Every since the park opened in 2000, Comerica Park’s outfield dimensions have been a controversial subject. While the initial intent was to keep some of the spirit of Tiger Stadium alive, the distances to left field and right field were initially far more spacious than Tiger Stadium. They were moved in to pinch the corners in 2003, producing a field closer to the old park’s shape if not quite as deep in center field. There have been numerous other small tweaks over the years to make the park a little more hitter friendly than it was in the beginning.
Even so, while the park has tended to grade out closer to neutral than its reputation, the fact remained that Comerica is a difficult park for sluggers, particularly those who aren’t dedicated pull hitters. Statcast has the stadium as the toughest park to hit home runs in across the league in 2022, though the overall effect on offense is a little more neutral. All that is about to change somewhat, as the organization announced on Wednesday that the dimensions and wall height in various parts of the park are going to be different in 2023.
The first big change is moving the center field wall in to 412 feet in straightaway center field. Instead of a straight wall perpendicular to the hitter, that wall will also now curl in a little at the edges to keep the distance to carry the wall pretty much the same across its full length.
The second change may stand out even more in actual game play, as they’re lowering the right-center field wall and the right field wall, producing a uniform height of seven feet from the right field corner all the way to where the left side of the center field wall meets the visitor’s bullpen. That’s a change that most will like, as it brings the fans closer to field level and produces a lot more opportunities for an outfielder to rob would-be home run balls.
We’re adjusting @ComericaPark’s outfield dimensions and lowering wall heights in key areas prior to Opening Day 2023.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) January 11, 2023
Personally, I’ve always liked the deep center field wall and right-center field corner, though lowering the walls does appeal to me. Home runs aren’t lacking from the modern game, but the speed element has been squeezed out by smaller parks. The deep wall in center put a premium on speed, both defensively, and in terms of added opportunities for doubles and triples. And while hitters have complained about Comerica’s dimensions for years, and we’re looking right at you here, Nick Castellanos, pitchers have liked knowing they’ve got room behind them if they can keep fly balls in the center of the park.
Overall these changes seem likely to make the park more neutral, which actually goes against the philosophy espoused by new President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris earlier this offseason.
“My general opinion on dimensions is that I would prefer to be on one side of the aisle or the other,” he said. “I would prefer to have the opportunity to have some asymmetry in the environments that we’re playing. Whether we are on one side of the aisle as a pitcher’s park, or on the other side of the aisle as a hitter’s park, we have the opportunity to build a team a certain way to take advantage of the dimensions 81 times a year, because we are the only team that plays in our environment 81 times a year. So I would prefer not to be right down the middle.”
There’s also the question of how much overall effect this will actually have. Despite last year’s marks as the least friendly home run park in the game, Comerica has typically not been a big factor. Statcast certainly adjusts based on hitter quality, but it’s hard not to suspect some of those results come from having such a historically feeble offense. The park has not suppressed offense since the left and right field fences were moved in.
I’m fine with the Tigers adjusting their dimensions, but don’t expect this to be a panacea for their offense. Comerica was a top-5 home park for a full decade (2007-2016) by most offensive measurements. Good hitters make a difference, and you usually have to spend to get them. pic.twitter.com/zasFlUUEHs— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrown0914) January 11, 2023
On the other hand, certain hitters may benefit in particular, and that may be the point.
With the news that the Tigers are adjusting Comerica's OF dimensions/wall heights ...— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) January 11, 2023
Riley Greene hit 5 HR in his debut season. His expected HR by park, per Statcast (if he played all games there):
1. CHC 13
2. MIL 12
3. CIN 11
3. LAD 11
3. TEX 11
29. SEA 7
30. DET 4
Despite being generally considered a pitcher’s park, the Tigers haven’t exactly become a haven for pitchers looking to rebuild their value on short-term free agent deals. The deep dimensions haven’t paid off in that regard. 2023 additions like Matt Boyd and Michael Lorenzen are no doubt aware that Comerica was likely good for their numbers, but teams take all this into account anyway and are unlikely to be fooled by a little home run suppression from a pitcher’s home ballpark.
It seems doubtful that the changes will do much to make the organization more attractive to hitters either, but perhaps this is enough to shake the general reputation as a tough park to make one’s bones in as a hitter. If they become competitive, perhaps it will help in signing free agents, but the effect is highly unlikely to be that significant.
What will really be interesting, beyond seeing how this plays during the 2023 season, is how they go about re-arranging the seating areas beyond the right field wall. Everything will have to be lowered down to the height of the new seven-foot walls and that will require more than just moving seats around.
Tigers’ fans have largely complained about these dimensions all along, as have certain beat writers over the years. They might be satisfied, but others will miss seeing line drives rattle around the right field corner and the anticipation that builds of a potential triple or inside-the-parker. You can’t please everyone, but this will certainly be an interesting storyline in a season that doesn’t appear to have much going for it on the field from a competitive standpoint.
The Tigers are also installing new LED scoreboards over the offseason which should greatly improve the visuals and video on the scoreboard. Other upgrades are being considered. Now they’ll have to re-work the out of town scoreboard as well. Should be interesting to see how it all turns out.
What do you think?
Do you approve of moving the center field wall in?
This poll is closed
Yes, this is perfect
Yes, but they should’ve brought them in even more
No, they should have left it at 420 feet