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Let’s not overstate the impact Yankee Stadium will have on Brian McCann

Nov 24, 2013, 6:05 PM EST

Brian McCann AP AP

As soon as the Yankees’ signing of free agent catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract was announced, the projections started rolling in. “McCann will hit 35-40 HRs with Yankee Stadium as home ballpark,” tweeted David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Others were less bold, suggesting 35 as a ceiling for the former Brave.

It makes sense at first glance. Yankee Stadium is 314 feet down the right field line, a feature of the park that has turned a catchable deep fly ball in 29 other parks into a fourth-row dinger. According to Statcorner, Yankee Stadium allowed home runs to left-handed hitters at a rate 16 percent higher than average. It was even more garish in 2012, when Statcorner pegged Yankee Stadium at 46 percent above the league average. In 2011, it was 45 percent; 39 percent in 2010; and 14 percent in 2009. As Keith Law noted in Saturday’s column, “Sixteen of his 20 homers in 2013 were to dead right field, as were 15 of his 20 bombs in 2012.” And that was playing half his games in the comparatively much more pitcher-friendly Turner Field.

Since the new Yankee Stadium opened up in 2009, however, a Yankee has crossed the 30-homer plateau just eight times. Two were by Curtis Granderson (43, 41), three were by Mark Teixeira (39, 39, 33), one by Robinson Cano (33), and two by Alex Rodriguez (30, 30). Alfonso Soriano could also join the list if you count his 17 as a Cub and 17 as a Yankee. But with that list, you have only two natural left-handed hitters (Granderson, Cano), a switch-hitter (Teixeira), and two right-handers (Rodriguez, Soriano). About as even a split as you can get.

The lack of left-handed hitters to hit 30 or more homers hasn’t been for a lack of trying. They’ve had Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher, Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez, and Travis Hafner, just to name a handful. Matsui hit 25 home runs as a Yankee in 2007. Swisher hit 36 as a member of the Athletics in 2006. Damon hit 24 in 2006. Ibanez hit 34 in 2009 with the Phillies. Hafner has more of an excuse as he hasn’t been a solid regular since 2007 but he hit 42 in 2006 with the Indians. If the short porch in right field is such a friend to lefties, why have only two lefties and one switch-hitter accomplished the feat in the five years of the stadium’s existence?

Let’s try some theoretical math. On FanGraphs, the Steamer projection system pegged McCann at 20 home runs prior to moving to the Bronx. If we buy that projection as realistic, and assume that 60 percent of his home runs (12) will come at home and 40 percent on the road (eight), even boosting the numbers by the highest Statcorner park factor listed above (45 percent), that would only put McCann at 25 home runs. (8 on the road + (12 home + (12 * 0.45 ))) Even if all 20 of McCann’s home runs were hit at home and we boost that by the 45 percent park factor, he only comes in at 29. It’s possible the 20-homer projection is low, but even after the most generous math, McCann still comes in under 35 home runs.

McCann solves a very obvious problem for the Yankees, and he solves it very well. His contract wasn’t outrageous, and he should be productive for them at least for the first few years of the deal. But let’s not overstate how much McCann will benefit from Yankee Stadium. It’ll help, but it won’t be his Popeye’s spinach.

  1. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    I’m confused. How do these three sentences relate to each other? They were all connected in the same paragraph, yet make no sense.

    “Yankee Stadium is 318 feet down the left field line”
    “Yankee Stadium allowed home runs to left-handed hitters at a rate 16 percent higher than average.”
    “Sixteen of his 20 homers in 2013 were to dead right field”

    • Bill Baer - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:13 PM

      Got my directions mixed up. I meant 314 down the right field line. This is why I use a GPS when I drive. Thanks for catching the mistake.

      • Anoesis - Nov 25, 2013 at 1:30 AM

        “Recalculating.”

  2. tfbuckfutter - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    One thing to keep in mind though is, if healthy, he may see more ABs than he normally does by playing at DH now and then.

  3. kruegere - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    Well, he hits about 18 home runs a game.

  4. uyf1950 - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Let’s look at the effect of Yankees stadium on McCann’s HR rate relative to what it yielded to Yankees catchers in 2013.
    Cervelli 3
    Stewart 4
    Romine 1
    Murphy 0
    TOTAL: 8

    McCann’s projected HR calculation
    Conservatively: 20
    Potentially High Side: 29 (estimate)
    Most realistic: 25 (estimate)

    That’s a .300 plus percent increase over 2013. Add in the increase BA and OBP over the Yankees options prior to this signing and McCann and the Yankees are a perfect match at this point in time.

