Remember all the hue and cry in April and May about how the new Yankee Stadium is a bandbox? How the new place has some enormous jet stream that is carrying balls hit off the end of a bat over the fences? The park factor was up to 105 (same as Fenway, which plays ‘fair’ according pundits) whereas the old place was 103. Brian Cashman even speculated that perhaps wind patterns have changed with the two ballparks next to each other, and things won’t be normal again until the old place is torn down. Well, the old Yankee Stadium is still there, almost totally intact, and the Home Run pace has normalized all by itself. Anthony McCarron of the Daily News writes:
Two Yankee officials said Tuesday that it’s unlikely there will be changes to the park’s dimensions or other moves made to inhibit homers. The number of home runs hit at the Stadium will be evaluated in the offseason, one of them said, but, the official added, “I don’t believe there will be any changes. It’s normal.”
Earlier this season, the Stadium was on pace to break the single-season record for home runs in one ballpark – 303 at mile-high Coors Field in 1999. Entering last night’s game, there had been 233 home runs at the new park with two home games remaining.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a glittering example of the problems of Small Sample Size. Have you ever had some fun with a friend, citing a player’s stats after a hot start in April and say “Hey, Melky Cabrera’s on pace to hit 74 Home Runs!” I think we all have done that, and we all know it’s just silly. All of us, except for the some members of the New York sports media. To his credit, McCarron remained agnostic even at the height of the furor.
It’s also a great example of the problems of non-linear comparisons. Everyone who got this wrong was taking the data and figuring out how it would look over the course of a full season. You can’t do that. The only way to look at this would be to compare Apples to Apples, or in this case Aprils to Aprils. Which for the most part, nobody in the sports media did. But hey, why let getting things right get in the way of a good story.
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