Everything you didn't know about home runs

May 1st, 2023

The beauty of home runs is that even though there’s a finite number of runs they can help you score – a minimum of one, a maximum of four – there’s a near infinite number of stories that can be told about how each one managed to get over the wall. Most often, that’s a story about the ball itself, about how hard it was hit, how high, in what direction. But what is unique to baseball among the other major sports is that sometimes it's more a story about the ballpark you’re in.

The 30 parks might all have the same distance between the bases – which has not, now or ever, actually been 90 feet – but they have wide discrepancies in the way they’re shaped, the way that fences are deep or not, the way the walls are tall or not. They all have their own quirks, and areas you know instinctively without even needing to hear the city or stadium name: The Pesky Pole. The short porch. The Coca-Cola bottle. The Crawford Boxes.

Sometimes, these variations make for an interesting viewing experience, the feeling of knowing exactly where you are based on the way the park is shaped. Yet sometimes, it’s those unique dimensions that help to create a home run where one wouldn’t have existed in nearly any other park – or do the exact opposite, robbing a hitter of an otherwise no-doubter.

It's that truth, the differences among the various venues, that means that pretty much whenever a home run is anything other than an absolute blast, it's the first thing people often want to immediately know: How many parks would that have been out of? This is something Statcast has been tracking for years – it’s even got its own leaderboard on Baseball Savant – and now each homer is being pumped out on the @homerunreport Twitter handle, too. (Just home runs, for now, though non-home runs that might have gone out can be found on the Baseball Savant game feed.)

So, for example, when Ronald Acuña Jr. took Sandy Alcantara 442 feet deep on April 26, you’ll be completely unsurprised to know that it would have been out of all 30 current Major League parks.

But, when Shohei Ohtani eked one out just over the wall on April 27, it would have been out of only 5 of the 30 parks – not, of course, that it makes the runs count any less.

Fun, right? So if we can do this for individual home runs, then we can do it for all the home runs, too, and when we do that, we can pass along some really interesting facts. Like ...

1) Which parks have seen the most homers that would only have been out right there?

These are often the most interesting ones, the home runs that only would have been out in exactly that spot in exactly that ballpark and absolutely nowhere else -- i.e., the "1 of 30s." Would you be surprised to know that the short porch in Yankee Stadium, is, in fact, a creator of home runs that would be out absolutely nowhere else?

Parks with more than 20 homers that would have been out nowhere else (since 2016)

  • 122 – Yankee Stadium
  • 95 – Wrigley Field
  • 86 – Minute Maid Park
  • 29 – Fenway Park

Yankee Stadium isn’t quite the manufacturer of homers people believe it is – its home run park factor is eighth highest over the last three years – but if you want to find the cheapies, the ones that would have gone out in just 1 of the 30 parks, well, you can find the cheapies, and you know exactly what they look like.

Which batters have benefited the most? Alex Bregman (11), Kris Bryant (9), and DJ LeMahieu (9) are the three with the most 1/30 homers dating back to 2016 – unsurprising given the parks they’ve mostly called home.

This kind of thing happened as recently as Sunday night, when Kody Clemens tapped a ball into the seats in left field in Houston.

Or, realize there are actually two different ways to do this at Fenway Park. You can wrap it around the Pesky Pole, as Yuli Gurriel did in 2021, or, much more rarely, you can hit one high, yet not that deep, right over the Green Monster – so long as it’s far enough towards center that it wouldn’t go out in Houston.

At Wrigley, it’s almost entirely about the short left-center field power alley, especially with the basket netting that’s in front of the seats. There are a few other scattered places you can do it, too -- Harold Ramírez somehow managed to get this ball over the short fence at Tropicana Field, and Ozzie Albies got one over one of baseball's shortest center-field walls in San Diego earlier this year -- but those are relatively rare occurrences. If you want to really see the most unexpected home runs in the game, these parks -- in New York, Chicago, Houston, and Boston -- are The Big Four.

2) How many home runs are out of all the parks?

Since 2016, we’ve seen more than 38,000 home runs. How many of them would have been out of each and every Major League park -- that is, a 30/30 homer? The answer is: 55%, or just more than half. By a slim margin, you can say that it’s more likely than not that the home run you just saw was blasted so well it would have gone out anywhere.

Knowing that, we can also look at it by ballpark. Since 2016, in Cincinnati – baseball’s homer-friendliest park – only 40% of the home runs there would have been no-doubters anywhere. (That is: 60% of the homers in Cincinnati wouldn’t have been out of at least one other park. We’re only showing parks continuously in use since 2016 here.) It's not that it has a particularly easy feature, like right field at Yankee Stadium. It's just that it's extremely friendly to any kind of decently hit fly ball.

But in massive Kauffman Field in Kansas City, more than 80% of homers would have been out of every park, which tells you how much effort it takes to get one out in KC. It's pretty hard.

Enormous Coors Field in Colorado shows that nearly 90% of homers there require a 30/30 blast. It’s true, because the field size is so large, yet it comes with a huge caveat. We'll get back to this one in a minute.

