The last couple days, there’s been something on my mind as I watch the ball fly out of Nationals Park over and over: Is this place turning into a hitters’ park?
It certainly has been in July; the Nationals have homered nine times in seven games, all at home, and allowed eight homers, good for a combined total of 2.42 a game. To put that in perspective, it’s just behind what bandboxes like Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park (2.49 a game) and Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark (2.59 a game) do for the whole season. And it’s certainly odd that a team like the Padres, which ranks 14th in the National League in homers, would come in and wallop seven of them in the last two days.
But for the season, Nationals Park has actually been stingier on homers than it was last year. Hitters are knocking 1.67 balls a game out of the park this year, compared to 2.0 a game last season and 1.85 a game in 2008. Now, homers are down across the game so far this year, and the number will probably go up as we get through the summer months, where balls fly further in warmer weather, but there’s nothing out of the ordinary with Nationals Park as a whole.
It’s been the eighth-easiest NL ballpark in which to hit a homer, out of 16. So it’s playing fair, just like it always does.
So what explains the rash of homers in July? Probably our recent heat wave, for one, and the Nationals’ top hitters (Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham) swinging well, for two. But the Giants and Braves - two of the month’s final three home opponents - are eighth and 12th in the NL in homers, respectively, and the Nationals are 10th. If the trend keeps up, it’ll be interesting to see how the numbers look at the end of the month.