.
In 2015, Marlins Park allowed two or more home runs per game just 37 percent of the time. Again, the sample size is small, but the difference is so drastic that it’s worth giving it your attention.
According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, the image below is what the dimensions of Marlins Park looked like before its renovation, with the dark circles symbolizing home runs.
The following image shows the new dimensions of Marlins
Park, with the center field wall moved in.
It might be difficult to understand the significance of “just” 11 feet in distance based on these images, so maybe some actual game play will help.
Here's a ball that Giancarlo Stanton hit 427 feet last season, with an exit velocity of 105.4 miles per hour.
As you can see, despite Stanton crushing the ball, he hit it to dead center, and it stayed in the yard for an out. Tough break.
Now watch this next clip from earlier this season with the new dimensions of Marlins Park.
This Bryce Harper home run was measured at 420 feet, but it barely left the yard, earning a “Just Enough” designation from ESPN's Home Run Tracker. This was one that likely would have stayed in the yard last season. Despite hitting a ball seven feet further, Stanton's home park robbed him of a tater, something that should happen less this season with the fences moved in.
Perhaps the Marlins hitter who will benefit the most from the closer fences is Christian Yelich. Entering the 2016 season, he had 20 career home runs, and virtually all of them came away from Marlins Park, as 17 of them were hit when on the road.
To quote from Mantle again, he said, "Somebody once asked me if I ever went up to the plate trying to hit a home run. I said, 'Sure, every time.'"
With the new dimensions at Marlins Park, more hitters may choose to take this approach as well.