How Camden Yards changes will affect hitters

New dimensions likely to have prevented 200 home runs over past four years

March 28th, 2022

In January, the Orioles announced that they’d be changing the dimensions at Camden Yards, pushing the left-field wall back by 26 1/2 feet, as well as making it nearly six feet taller. There are going to be fewer home runs there going forward, perhaps more than 50 annually by our count. That’s entirely the point.

“We still expect that this will remain somewhat of a hitter's park, and we like that about Camden Yards,” said executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, “but the conditions here have been very extreme -- towards the very most extreme in the league. It's not a secret.”

It is, indeed, no secret. Over the last five years, no ballpark has seen as many home runs as Camden Yards, which has had 1,140 long balls, nearly twice as many as the 659 that have been hit at San Francisco’s Oracle Park, the hardest park to leave. Does that have a little to do with the less-than-impressive quality of the recent Baltimore pitching staff, combined with some O's power hitters? Sure, probably. But it wasn’t that long ago that the Orioles were very good, like between 2012-16, when they won more games than any other American League team -- and in that span, Camden Yards also saw the most homers of any venue.

It is, by metrics both traditional and advanced, an absolute launching pad, easier to hit homers in than Coors Field. So, we expected this was going to be bad news for a right-handed slugger like Trey Mancini. It is, kind of, but what we found wasn’t quite what we expected.

"We're privy to the Statcast data, so we can model a bit better than third parties," Orioles vice president of analytics Sig Mejdal said. "We wanted to take this step, a significant step, toward neutrality."

Seems like a good place to start, so let’s try to do the same. We can look at the Statcast trajectory of each home run hit at Camden Yards, which we’ll do over the four-season span from 2018-21, and we’ll see which ones wouldn’t have quite made it over the new deeper, higher fence. We can also see which batters or pitchers would have been affected the most. Easy, right?

OK, it’s not that easy. But we’ve done this in the past, and it’s worth looking back to look forward. After the 2018 season, the Angels announced they’d be lowering the home run boundary (though not the physical wall itself) by 10 feet. When we investigated at the time, we estimated the change would have added 16-17 home runs in each of the previous two seasons. In 2019, Angel Stadium saw 241 home runs … or 18 more than it had in 2018.

It’s not usually that clean, and the roster makeup of the 2022 Orioles, as well as simple year-to-year variance, will have something to say about it, too. Still, it’s clear that if we look over the last four seasons, we can at least get to a rough idea of how many home runs might be lost. As this visual from's Andrew Garcia Phillips makes clear, taking home runs off the board, it's a lot.

It's one hundred and ninety-six. That’s the estimate, based on Statcast data, across the last four seasons, of home runs hit in Baltimore that would have remained in the field of play under the 2022 dimensions, and remember that it would be well above 200 if the 2020 season had been a full-length campaign.

But first, a note -- an important one that’s easy to get lost: Lost home runs don’t necessarily turn into outs. Take, for example, right-handed hitters across the last three years. Look at how the park ranks in some notable power metrics. (Like OPS+, read these as ‘100’ being league average.)

Camden Yards park factor ranks, RHB, 2019-’21

While it’s been quite easy for righties to pop the ball out of Camden Yards, it just hasn’t been the same for doubles and triples, for a pretty obvious reason, which is that if you hit the ball with any authority to a small left field, you’ve probably hit a home run. That’s about to change. Homers may go down, but doubles and triples might go up.

So, all of these “lost home runs” won’t be turning into the same outcome. For example, while this Austin Hays home run that was very nearly robbed by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. probably turns into an easy flyout …

… this Ryan Mountcastle home run probably remains a productive extra-base hit, though not quite a four-bagger.

It’s a little more difficult to try to say how many lost homers would become outs as opposed to extra-base hits, but it’s at least worth keeping in mind that while home runs should go down, non-homer hits ought to go up, as left fielders now find themselves with considerably more ground to cover.

That’s true not only in terms of these specific lost homers, but also on other fly outs or line outs to left field that now might not be caught as left fielders position themselves a little deeper. Across 2019-21, left fielders against righty batters at Camden Yards stood an average of 303 feet deep, 13th-deepest. You’d have to imagine they’re taking a few steps back in 2022 – which will open up some room in front of them for balls to land.

But let’s get to what you came for. How many homers are gone? Who gets helped, or not?

It’s surprisingly consistent, accounting for 50 to 60ish lost home runs a year, particularly if you realize that the 18 such balls in 2020 came in one-third of a season. And, for the last three years, the Orioles have routinely come out on the short end of the stick.

Again: That might be at least a little about the quality of a pitching staff that in 2021 had baseball’s lowest strikeout rate, lowest ground ball rate, and second-worst hard-hit rate. New ballpark dimensions will not fix all, or even most, of those problems.

Eighty of those home runs were hit by Orioles batters. One hundred and sixteen were hit against Orioles pitching, which kind of tells you why this is happening in the first place. If you, like us, figured this would explain all of Gleyber Torres' 2019 dominance in Baltimore, it doesn't; only three of his homers would have come back (two in '19, one in '18). But, so far as the AL East rivals go, the Yankees are definitely the team that is going to suffer the most here.

