Camden Yards is an iconic ballpark. So iconic in fact that since its inception in 1992, barely any changes have been made to it. Well, something not so minor is coming to the Orioles’ home field in 2022, as the left field wall is not only going to be raised from 7 feet to 12 feet, but also pushed back up to 30 feet in some areas.
Since 2006, the Orioles’ home ballpark has allowed more home runs than average every year except for 2016 (when it was exactly league average in that category) and the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Since 1992, no ballpark has seen more balls leave the yard than Camden, and that left-field fence has been a big reason for all the home runs. At its closest, the left-field wall sits just 333 feet away from home plate. That’s actually about average across all MLB ballparks. However, the parks’ 364-foot distance to left-center is the second-closest of any MLB ballpark, ahead of only Wrigley Field (363). Camden Yards is also one of just eight ballparks with a wall lower than eight feet in left. A 12-foot wall would be tied for the sixth-tallest wall in Major League Baseball. What’s interesting is, in this era, when the longball is king, you’ll regularly find teams moving walls in or lowering them. Moving them out? Not so much. Cleveland moved the walls out at old Municipal Stadium back in 1991 but returned to the old dimensions a year later. And the Cardinals discussed moving the walls back at Busch Stadium III in September, but so far have not.
To put in perspective just how hitter-friendly this ballpark has been, after left-hander John Means threw the team’s first no-hitter since 1991 in 2021, Means said he was glad the game happened in Seattle and not Baltimore. If the game had happened in Baltimore, it’s likely that Kyle Lewis’ eighth-inning fly ball, which was caught at the left-field wall in Seattle would’ve been a home run.
“If this was Camden Yards, it was gone,” said Means after the game.
This man just threw the team’s first no-hitter in 30 years and one of his main post-no-n0 thoughts was “I’m glad we weren’t at home.” If that’s how your ace feels, just imagine how difficult it would be to attract free-agent pitchers. Why would any of the top free agents play for your team if they know they’re going to be giving up dingers left and right that they wouldn’t give up at other ballparks?
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Over the last three years, there have been 655 home runs hit at Camden Yards — 72 more than the next closest ballpark (Yankee Stadium, 583). That’s a larger gap than the difference between Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field — the 13th-most homer-friendly park over the last three seasons.
How will this move directly affect the Orioles’ 2022 season though? Well, given that two of Baltimore’s top three home run hitters: Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle were right-handed hitters, there’s a big chance that Baltimore’s offensive numbers could take a dip. However, there’s also a big chance that Baltimore’s division rivals could take a huge hit when playing in Baltimore.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge has hit 14 career home runs at Camden Yards, four more than any other ballpark not named Yankee Stadium.
Yankee shortstop Gleyber Torres has hit eight home runs in Baltimore, twice as many as the next closest ballpark.
Toronto first baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr. hit 12 home runs against Baltimore last season. That’s one-fourth of his season total.
Rays catcher Mike Zunino has been playing in the AL East for just the last three years of his nine year career. Already, Camden Yards has seen him hit five home runs (sixth-most of any ballpark he hasn’t called home).
Right-handed hitters tend to have their way in Baltimore, and the AL East is filled with powerful right-handed bats. I didn’t even mention Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Bo Bichette, Randal Grichuk, or George Springer.
Theoretically, this move should help the Orioles’ pitching staff. With many of their staff still very young and a ton of prospects still in the minor leagues, this is probably a good move. It will not only help build confidence in many of the team’s young pitchers, but also help convince free agent pitchers to join the team.
It’s a move that’s long needed to happen for a while, and with the Orioles’ lease on the ballpark set to expire in 2023, this decision will hopefully help in talks with Maryland Stadium Authority to give the team an extension.