In Right Field it's Windy and Windy
During last night's 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, there were eight home runs hit and six of them were to right field. As the crowd exited Yankee Stadium, there was an audible murmur of discontent. That murmur turned into a contagious grumble as the crowd passed through Gate Six, where it was confronted by the greatest place to play baseball on Earth - the old Yankee Stadium.
"Of course the balls fly out of right field," one fan muttered, "the right field pole is closer to the old stadium and they want to go back to where they belong." Another, inebriated, comrade chimed in, "there's no such thing as pop-ups (to right field) in this building."
While the tendency of right field flies to leave the park has become old news at this point, one can't help but wonder what the findings were from those wind studies the Yankees commissioned this off-season.
RWDI, which bills itself as "the leading wind engineering consulting services firm in the world," has conducted similar studies on wind at most of the Major League's ballparks. Presumably their reputation is strong. Yet the Yankees' General Manager, Brian Cashman, has repeatedly insisted that there were no concerns identified in the study. The team also refuses to release any of RWDI's findings.
But does anyone really believe the Yankees when they say that they were unaware that right field would be an issue? When one considers their major offseason acquisitions, it becomes obvious that the Yankees were overwhelmingly concerned with the right porch.
On offense, the Yankees brought in Mark Teixera and Nick Swisher, two switch hitting lefties with significant right field power. Last year Texeira and Swisher combined for 44 left-handed home runs (and 14 righty). While few heads were turned when the Yankees signed Teixera to a $180 million contract (the Yankees beat out several teams in a full-scale bidding war), the prices that they paid for their pitching additions appeared positively egregious.
The Yankees committed a combined $255.5 million to three pitchers - C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Damaso Marte. While no one was surprised that the Yankees were willing to offer the consistently dominating Sabathia a record contract (worth $161 million over seven years), the money committed to Burnett ($82.5 million over five years) and the reliever Marte ($12 million for three years, with a fourth year option for the Yankees) sent shockwaves through baseball. Burnett was a highly sought after free agent, but no other potential suitors were willing to even come close to that kind of money during a bear market off-season. In addition, while the occasional middle-reliever might make $4 million in a year, it is exceedingly rare to see that kind of long-term commitment for a position where quality-performance is almost never guaranteed. In fact, the lengths of Burnett's and Marte's deals hint that the Yankees wanted to secure pitchers for the long-term, in case their new Stadium turned out to be unattractive to future free agent pitchers.
The Yankees have publicly bristled at the notion that their $1.5 billion monument could have opened with a few design flaws, but their complexion is becoming increasingly wan. In the case of the right field jet stream, either a well-respected "wind-engineering" firm failed to notice that bunts sail 350 feet, or the Yankees knew about the issue and as always, thought they could spend their way through the problem.
Friday, May 8, 2009
In Right Field it's Windy and Windy