3) Can you hit a ball that would have been out of every park except the one you’re in?

It’s somewhat rare, but yes: There are a few places where you can hit a ball so well that it would be out of 29 ballparks (97%) and yet not the one you’re standing in.

One way to do that is to hit one off the giant center-field wall in Arizona, as Corbin Carroll found out earlier this season. This has happened 18 times since 2016.

Another way to do that is to hit a laser beam that strikes the top of the Green Monster, just like Enrique Hernández did in 2021. It's out of every park, except the one he hit it in, so he had to settle for a single.

One popular – or unpopular, perhaps – place for hitters is right-center in San Francisco, which has seen dozens of would-have-been-a-home-run-everywhere-else blasts smash right into Triples Alley, like Joc Pederson did.

There’s a few other ways – the deepest part of Kauffman Stadium will get you to a 29/30, as Salvador Perez found out; you could do it in center at Comerica, at least pre-renovation; and there are a few isolated areas elsewhere – but for the most part, these are where it is. Or isn't, if you're the batter.

There's one other place that's become a real hotspot for this kind of thing, but it's worth its own section. Let's talk about Camden Yards.

3) We have got to talk about the new dimensions in Baltimore

Last year, the Orioles pushed back the left-field wall by 26 1/2 feet and raised the fences up from 7 feet, 4 inches, to 13 feet. It was clear that the changes would take home runs off the board, and they did -- 57, to be exact.

But it's more than that. A lot more, because we immediately began to notice that a tremendous number of home runs were showing up like this one from Nick Senzel on Sunday, which easily cleared the fence in Oakland.

What, you might be asking, does a home run hit by a Cincinnati Red in Oakland, CA (see the video here) have anything to do with Baltimore? As the end of that video showed, Senzel's home run would have been out of 29 of the 30 parks. Camden Yards is the 30th -- and, as it turns out, that happens a lot. A lot

Batted balls that would have been out of every park save one (2022-'23)

  • BAL 427
  • COL 186
  • SF 155
  • BOS 78
  • DET  57
  • ARI  12
  • KC   10

To be clear, we're not talking about balls only during games in Baltimore. We're talking about across all games in the Majors, like Senzel's in Oakland. When you have a left field that is not only one of the deepest but also one of the tallest, there are going to be a lot of baseballs that would have been home runs in every park ... except yours.

More than 400 times since the start of last season, a ball was hit in some park somewhere across the country that would have been out everywhere other than Baltimore. (Of those 427, there were 410 home runs in other parks, and 17 non-homers in Camden Yards itself.) We'll spare you 427 different video reels, but they mostly look like this:

This happened on Friday in Miami, when Nelson Velazquez hit a 29/30 homer. Thursday in Texas, when Jose Trevino hit a 29/30 homer. It happened on Wednesday in San Francisco, when Paul Goldschmidt hit a 29/30 homer. It happens pretty much every single day, often multiple times. It's clear we've got to start thinking of the left-field cutout in Baltimore in the same revered way we do the Green Monster or baseball's other notable ballpark features. It has that much of an impact.

4) What happens when you put all these together?

Let’s put all the individual batted balls back together, and go check out some leaderboards. Last year, Anthony Rizzo hit 34 homers, including the postseason. Based on how many ballparks all of his batted balls would have been out of – not just the homers, non-homers included – he’d have been expected to hit 27 in an average ballpark. It’s the largest gap we saw last season. You can see exactly which ones, and where, and what the videos looked like:

That’s in part because of the short porch – he actually had two 1/30 “nowhere but here” home runs on the same day, against the Orioles on April 26.

5) What about when you adjust for environment?

Let’s get back to what we were talking about with Coors above, because this is where it gets tricky, but it’s important. For the most part, when you see these numbers, either on Twitter or on television broadcasts, you’re seeing “what if the observed trajectory was overlaid over the various park dimensions,” which is simple and easily understandable.

It’s also a little unfair. Colorado’s Coors Field, for example, has absolutely massive dimensions. It has to, due to the high altitude, since the ball routinely flies approximately 20 feet further there. If it was sized like a normal park, then it would be an absolute homer heaven.

But if we’re looking at the trajectory of a batted ball in a different park and applying it to Coors’s large fences without also giving it the benefit of Coors’ high altitude, then we’re giving a batted ball a penalty without also giving it the appropriate boost. Again: It’s done that way because it’s much, much easier to consume, and because having multiple sets of numbers gets confusing.

That said, when you look at it on a seasonal basis, you need to make sure Rockies hitters aren’t outliers here. So for example, last year, unadjusted, C.J. Cron hit 29 homers, but was expected to hit 36 homers. It makes it seem like he seriously underperformed. But with the environmental adjustment, his 29 homers were much more in line with the 27 he'd have been expected to hit.

It does, as always, make Coors the most interesting place in the game. It makes something that has forever seemed so simple -- the home run -- seem so much more fascinating the more you break it down.