Arte, do you think Shohei will hit bombs?
Arte, do you think they’ll like this song (that’s not “Buttercup”)?
Arte, do you think they’ll try to catch fly balls?
Ooooooh, Arte, should we lower the wall?
-Excerpt from the song “Arte”, off of the album The RF Wall, by Red Floyd
Today, the Angels released an unexpected press announcement that not only served as a bit of a stadium upgrade update for us fans, but a piece of information that could prove to be the biggest, most important thing the team does for years to come. OK, I’m being a tad hyperbolic, but really, this is BIG NEWS, and any other off-season, where the Angels DO NOT drop bombshell acquisitions of guys like Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler or Zack Cozart, it’d be the main focus of intrigue as the Halos head into Opening Day 2018.
The big reveal had to do with The Wall. The right field wall, to be more specific, and the team’s desire to lower said RF wall from 18 feet to 8 feet high. The word from the Angels beat, via the team’s media big boss Tim Mead, is that it is NOT due to the signing of Japanese sensation Ohtani, but instead it has to do with accommodating a new out-of-town scoreboard. Well, that’s the main reason given, but Mead did allude to the team thinking long and hard on it, beyond how a new scoreboard would fit out there.
The #Angels are lowering the right field fence height from 18 feet to 8 feet this year. It’s because of a new out of town scoreboard and “philosophical changes, a lot of thought went into it,” said spokesman Tim Mead.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) February 20, 2018
“Philosophical changes” is the money quote, obviously. Any Halos fan worth their weight in Albert Pujols goatee hairs can tell you that the right field wall, or at least the portion being discussed here (Think: to the left of the service access/short fence area and extending up to the first hard angle in center field; h/t to deezp1 at r/Angelsbaseball for a pic of the area in question), has both saved many runs for the home team and taken away runs from the home team. If I were to ask you to picture every fly ball you’ve seen bounce off of that 18-foot-high relief, you’d probably stare off into space for 20 minutes or so as your brain raced to tally up those myriad big knocks.
Well, now we’re going to see those same type of big knocks count as dingers instead of putting guys at second or third base; that’s going to have a serious impact on Angels games for years to come, to put it as simply as possible. The fact that it can both giveth and taketh away, the latter being especially important when you’ve got a pitching staff that has its share of fly-ball artisans, makes me think that the Angels’ front office, and their fairly-new analytics department, have done their homework and crunched the numbers more than once.
The numbers, I am assuming, show a net positive for the Halos; there’s really no other reason that a team would commit to those sort of “philosophical changes”, no matter how much they wanted to cram a new out-of-town scoreboard into that space. Yep, this could be a stealthy and shrewd move from Eppler and Co., one that gives them an edge in most contests, even if ever so slightly. The ramifications are endlessly fun to think about, too.
How many more homers are Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Shohei Ohtani going to have now, compared to what they would be projected to hit out with the previous stadium dimensions? 50 HRs for Mike Trout? An astute Halos fan over at r/Angelsbaseball took a gander at Calhoun’s spray charts from last year, and thinks it would have given him an extra 4-7 dingers! I would find it hard to believe they’d move forward with that sort of outfield upheaval if it seemed like there would be even the slightest hint that visiting powerhouses (like the MLB champions, and AL West rival, Houston Astros) would get any sort of upper hand from that shorter wall.
So yeah, maybe guys like Matt Shoemaker are not too enthused, but there is something brewing here that is going to, in the end, make the Halos look REALLY good, in my esteemed opinion, at least. Otherwise, why even mention the “philosophical changes” at all? Or maybe I’m just thinking too much into a random bit of phrasing from Tim Mead, who knows.
If you want to play the “What If?” game even further, in regards to that RF wall being 8 feet tall, then just marinate on how it could have changed some of the numbers of recent Halos legends. For instance, Tim Salmon finished with 299 career homers, but with that lowered RF fence, could he have had another 125 bombs in his years playing at the Big A?
This announcement, as you can tell by now, is just so dang intriguing and peculiar to me, and my imagination is running wild with the possibilities it holds, and the effect it’ll have on the games we watch at Angel Stadium from here on out. But remember, it could end up being more of a curse than a blessing. I mean, if you want proof that the lowering of the right field wall is a veritable double-edged sword, look no further than the fact that if the wall was 8 feet high in recent years, this gif would not exist: