Forty-seven more homers.
That was the result, by my tally, of lowering the fences by eight feet as a part of the Cheney Stadium renovation.
For decades, Cheney Stadium outfield fences were 17 feet high (with the exception of straightaway centerfield, which remains 29 feet tall). With the remodel, they took out the old plywood fences and put in modern, padded outfield fences that are nine feet high.
Before the season, I was talking with manager Daren Brown about the change, and we estimated that there would be 15-20 line drives that would be home runs with the short fences but would have been singles or doubles with the old walls. We decided that I would keep track of them during the season.
Our estimate ended up being very, very low.
I marked down 47 home runs that would have been singles or doubles prior to 2011.* I took a conservative approach, too – if I wasn’t sure it would have been a homer over the old wall, I didn’t count it. I only marked definite cases – it was actually pretty easy to judge, because of the tree line in right field, and the reader-board in left.
So we had 47 more homers. But how much did scoring rise? Remember, those 47 extra homers were still hits in previous years, extending rallies and driving in runs.
We have home-road splits going back to 2004. Here are the total number of runs scored and home runs, per game, plus the batting average for games played at Cheney Stadium each year since 2004. The totals are for both teams combined.
As you can see, teams hit more home runs at Cheney Stadium than in any of the previous seven years. However, runs per game was only the third-highest, and the batting average was below the median.
Sometimes it’s easier to look at this stuff as an average. When sabermaticians compute Park Factors, they like to use a three-year sample size. At least, that’s what a guy who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do told me once.
This chart compares 2011 totals to the 3-year average from 2008-2010, and then the entire 7-year sample from 2004-2010.
The data seems to indicate that while home runs were definitely up at Cheney last year, scoring remained at normal levels.
What was most clear, when looking at the home/road splits, was that Cheney Stadium remains a pitcher’s park by PCL standards.
In 2011, Tacoma batted .266 at home and .310 on the road. The Rainiers hit 76 home runs at Cheney, and 100 on the road. Let’s just go to the same categories from the above charts, and look at both teams per game totals. The first line is 2011 Rainiers home games, the second line is 2011 Rainiers road games, and the bottom line is the league average per PCL game in 2011.
In the first season with lower fences at Cheney Stadium, we saw more home runs but it did not have a large impact on scoring. Cheney Stadium appears to remain one of the few ballparks in the Pacific Coast League to favor the pitchers.
OK, that’s enough math for a while. My current list of fun future blog posts contains no math.
* The Rainiers had the home field advantage in this category. I counted 27 “New Cheney Homers” for Tacoma, and 20 for the visitors.