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.