If Camden Yards were a dog, Oriole pitchers would kick it in frustration.
Less than a week after blowing a save by surrendering a ninth inning two-run homer to Michael Young of the Rangers, George Sherrill tells USA Today that he plays in a hitter-friendly park, and it messes with his mind.
“The ball flies out of this place,” Baltimore Orioles closer George Sherrill says, referring to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “It enters your mind. You think about it. A pitcher would be a liar if he said he didn’t think about it. You try to turn it into a positive.”
USA Today goes on to report the following: “Since opening in 1992, the Orioles’ ballpark has developed a reputation of a hitter’s paradise. Last season, there were 35.9% more home runs a game hit there than in Orioles road games — the highest percentage increase of all ballparks, according to Elias Sports Bureau.”
The place may never escape its reputation as a hitter’s haven, but it’s fair to question just how much of an advantage is provided at Camden Yards, lest the batter’s benefit become exaggerated. Consider, for example, the words of Johnny Oates after the O’s acquired Albert Belle prior to the 1999 season, in response to a query about Belle breaking then-Roger Maris’ single-season home run record.
Said Oates: “Why ask about 60 homers? Why not 70? In that ballpark, I don’t think we have to predict 60. We know 70 can be had.”
Belle hit exactly 60 home runs for the Orioles, but it took two seasons to do so.
Some other numbers to consider
-Major League Baseball introduced unbalanced scheduling in 2001. From 2002 – 2007, an A.L. East team – typically the Yankees – finished in the league’s top two for home runs.
2002 – Yankees (2nd)
2003 – Boston (2nd)
2004 – Yankees (2nd)
2005 – Yankees (2nd)
2006 – Yankees (2nd)
2007 – Yankees (1st)
-In five of the eight seasons from 2001 through 2008 (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 & 2006), Baltimore’s Park Factor ranked less than 1.000, indicating that pitchers in fact had the advantage (or so say the numbers). Camden Yards ranked 19th or lower for Park Factor during those five seasons.
-Perhaps it’s just the pitching.
The Birds allowed 164 home runs during their Wire-to-Wire run in 1997, third best in the league behind the Yankees and Red Sox and twelve fewer than the league average of 176.
In 2008, the Birds’ 11th consecutive losing season, they allowed 184 home runs, most in the American League and 111 more than the league average.