Blue Jays: Loss of 7 home runs (14 hit, 7 allowed)
Rays: Gain of 3 home runs (15 hit, 18 allowed)
Red Sox: Loss of 3 home runs (11 hit, 8 allowed)
Yankees: Loss of 20 home runs (26 hit, 6 allowed)

That's four from Clint Frazier, who was rarely a full-time player for the Yankees. It's four from Aaron Judge, and three from Torres and Gary Sánchez, and most of the rest of the roster hitting at least one of these. We're not saying this is necessarily predictive, since the 2022 Yankees should still slug and the '22 Orioles pitching should still allow low contact. But it's hard to ignore the difference between New York and the other three clubs here.

For the Orioles, you don’t necessarily care too much right now that light-hitting Dodger Hanser Alberto hit seven homers in 2019-20 that wouldn’t have gone out going forward, or that Joey Rickard would have lost six. (Alberto hit, for what it’s worth, only 15 total homers in those two years, which would have sliced his number in half. Here’s what one looked like. Here’s another, and here’s another. They all kind of look like that.) You don't care that ex-O's like Renato Núñez and Jonathan Schoop would have lost home runs here both for and against the Orioles.

You might care more about some of the players who are still going to be part of the 2022 Orioles, though.


Trey Mancini (8)

That sounds bad, but it comes with an enormous caveat, which is this: None of them came in 2021. Mancini hit 45 homers at home over his last three seasons; he might have lost five homers in '18, then three more in '19, and then of course he didn’t play in 2020 as he successfully battled colon cancer. Returning in '21, he hit 14 of his 21 home runs in Baltimore, which again, sounds bad … except not a single one would have been lost to the new dimensions.

Why? In part because he’s one of the more all-fields power hitters in baseball; of the 102 players to hit at least 20 homers, only two of them pulled their homers at a lower rate than Mancini did. In part, also, because he hit just three home runs to left field in Camden Yards in the first place, and they were all blasted. (Just look at this one.) It doesn't mean he won't be affected by the change in 2022. It just means that contrary to what we might have believed, he didn't hit baseballs that way in 2021.

Anthony Santander (5)
Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays (4 apiece)

Santander has a nearly identical number of plate appearances in his career at home (573) as he does on the road (574). He has 33 homers in Baltimore, and just 17 on the road. It's more or less the same story for Mountcastle, who has 365 plate appearances at home, 361 on the road ... and 24 home dingers compared to 14. Those are the two current Orioles likely to be hampered the most by this. It's not nearly as stark for Hays, who has a relatively equal total of homers (16 at home, 15 on the road) no matter where he is over his career.


Ex-Oriole Dylan Bundy got hit with 10 of these since 2018, and leaving town didn’t even grant him immunity, because after allowing nine of them as an Oriole, Mountcastle tagged him for a home-run-that-wouldn’t-be-now when he returned as a member of the Angels last August. He's one of a number of former Baltimore pitchers who would have been happier if this change had been made in 2018, including Mike Wright Jr. (7), Branden Kline (5), David Hess (5), Alex Cobb (4) and Miguel Castro (4).

But when it comes to the names currently on the team, there are two that stand out.

John Means (12)

A dozen! Baltimore's undisputed ace has allowed 12 home runs at home that wouldn't have gone out under the new dimensions. Interestingly, though, he does not have notable home road splits, with a 3.94 career ERA in Baltimore and a 3.69 ERA on the road. He's allowed exactly 33 home runs both home and away, in nearly the same number of innings. If Camden has been hurting him, you don't see it there.

Still, 12 is a lot. Do you want to see them? Of course you do:

Dean Kremer (5)

Unlike Means, Kremer had all five of his come last year. It doesn't excuse his 7.55 ERA, to be clear. It's at least worth noting that he allowed 13 homers at home, and just four on the road. (Where he still allowed a 7.33 ERA. It just was not a good year in general.) Still, it might have been nice to save some of the three runs he allowed on this Gio Urshela blast, anyway.

It will, clearly, turn home runs into outs or non-homer hits, and it's not hard to see why the team would like that. But, we must ask, what about the unintended consequences? What about one of the most exciting moments in baseball, the robbed home run? Consider one of the most exciting plays of 2019, when Jackie Bradley Jr. went up and over the wall to take a home run away from Mancini.

As Ben Lindbergh wrote for the Ringer when investigating home run robberies later that year, “the 7-foot fences in left and center at Camden Yards, where Bradley denied Mancini, have made it the most common location for robberies going back to 2004.” Those 7-foot fences are now 13-foot fences. They're a lot further away. Bradley doesn't climb the fence there in 2022, because there won't be a fence there in 2022.

We'll see fewer homers, to be sure, and memorable moments like Adam Jones’s 2018 Opening Day walk-off would not have left the yard. We'll probably see fewer extremely cool defensive plays there, too.