Lower right-field fence in Angel Stadium could yield more home runs
When the Angels announced in February that they were lowering the right-field home run boundary in their stadium to eight feet, they said the 18-foot wall would remain the same but with an eight-foot-high yellow line painted across it to mark the new home run height.
That is not the case. The new eight-foot wall, with a yellow line painted across the top, is actually about a foot in front of the new out-of-town scoreboard, leaving a small gap for home run balls to be deposited.
That should eliminate some confusion over home run balls that carom off the scoreboard and onto the field and reduce the number of replay reviews that a solid fence with an eight-foot-high yellow line might have necessitated.
“There will be some questions and reviews, but for the most part, anything that’s close might actually slip behind the wall,” Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun said before Sunday night’s Freeway Series opener against the Dodgers. “You can still leap and rob a home run above the wall.”
Center fielder Mike Trout is excited about the new wall, which runs from slightly to the right of straightaway center field to the outfield gate in right, but not just because it will allow the athletic and acrobatic defender to make a few more spectacular catches above the fence.
The new, softer padding on the wall should allow Trout to be more aggressive going back on balls in the gap.
“I don’t have to worry about colliding with the wall,” Trout said. “I don’t know what kind of material it was last year, but it was hard. You run full speed into that wall last year, you’re gonna be hurt. I’m definitely gonna try to get after a couple more balls this year, so it’s definitely a bonus.”
Trout did just that in the seventh inning Sunday night, racing toward the right-center-field gap and leaping above the wall for a Yasiel Puig drive, which caromed off the out-of-town scoreboard and onto the field. Calhoun retrieved the ball and threw to second base.
Second base umpire Mark Ripperger immediately ruled the ball a homer, a call that was upheld after a brief replay review.
It will certainly help left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters with opposite-field power more than pitchers. Based on three-dimensional trajectories provided by Statcast, there would have been 17 more homers hit in Angel Stadium in 2017 and 16 more in 2016.
The Statcast numbers suggest the left-handed-hitting Calhoun would have hit as many as six more homers the last two seasons. Calhoun is coming off a season in which he hit a career-low .244 with a .725 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
“I won’t adjust my swing at all, I’ll go out and play the same way,” Calhoun said. “It changed the ballpark a little bit, but look, it’s a home run for everybody. Games are gonna be a little different, but you adjust to your surroundings, and hopefully it plays into our favor more often than not.”
Shohei Ohtani at the bat
The Dodgers and Angels will use the designated hitter for games in Los Angeles on Monday and Tuesday, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Shohei Ohtani, who did not play Sunday, “will get some at-bats” in those games.
Ohtani, the aspiring two-way player from Japan, gave up eight earned runs and nine hits, including three homers, in 2 2/3 innings of two Cactus League starts and struggled at the plate, batting .107 (three for 28) in 12 games. But Ohtani is poised to open the season in the rotation and DH two or three times per week.
“I don’t know,” Calhoun said, when asked what he expects from Ohtani. “He has all eyes on him right now, and he’s obviously completely talented and fun to watch play. I’m excited to see how it turns out, I really am. He definitely has all the talent in the world.”
How would Calhoun respond to the media attention Ohtani gets?
“When I was 23? Not as well as he has,” Calhoun said. “He is humble and down to earth. Just getting to know him these last six weeks, he’s really impressive.”
Calhoun was asked where he was when he was 23.
“I was in high-A ball in San Bernardino, California,” he said, “and not one of you knew who I was.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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