Long Balls and Short Tape Measures
Living outside of Phillies territory used to make it difficult to follow the team closely. When I first left Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, there was no ESPN.com, Sportsline, or online editions of the Philadelphia newspapers. There was no digital cable (with four ESPN channels) in a package deal with broadband internet access allowing me to subscribe to MLB.tv and watch just about any game I wanted whenever I wanted. Replay TV wasn't even a glimmer in my eye. But in the last couple of years, with all of these information avenues at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse, I've been able to follow my boyhood team much closer. But yet with all these tools, a developing storyline somehow flew under my radar: Citizens Bank Ballpark's dimensions are smaller than everyone thought.
This is bothersome to me. It doesn't bother me because I feel like it is a conspiracy by Phillies ownership to inflate homerun numbers in order to fill seats, which will in turn fill their coffers with money. And it doesn't bother me because Pennsylvania taxpayers (I know a few) got a smaller ballpark than they thought they were getting with their tax dollars. It bothers me because it doesn't give Jim Thome and the other Phillies batters credit for having some serious pop. All season long, we have had to listen to the ESPN Baseball Tonight crew mock every homerun hit at CBP because the place is a bandbox. One night Harold Reynolds called the new stadium "a joke" about four times during that night's Phillies highlight reel. Has anyone ever thought to consider that maybe there are a lot of homeruns hit at CBP because the team that plays half of their games there hit their fair share of homeruns?
As the Philadelphia Inquirer article that exposed the "scandal" points out, Phillies pitchers have a better ERA on the road than at home and Phillies batters average just 0.4 homeruns per game higher at home than on the road. Jim Thome, who leads the majors in homeruns has hit nearly an identical number at home (16) as he has on the road (15) in nearly an identical amount of at-bats (161 AB's at home, 159 AB's on the road). The Phillies second leading homerun hitter, Bobby Abreu, has 10 homeruns at home and 10 home runs away from home.
Yes, the Phillies have hit a lot of homeruns so far this year but maybe, just maybe, it is because they have some good homerun hitters.