Scene change may alter ALCS offenses
Kauffman Stadium features larger dimensions than cozy Camden Yards
Just as Oriole Park at Camden Yards is typically a perfect home for the O's, Kauffman Stadium fits the personality of its Royals. The Orioles led the Majors with 211 home runs playing inside their cozy ballpark. The Royals finished last with 95 at their expansive home field.
Considering the contrasting styles of the two teams and two ballparks, a change of venue from Camden to Kauffman for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on TBS) could alter this series.
The biggest and most obvious difference between the two stadiums is the outfield dimensions. Camden Yards is one of the smallest stadiums in the Majors with the outfield fence 333 feet to left and 318 to right. The deepest part of the ballpark is straightaway center field, 410 feet from home plate, and the power alleys are 364 to left-center and 373 to right-center. Kauffman Stadium is 330 feet down both lines, 410 to center and 390 in the power alleys.
"It's a much, much bigger ballpark," Royals manager Ned Yost said of the Royals' park.
During the regular season, teams hit 175 home runs at Camden Yards, while just 102 were hit at Kauffman Stadium.
Still, one set of park factors ranks Oriole Park as just the 20th most homer-friendly stadium in the Majors. Kauffman checks in only two spots lower. Teams hit almost 6.4 percent fewer home runs at Oriole Park in 2014 than they did in Orioles road games. That number was 13.7 percent for Kauffman Stadium.
During the first two games of the ALCS in Baltimore, it was the Royals who found a surprising power surge and accounted for four of the teams' five home runs. Alex Gordon smashed one homer out to right field, Mike Moustakas hit two over the fence in right and Alcides Escobar pulled one to left during the series. Adam Jones belted the Orioles' only home run, also to left field.
Solely based on distance, two of the Royals' four home runs -- Gordon's 10th-inning blast on Friday and Moustakas' homer on Saturday -- and Jones' shot --- would have cleared the fences at Kauffman Stadium.
Considering the way the Royals have been slugging -- they led all playoff teams with eight home runs entering play Sunday -- the tiny confines of Camden Yards surprisingly worked against the Orioles.
"The way they've been hitting the ball, it doesn't matter what ballpark it is," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Still, the Orioles' starting pitchers, many of whom are fly-ball pitchers, should benefit from the more expansive Kauffman Stadium. Wei-Yin Chen, who will start for Baltimore on Tuesday, gave up two homers and five runs in 3 2/3 innings at Oriole Park during the AL Division Series. In two career starts at Kauffman Stadium, Chen has allowed two home runs and posted a 2.84 ERA.
"The past two times I had good performances here," Chen said through an interpreter, "but this time I can't guarantee that I will have the same type of performance."
The placement of the fences, however, is only part of the equation. Kauffman Stadium's more expansive outfield has actually made it more of a hitter's park in recent years. This year, its park factor was 106 in favor of hitters (100 is average), according to baseball-reference.com. Camden Yards was at 100. It's worth noting that park factors can vary from year to year.
This, in theory, should once again benefit Kansas City, which boasts a crop of rangy outfielders led by Lorenzo Cain. But every bit of extra space for a ball to land could help an Orioles team that is in a power lull but still batting .275 during the postseason.
Of course, as Showalter mentioned, the ballpark won't matter if Kansas City keeps up its hitting. Right now it's better than Baltimore in every hitting category during the ALCS. This series will only turn if the Royals' bats cool off and the Orioles can match them with the glove in the Kauffman Stadium outfield.
"It's a game that benefits the pitchers and defense," Yost said. "You got good pitching and defense, this is the perfect park to play in, and both teams have that."