Is Great American Ballpark Really Hitter Friendly?
Great American Ballpark
10 Homeruns hit through 6 innings played
In Monday's game between the Reds and Pirates, to start week three of the Major League Baseball season, there was a show of offensive fireworks. With ten homeruns hit by the time the game was suspended due to rain after six innings, some were left thinking that Great American Ballpark is smaller than it is. Games like this do not happen all the time at Great American Ballpark, but nobody is surprised to see a high combined homerun total between the Reds and their opponent, after a game is completed there. In recent years the Reds have had some good power hitting teams, while division opponents like the Cardinals and Brewers have fielded teams with great power hitters. An extraordinary number of power hitters playing at Great American Ballpark, could sway the homerun numbers in games played there. A further look into the dimensions of the ballpark, could tell us more about how the home of the Reds plays for hitters.
The alleys at Great American Ballpark
From Park Factors website, we find that the alleys in Great American Ballpark are each measured at 370 feet from home plate. Typically the alleys in a major league ballpark will be close in distance to the centerfield measurement from home plate. At Great American Ballpark, this is not the case, as the mid point of the centerfield wall is 404 feet from home plate. Left field is slightly larger at Great American Ballpark, with a foul line measurement of 328 feet from home plate, and consistently a few feet further almost all the way to center field. The wall in left field is also higher than the wall in right field. The wall is about ten feet high, rather than the six foot wall that separates the stands from the field in right field. This does not mean that left field is not hitter friendly at Great American Ballpark, but rather that right field is even more of an extreme, as far as allowing homeruns to left handed pull hitters.
Do the numbers show that it actually is a hitter's park?
Park Factors also shows some more important information about Great American Ballpark when compared to other ballparks in the Major Leagues. The park factor number shows that Great American Ballpark is above the average for allowing runs. For every 100 runs scored in the average major league ballpark, there are 107 runs scored at Great American Ballpark over the past four seasons. These years, directly correspond with the Reds fielding a strong offensive lineup, so a look at the homerun totals for the ballpark, could tell us more. Park Factors shows that for every 100 homeruns hit in the average major league park, there are 135 homeruns hit at Great American Ballpark. If only 107 runs are scored for every 100 runs in an average ballpark, why is there such a big difference between the homeruns in an average ballpark and the homeruns at Great American Ballpark? One logical explanation for this, is that there are more solo homeruns hit at Great American Ballpark, when compared to other ballparks. Another logical explanation, is that doubles and triples are run producing hits, and with the fences closer at Great American Ballpark, there are fewer triples hit there. Some balls that are hit off the wall there, go for long singles, when the outfielder gets a good bounce and makes a good throw. This all results in the ballpark being a homerun friendly ballpark, without reaching a drastic extreme in runs scored there.
With centerfield so deep, why does the ball carry out there?
Park Factors also mentions a couple other things about Great American Ballpark, and it sheds light on why balls are hit out of the park to centerfield. Even though it is 404 feet from home plate, the ball still carries there because a lower point in the structure, behind home plate, allows winds from the downtown Cincinnati to blow out to centerfield. On days where the wind is blowing in from the river, a hitter friendly wind current does not exist to centerfield, but days like that are rare in Cincinnati. The other factor that makes the ballpark hitter friendly, is the lack of foul territory in the field of play. The stands are very close to fair territory, just about everywhere at Great American Ballpark, and as a result there are fewer foul pop outs. This has an effect on the ballgame, in more ways than one. Not only are outs not recorded on balls that are popped foul, but the pitchers have to throw a lot more pitches to record outs at times. This results in fewer innings pitched by starters there, on average, and more innings where both the Reds and their opponents, bat against middle relief pitchers. As a result, homerun numbers and run totals go up at Great American Ballpark.
Ultimately, Monday's game between the Reds and Pirates, is something that can occur at Great American Ballpark, but it was still a great display of power by both teams. The emergence of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce marks the beginning of the significant change in offensive numbers at Great American Ballpark. This would suggest that there are not as many cheap homeruns there, as people might think. As a hitter's park though, all fields of the ballpark are homerun friend, even with the above average distance from home plate to straightaway centerfield. A combination of wind currents, shorter alleys and closer than average corners, makes Great American Ballpark a homerun hitter's haven.