Climbing Walls: After Exploring New Dimensions for Bush to Stimulate Attack, Cardinals Hold on to a ‘Golden’ Base | St. Louis Cardinals

A funny thing happened shortly after the Cardinals paused to finalize a report they had been assigned and decided to back away from moving the walls at Busch Stadium.

They have a golden reason (or five) to reconsider.

“As we get closer to releasing the report, we have won five Gold Gloves,” said team boss Bill DeWitt III. “We’re starting to think we might have an advantage here with this particular formation. In theory, a bigger ballpark, more balls in play, a defense that catches anything – why not put that on the ice and see how things develop? We have an elite defense and we’re thinking in doing something that might reduce the effect of this defense. Let’s not.”

When the Cardinals opened the 2022 regular season on Thursday afternoon, the 16-year-old stadium in downtown had several new features waiting for a sell-out crowd. Freese’s Landing, a comprehensive central seating area named for David Freese’s exploits in October, debuted, and there was a redesign of the left field wall to accommodate the team’s retired numbers and make room for at least three more. The dimensions of the playing field remained the same — 335 feet and 336 feet down the lines, 385 feet in alleys, and 400 feet in the center — so the hitters’ frustrations will remain.

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A stadium that has favored shooters since its opening in 2006, Busch III Stadium has become increasingly difficult for hitters. Last season, the Cardinals were the least welcoming of ongoing productions in the National League and, according to Statcast, tied with T-Mobile Park in Seattle and Oakland’s Colosseum for the lowest in the majors. Including the Cardinals and their opponents, Busch averaged 7.69 points per game in 2021, the second lowest in the field’s history, and a drop of 8.7%. In an age of soaring home operating rates, Busch’s ability to contain it all is even more impressive.

It’s more straightforward than any numbers, said Director Oliver Marmol.

“Is this disgusting for hitters?” He said. “The answer is yes. It is difficult for them.”

The question the cardinals are exploring is why.

Dan Judd, vice president of business development at Cardinals, “quarterback” the research, DeWitt said, gathering data and resources from the Division of Internal Analytics and Expanded Studies of Major League Baseball. The Cardinals looked at the spray charts of all the current players and installed the fly balls they hit in the bush to see how many reptiles, for example, they might have hit if they called the little house in Cincinnati. The Cardinals measured the playing field to ensure that the spaces were “as built,” that 400 feet to the center was actually 400 feet to the center, and that the nine-foot-high walls were actually nine feet high.

The club asked the commissioner’s office to “take a deep dive” into studies of the rise of patrols in reptiles and what is likely to keep them repressed in St. Louis.

There has been speculation that sky-high in Central Field, the focus of the second phase of construction at Poole Park Village, has turned the winds in the bush. DeWitt said he was “skeptical of this theory.” But the building is very new and the advanced metrics don’t go back far enough to have a large body of data to rely on.

The Cardinals conducted a study of wind during the construction of the stadium, but DeWitt explained that this was not for “playability”. It was to help the architects decide where to place the shelters and how to prepare for the inclement weather. The way the wind could take the ball wasn’t nearly as important as the way the fans needed to clear.

Through all of this, the team figured out if moving in walls would help, and how they could do so to maintain lines of sight and consistency with pitch distances. Pushing into the walls in front of the bulls would be the least intrusive.

“If you’re trying to tackle the drop in running at home, you’re catching where the fish are,” DeWitt said. “Pull everything down and everything inside and you will kill a fly with a sledgehammer. If we do something, we want it to be targeted.”

Cardinals brass also don’t want crooked nooks and crannies.

The driving force behind the talks was the lack of power the cardinal saw from their attack at home. In 2021, the Cardinals ranked fifth in the running and jogging on their own land and seventh in the races – on the road. At home, they scored the second-lowest number of rounds in the majors. The difference between road slowdown (.436) and home slowdown (.385) was the largest in the MLB. Busch Stadium thwarted the Cardinals’ attack in roughly 81 games with the same measure in which Dodger Stadium boosted the Dodgers lineup.

17 of the 30 teams in the majors have achieved between 46% and 55% of their home competitions. The Cardinals reached 38.9%, which is by far the smallest portion. Tampa Bay came in the second low at 42.8%.

“We talk about this football pitch a little bit and how it’s a pitcher park,” Marmol said a few hours before Thursday’s 9-0 win with the support of three pitchers. “I think at the end of the day, it’s a mentality. We know what we’re going to get here. … If you’re mentally strong enough to know getting into the game you can see the opposing club frustrating sometimes. You add pits and the ball gets stuck in the warning path. That’s usually What’s like a home race in 22 other parks. And then you add our defense to that and you can’t get away with anything? It’s a frustrating day.”

So instead of moving the walls inward, the cardinals bowed.

In this era of firing angle, a pitch that doesn’t match this approach can be beneficial to the lineup you know best.

The Cardinals designed many of their casual moves for defense and the ballpark. They’re popular at Sunday’s start, left-wing Steven Matz, for his greedy ball style and how he’ll take advantage of the big pitch. Savior Nick Wittgren was bitten by Homers in 2021. The Cardinal believes his numbers will be reduced simply by transplanting him. Analyzes made on Drew VerHagen indicate that the right-handed will thrive in Busch’s unobtrusive, gentle style. During spring training, left-wing Conor Thomas was impressed, and Marmol used main court to explain why.

“The player who is on the ground, throwing kicks, plays well on our court,” said the coach. “Our court and defense help the shooters.”

Pause does not mean off the table.

Through the process of researching whether changes made to Busch might lead to more abuse – or more entertaining games – the Cardinals decided that any changes in the dimensions of play should be identified in the season before they were implemented.

In addition, there is something else in the air.

Major League Baseball is currently experimenting with a variety of rule changes in its minor leagues and affiliate leagues. The goal of the changes is to put more balls in play, and create more movement on the bases. On different levels this season, the commissioner’s office is trying bigger bases to make heists more attractive, restrictions on defensive positions to eliminate shifts, and yes, radar-operated bots. As they try to understand what happened to lessen the humiliation at Busch, the Cardinals learned more about what might happen to spur action throughout the league.

That gave them pause, too, DeWitt said, and the team didn’t want to make changes to the field now and “end up on the wrong side of the rule change. Let the dust settle.”

Then decide if some of the walls have gone down.

“We finally have an entire season to use to get more information on when and what’s the right way,” DeWitt said. “It’s to be determined later. It’s still there, but it’s definitely hanging now because if this defensive advantage continues – and it should be; why not – we don’t want to be aggressive in this when we can enjoy that.”