Nine numbers that stand out about Camden Yards’ new left-field wall

NATHAN RUIZ
Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Baltimore Orioles left fielder Austin Hays picks up a ball hit for a double by Milwaukee Brewers' Willy Adames near the new left field wall at Oriole Park at Camden Yards during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, April 12, 2022, in Baltimore. The Brewers won 5-4. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Two months into the Baltimore Orioles’ 2022 season, Camden Yards’ new left field wall is still garnering plenty of attention.

It’s been that way since January.

First, because the changes were first reported amid a lengthy lockout that made the offseason devoid of typical baseball transactions.

Then, because the season actually started and people finally got to look at the alterations, with a massive wall and stark angles.

Lately, because Aaron Judge and Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees spent Baltimore’s previous homestand critiquing the changes. Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez then promptly hit a ball into it in the first inning of this homestand.

Wednesday marked the first day of June and brought with it the Orioles’ 25th of their 80 home games this season. The Baltimore Sun used this benchmark a look at some of the early numbers that have stood out from Camden Yards’ updated dimensions.

Eight: That’s the number of balls that have cleared the new wall, which is almost 30 feet deeper and more than 5 feet taller than the previous edition. Five have been hit by Orioles; Ryan Mountcastle was first to homer beyond the wall, with follow-ups from Austin Hays, Robinson Chirinos and a pair from Anthony Santander. It took until their 20th home game for the Orioles’ pitchers to allow a home run over the wall, but New York’s Giancarlo Stanton and Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes all cleared it in a four-game span.

Twenty-two: Based on tracking from The Baltimore Sun and Statcast, the count of home runs to left field would be 22 higher if not for the new wall. The Orioles have lost 10 home runs, while visitors have lost 12. Four players have each suffered multiple would-be home runs: Trey Mancini, Jorge Mateo, Chirinos and Stanton. Orioles pitchers Kyle Bradish, Joey Krehbiel and Cionel Pérez have each been spared two home runs allowed thanks to the wall.

.381: Not all of those non-homers have become outs. On balls hit toward the new wall that have stayed in play, batters are 8-for-21, a .381 batting average, with a sacrifice fly, and are slugging .714 thanks to seven of those hits being doubles. The other was an incredibly hard-hit single from Stanton.

.437: That’s the collective expected batting average —a Statcast metric based on how hard and at what angle the ball leaves the bat — of the 14 home runs that have turned into flyouts. That’s including Santander’s May 1 sacrifice fly, which would have been a grand slam with the original dimensions; it had the highest expected batting average of the group at .740. Four of the balls that would have been over the fence in previous years had xBAs below .200, with three of those being hit by visitors.

53.33: Tuesday night’s 10-run loss to the Mariners marked the start of the Orioles’ fourth homestand. Their third provided most of the wall-related action thus far. Of the 30 balls hit toward the changed wall area, 16 — or 53.33% — came in the Orioles’ series with the Yankees and Rays. New York hitters lost five home runs to the wall in the series, while Baltimore cleared it three times. The Rays managed twice as many wall home runs as all other clubs combined, but also hit three balls that would’ve cleared the former fence.

Three: There have been three balls hit to left field at Camden Yards that stayed in but would have left any other ballpark, according to the Twitter account @would_it_dong. All three were doubles. Mountcastle hit a ball of the top of the wall that bounced back into play rather than into the stands May 8. Judge’s “create-a-park”-sparking shot came May 17. Rodríguez’s lost homer Tuesday also qualified. @would_it_dong had Stanton’s single as a home run in 28 of 30 parks.

.087: By one metric, the new wall has helped the Orioles oh-so-slightly more than their opponents. Using the situations at the time of the lost homers and run expectancy to account for the extra outs that would been available, the new wall has prevented the Orioles from scoring about 17.437 runs on their 10 lost home runs. Opponents, meanwhile, have missed out on about 17.524 extra runs on their dozen homers-turned-otherwise. Together, that’s about 35 fewer runs; there have been 48 fewer runs scored at Camden Yards in the ballpark’s first 24 games of 2022 than its first 24 of 2021.

Four: By moving the wall, the Orioles wanted to take Camden Yards from being a home run haven to the league’s middleground. They may have blitzed past it. ESPN has Camden Yards with the fourth-lowest home run park factor after the venue had the highest in 2021. In last year’s first 24 games at the venue, there were 74 home runs. Through that point this season, there have been 35. About three times as many balls went over the left field fence at this point last season as have so far this year. There are other factors in that — perceived issues with the balls and improvements in the Orioles’ pitching staff among them — but there’s a clear change.

.609: To this point, we’ve focused on home runs lost. But what about singles gained?

The wall not only requires hitters to hit the ball farther, but also left fielders to play deeper. That allows for more base hits to fall in front of them rather than be caught in the air, a less obvious way for the new dimensions to make an impact on games at Camden Yards. Of course, this is much more difficult to track on a micro level than the homers; unlike the location of the former wall, it’s impossible to know exactly where a left fielder originally would have stood and thus whether they would have gotten to a ball and made a catch. But we do have some data, thanks to Statcast.

Most left fielders are positioned between 290 and 310 feet from home plate, and most outfielders can cover at least 30 to 40 feet before a ball lands. So, how do the results on balls hit to Camden Yards’ left field with projected distances between 250 and 280 feet compare to previous years?

Entering Tuesday, players were batting .609 on such balls in play, compared with marks of .342, .359 and .404 in 2021, 2020 and 2019, respectively. The expected batting average of the 2022 events was .382, which isn’t dramatically different from the marks of .327, .386 and .354 seen the previous three years.

This is again an area the ball could be making an impact, but it also speaks to how much more green there is to find in left field at Camden Yards.