    • cackalackyank - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:22 PM

      Of course he will also produce more hits that fall in the outfield than that other crowd did, too.
      The one concern I have is that Kevin Brown will visit him, and decide to make a “project” of him, like he did with Curtis Granderson. I like home runs as much as the next guy, but lets hope he doesn’t become an “all or nothing” hitter now.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:56 PM

        You mean Kevin Long? And Granderson was still an above average player.

        wRC+:
        2010: 110
        2011 – 146
        2012 – 116

        He still walks plenty; BB%:
        2010: 10.0%
        2011: 12.3%
        2012: 11.0%

        Yeah he strikes out a lot, but he also was the leader in HR from ’11 thru ’12 and most weren’t cheapies either.

  5. seahawks80 - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Is there any way to determine how many of McCann’s fly ball outs to right field last year would have been HR’s in Yankee Stadium?

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:54 PM

      I can’t find it now, but someone on twitter said, going by distance alone, it looked like three for sure and two more maybes. Of course, that doesn’t take into account wind, temperature and such.

  6. paperlions - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:47 PM

    It wouldn’t be that hard for someone with access to batted ball data to determine how many FBs McCann has hit each of the last few years that were not HRs that would be HRs in Yankee stadium to estimate how many (if any) extra HRs hitting there would be worth to him. It is probably fewer than people think, probably in the 5-8 range.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 24, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      But hyperbole is more fun.

      When people toss those numbers around (35-40), they seem to ignore that half of the games are still on the road. McCann will probably start 65-70 games at Yankee Stadium next year. Also, Turner Field isn’t a bad park for lefty hitters. In fact, it’s played a touch above average for left-handers in the home run department over the last three years.

      • paperlions - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:05 PM

        I wonder how often those short porches take away doubles, either because they are caught, or because the wall is so close that a player as slow as McCann can’t get to 2B before the RF gets the ball back in. While I’m sure the short porch is a net positive, it is probably also a negative at times…..like the monster in Fenway, LF position often means that would be singles are caught and would be doubles are singles. They don’t only represent positive effects.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:49 PM

        Yep, you have it right. Coors Field aside, the rest of the game’s top parks for homers are all below average for doubles (Yankee Stadium, U.S. Cell, Great American, Camden Yards). Coors has the game’s biggest outfield, but is homer-happy anyway, of course.

  7. NJJohn - Nov 24, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    Let’s not understate the impact a 30-year-old catcher’s knees will have on the DH and First base slots by the second year of this contract.

  8. gloccamorra - Nov 24, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    I protest the entire point of the article. Why NOT overstate McCann’s impact in Yankee Stadium? It was done with Adrian Gonzalez in Fenway, but that’s only for Red Sox fans? Let Yankee fans have a little fun. The coming season will provide ample pain and suffering, but now it the time to rejoice in the possibilities.

    • dan1111 - Nov 25, 2013 at 2:04 AM

      “How many home runs am I going to hit? Thirty games. Ten at-bats per game. Mmmm…three thousand!”

  9. dinofrank60 - Nov 24, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Why don’t we wait to see what McCann does, before we can project. Despite what some might think, normally, you can’t dial up homers, unless…

  10. psunick - Nov 24, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    One thing that we do know will change:

    Now that BM is a Yankee, all references by the NBC bloggers to his “enforcer” role of the old school will cease.

    They would never risk offending the NY audience, now, would they?

  11. NYTolstoy - Nov 24, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    Yes paper it does happen a good amount of times every year. A bounce off the wall usually only means a single, Usually Gardner can make it a double, but the rest don’t have such speed to do so. I also don’t know why this is even an argument just look at the numbers of the strong left handers who play at Yankee stadium. It is not by coincidence that Granderson a 30 power guy came in and blasted back to back years of 40 plus. Jeter was famous for hitting his typical right porch 315 HR. Jason Giambi was also able to take advantage of the porch. The problem and one negative effect is that players get Pull happy and try to make every at bat a HR which leads to low Averages. Example Tex and Granderson.

  12. jjrn1248 - Nov 25, 2013 at 2:03 AM

    Nobody knows until it actually happens. Just like you say people are overstating you also can’t understate either. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. As for McCann’s homers Yankee stadium is smaller and the way it is set up the wind is always blowing out to right. Not only that with a healthy Yankee line up McCann would be most likely batting 6th or 7th and he should see a lot better pitches with more people on base in front of him.

    • louhudson23 - Nov 25, 2013 at 4:33 AM

      So,you seem to be saying that for all the numbers,formulas and opinions,we won’t know till after it happens? But,,,but…

  13. pmbryant - Dec 3, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    I’m pretty amazed at the over-the-top reaction of some “analysts” had by the McCann signing, ready to vault McCann to the #1 fantasy catcher spot. He’s most likely never going back to anywhere near a .300 hitter, which is where he’d need to be to be 31. Even if Yankee stadium is good for an extra 16% HRs, that inflates his career high in HRs to a ceiling of maybe 30. Then there’s the switch in leagues, which probably won’t help him. And does anyone remember that Jeter was physically unable to play SS at the end of last season? If Jeter ends up done as a SS, where exactly is he going to play, if not DH? I honestly don’t see that many DH starts for McCann, considering everyone else who might need to get starts there.

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