Will Camden Yards Remain a Homer-Friendly Stadium?

Oriole Park at Camden Yards has long had a reputation as a home-run friendly stadium. The ballpark’s accommodating nature toward hitters has served as one explanation for why free-agent pitchers avoid Baltimore. Consider Zachary Silver’s words in his MLB.com article about the O’s changes to the distance and height of Camden Yards’ left-field wall: “A large factor for the Orioles in rolling out these changes is the sense they get from free agent pitchers who tend to recoil at calling such a homer-happy ballpark their home.”

Will Camden Yards remain a homer-friendly stadium in the future? The honest answer is that it’s far too soon to tell; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting indications already.

Baseball Savant‘s Park Factors uses Statcast data to determine which ballparks are best and worst for hitters in various categories. Given the importance of sample-sizes, three-year rolling averages are more informative than annual totals, which can fluctuate wildly. With these disclaimers in place, let’s take a look at Camden Yards.

The “Ballpark That Forever Changed Baseball” has routinely rated at or near the top as the most homer-friendly spot in baseball as rated by Home Run Park Factor. It topped the charts in 2008, 2015, and again last season as illustrated in the graph below, which details Ballpark Savant Home Run Park Factor data from 2008 through 2022.

Camden Yards’ plummeting Home Run Park Factor thus far in 2022 is hard to miss. Again, single-year totals – much less half-year totals – can fluctuate wildly and therefore have little explanatory value. To illustrate this point, consider that left-handed hitters have a lower Home Run Park Factor at Camden Yards so far in 2022 (70) than do right-handed hitters (80) despite the changes to the left-field wall.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to consider Camden Yards in comparison to the other ballparks ranked lowest (i.e. least friendly) for Home Run Park Factor in 2022. The graph below provides the HR Park Factor since 2008 for the ballparks of four of the five teams currently rated lowest in the category: the O’s, Kansas City Royals, Oakland A’s, and San Francisco Giants.

Notice that all of the teams besides the Orioles have consistently rated in the lower half of baseball for HR Park Factor with the San Francisco Giants being the most consistent. The place that Barry Bonds called home for 15 years is not home-run friendly (the Giants ranked last for HR Park Factor by their three-year rolling average in 2003).

Now, consider the Orioles in comparison to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the other team currently rated in the bottom five for HR Park Factor. Chase Field, home of the Diamondbacks, was all over the place in the rankings between 2008 and 2017 as the graph below illustrates. However, its ranking fell to the lower half of baseball and has continued moving lower since 2018. That also happens to be the season that the team installed a humidor to make the baseball heavier.

Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but the three-year average for HR Park Factor at Chase Field provides a compelling data point. It will be interesting to see the numbers for Oriole Park at Camden Yards in a couple of more years.

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Let’s Talk About That 10-Game Orioles Win Streak

The Baltimore Orioles‘ 10-game win streak ended on Friday with a one-run loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Half of their wins during the streak came in one-run games, so they were bound to not have one go their way.

Now that the win streak is over, let’s put it in context for all O’s seasons.

The longest single-season Orioles win streak of 14 games came in 1973. Overall, the O’s have had a win streak of 10 or more games in 12 different seasons. The most recent came in 1999 (13 games).

Overall Records

There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played in 2022; however, we can see how past seasons with double-digit win streaks panned out.

The Orioles won 100 or more games on three occasions during seasons when they had a win streak of at least 10 games (1970, 1971, 1980). The 1970 team topped all the others with 108 wins following a season-best 11-game win streak.

The smallest full-season win total for an Orioles team following a double-digit win streak was 67 games in 1987. That team’s win streak ran from July 12 to July 25 but still left the O’s eight games below .500 at 45-53 thanks to a 10-game losing streak in June and an eight-game losing streak in September.

Postseason Appearances

Finally, let’s talk postseason baseball (for prior years, not this year … although I know it’s on your mind).

The Orioles have made the postseason five times during seasons in which they’ve posted a double-digit win streak: 1966, 1970, 1971, 1973, and 1974. They won two World Series: 1966 and 1970. (The longest win streak for the World Series Champion 1983 Orioles was eight games.)

The 1974 Orioles were the last Baltimore playoff team with a double-digit win streak. Here are the longest win streaks for the Orioles’ most recent playoff teams: 2016 (seven games), 2014 (six games), 2012 (six games), 1997 (seven games), and 1996 (five games).

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Something Magic Happened

Around the time that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are preparing their respective departures, the Baltimore Orioles are entering my daughter’s world as a new outlet for her hopeful belief. She didn’t hear the thundering roar from 34 that filled my own ears at her age, although the “Ad-ley” chants on Friday night carried “Ed-die” echoes. Still, the Orioles are bringing to life the magic of Orioles baseball for my little girl.

Doug DeCinces birthed Orioles Magic on June 22, 1979. His walk-off two-run homer combined with a Ken Singleton solo shot three batters earlier lifted the Birds from a two-run deficit to the Detroit Tigers entering the game’s final frame.

The song celebrating the ascendant ’79 team debuted on April 15, 1980, the following season’s home opener, thanks to the off-season work of Walter Woodward. The adman turned professor penned the memorable anthem that was recorded in a Nashville studio, according to the Baltimore Sun (Wesley Case, “Catchy jingle takes on added resonance: Old ‘Orioles Magic,’ with its K.C. ties, is something team could use tonight,” Oct. 13, 2014).

The 2022 Orioles conjured that 1979 Magic when they found themselves down two runs entering the ninth inning on Friday night. There weren’t any homers, just hit after hit after hit after two-out, two-strike hit to continue an unlikely six-game win streak featuring three walk-off wins. And we were there.

They won’t create a song based on this night at the ballpark. Our silent dance party – can’t wake up the rest of the family – and air guitar solos at the house afterward will suffice.

My annual summertime trip home produced a moment that makes lifetime believers out of people like the little girl celebrating next to me in her inside-out rally floppy hat. Waffle fries, giveaway hats, fireworks, and time with family are memorable; a finish like that is unforgettable.

As the clock struck midnight on our fairy-tale night, we re-lived the moment by watching the highlights before bed. Her request.

That’s Magic.

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