How Comerica’s new fences will affect Tigers

How Comerica’s new fences will affect Tigers

So the question is clear: How much will it matter? We went through the same process last winter when the Orioles deepened left field at Camden Yards, and the preseason Statcast data suggested that “maybe more than 50 [fewer home runs] yearly according to our count.” Finally lost home runs in year one? 57.

So we can do the same with Comerica, but be warned right away: It’s not going to go the way you might think it’s going to go. We predict that over the past three full seasons (2019, 2021 and 2022) there have been 54 non-homers at Comerica that would likely have cleared the new measurements – 18 per year, though not evenly spread – but that’s a number that comes with a big “home run robberies are awesome” caveat that we’ll have to get to.

As a reminder, here are what the changes will be, and why they are deemed necessary.

The most notable takeaway there is that while 412 feet in center is certainly shorter than 422, it’s also still the second-deepest center field in baseball, behind only the 415 at mile-high Coors Field, meaning it’s still significantly deeper than average. is, just not “compare it to a national park” deep.

“We went from the deepest ballpark to probably still the deepest ballpark in center field,” pitcher Matt Manning told’s Jason Beck, which isn’t entirely correct — Coors is, as we said — but accurate enough in mind, which shows the players know exactly how it’s going to play. “It’s still deep out there.”

Indeed it is, and that makes the why of all this the easy part; Higginson may have been the first hitter to grumble about size, but he was hardly the last. Former Tiger Nick Castellanos was known for his disdain for the place – “this park is a joke,” he once said – and last year Robbie Grossman talked about how he didn’t like hitting there as a visitor not. All you really need to see is one video exactly like this 422-footer from poor Riley Greene last year to understand why.

The numbers, to some extent, support this. Since Statcast started tracking in 2015, there have only been 24 batted balls projected to go 420 feet or more that ended up going … and fifteen were at Comerica. Of the others, six were at Coors, one was a Giancarlo Stanton laser beam in Miami, and the last two were at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, but to a part of the field that no longer exists — since the Astros brought in their own fences after 2016.

(Why seventh-hardest and not hardest? Because there’s more to offense than just home runs. Comerica is the easiest park to triple in, and as we explored in 2018, there’s evidence that the excellent hitter’s eye helped suppress strikeouts and increase hard -hit rate – an advantage that may [or may not] be at risk with the new changes. This is where we should note that Grossman, with 54 points, Cabrera, with 52 points, and Castellanos, with 19 points, all fared better at Comerica during their Tiger careers than on the road. So did Greene, as a rookie, with 43 points, though it was the opposite for Spencer Torkelson.)

Perhaps it tells the story best: Look at barrels, a Statcast metric meant to show batted balls with the perfect combination of launch angle and exit velocity (that is, hitting them hard and in the air). The Major League average in 2022 on those perfect batted balls was .728; at Cincinnati’s hitter’s paradise, it was a best-in-baseball .847; but in Detroit it was a paltry .634, by far the lowest in the Majors. The ball didn’t fly, and when it did, it had a massive center field and high right-center wall to get past.

Catcher Eric Haase got more emotional about what it feels like to lose a crushed baseball to the park, and in doing so hit a number that we can help him quantify.

“I think it’s more of the psyche that you have in the [batter’s] box with you. When you step up for your second at-bat and your first at-bat, you fly out at 430 feet and it’s a 0-0 ball game, it’s very different. You start feeling like, ‘I stuck to my approach, I had a perfect approach and it’s an out.’ It’s really hard to grab your bat and go out there again the next AB and try not to do a little bit more,” he said. “I do everything right, and you hit a ball so true [Statcast] say it’s a homer in 29 other ballparks.”

If we go back to 2019 and find all the non-homers that Statcast projected to be in at least 25 other ballparks, Comerica witnessed 119 of them — the third most behind Colorado and Arizona, which have a massive 25 feet. wall in midfield.

Haase would know personally. On August 1, 2021, he crushed a ball at home that was expected to reach 427 feet. Of course, the double he ended up with is nothing. But it’s also not the home run he probably deserved.

All that said, what impact do we think we’ll see in 2023?

According to our data, it’s the non-homers who were most likely to have trajectories that would have taken them over the fences of a newly renovated Comerica Park.

2019 // 19
2020 // 3 (shortened season)
2021 // 19
2022 // 12

That’s 18 hits by Detroit hitters, and 36 allowed by Detroit pitchers, though at least some of that has to do with the fact that the Tigers lineup just hasn’t hit a whole lot of balls hard enough for it over the last four seasons. doesn’t even matter. , compared to the rest of the sport. (In 2022, only two clubs had a lower average fly ball distance than Detroit.)

Many of them look exactly as you would expect them to. Here’s then-Padre Luke Voit, last summer, hitting one a projected 427 feet to the top of the center field wall, one that was initially ruled a homer but later revised to a double.

Here’s Cabrera the summer before, who didn’t even get the consolation prize of an extra base hit, though his sacrifice fly did drive home a run.

Look at former Tiger Nomar Mazara, who drove Jake Cave all the way back to the wall and got absolutely nothing for his trouble.

To the extent that these are the types of plays you expect, they are there, nearly two dozen of them since 2019. But for all the talk about midfield’s deep range, we could focus on that at the expense of the height of the walls. misses the point, as manager AJ Hinch aptly expressed.

“I think the lower fence is a more exciting section than really caring what the dimensions are,” Hinch said. “I’m glad we can talk about Riley Greene stepping up and [reaching] over a fence instead of jumping into a fence.”

He’s right, and it’s this aspect – the fences are a constant seven feet all around – that opens up some of our data to your interpretation. Just look at Akil Baddoo, who made a huge leap to rob Hunter Dozier in 2021 by going over a wall that will drop from 8.5 feet tall to seven.

Our data says the ball would have been a home run in the new dimensions, but really, if not for Baddoo, it would also have been a home run in the old ones – and it’s somewhat of an open question whether a lower fence here will make it easier for a fielder to launch himself, or less able to reach to the same heights to grab a harder ball.

It even happens in the middle, as Cameron Maybin found out during his brief return to the team in 2020.

And while steals didn’t happen very often in right field, what would it look like if an outfielder played this one against a wall that’s seven feet, not 8 1/2 feet?

All of which could suggest that while we expect to find about 15 batted balls going out in 2023 that wouldn’t in previous years, we may also find some of them becoming spectacular home runs, not home runs — like eight of us “could have gone out now” 54 balls since 2019 have already been. (To say nothing of this Derek Hill home run from last season, which could have been a steal and might not even have come out if not for the helping glove of Kyle Garlick.)

“I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact on the way we prepare or anything,” Haase said. “I don’t think it’s going to be as big a deal as it seems to the average fan watching. I don’t think there are going to be many more homers. I don’t necessarily know how many homers we’re going to be able to steal [with the lower fences in center and right]. But I think that just makes it a little bit more of a fair game.”

Tigers general manager Scott Harris was on the same page, noting that their studies “suggest that there will be a modest impact on home runs and runs without changing the profile of the park.” He also said, as Haase did, that the discouraging impact on their strikers had been taken into account, saying: “we feel that it is very distressing for a striker to run a ball to dead center and a 419 feet, and so if a few more of those end up being home runs or extra-base hits, we feel like that will have a positive impact on our hitters’ psyche, and ultimately a positive impact on our team.”

We agree, in every respect. These changes will matter somewhat in ways we can count. But if they matter in ways we can’t quantify, in ways that make Greene and Torkelson and the other young Tiger hitters who are supposed to be at the heart of rebuilding stop feeling like they’re aiming for an insurmountable object, it’s worth it in other ways too.

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