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Busch Stadium could be hurting the Cardinals’ offense. Now they’re looking for a change

One Cardinal Way Luxury Apartments are pictured at dusk on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, as the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
One Cardinal Way Luxury Apartments are pictured at dusk on Wednesday as the Cardinals take on the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals have been winning — but even so, the team’s offense has struggled at home. Since the Redbirds’ hitting on the road has been stellar, team management is wondering if Busch Stadium itself is the problem.

Derrick Goold, the lead Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote about the issue in September. Busch Stadium, he wrote, “ranks in the bottom five” of ballparks for scoring and home runs.

“Opposing teams are talking about it,” Goold said on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “In batting practice, they talk about it. Outfielders wonder about it as they're playing out there.”

Some people speculate that One Cardinal Way, the high-rise that was built just beyond the outfield, might have something to do with the team’s worsening offense. This is the Cardinals’ first full season since the skyscraper was completed.

Alan Nathan, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, agrees that One Cardinal Way could be the problem, suggesting that the building could be affecting wind patterns in the stadium.

Busch Stadium could be hurting the Cardinals’ offense. Now they’re looking for a change

Nathan added that while it’s easy to study and control many factors that affect the flight of a baseball — like humidity, temperature and elevation — wind is one of the hardest things to account for.

“You're in the ballpark, you're in the stands, and you look at the flags overhead, and you see the wind blowing in one direction out there in left field that behind home plate is blowing in a different direction,” Nathan said. “And so the wind changes both in space and in time. And it's very, very hard to take that into account.”

The team is examining other theories, too. For the first time this year, the club is using a humidor to store balls, which Goold says was intended to affect the way the balls fly throughout Missouri’s fluctuating seasons. Previously, teams in Phoenix and Denver used the humidors to adjust for their low humidity levels, but the Cardinals’ use goes beyond that.

“If you want the ball to play the same in April that you do in August — that's the idea behind the humidor,” Goold said. “You say, OK, not just for a geographic region, but let's set it for a time of year.” (Nathan, however, didn’t think the humidor was the cause of the Cardinals’ troubles.)

Goold and Nathan agreed that changing the paradigm at Busch Stadium didn’t require a high-tech solution. It could be as simple as moving the fences, or shortening them. In recent years, the Angels have shortened their fences, and the Mets moved in the fences at Citi Field twice.

Though some people might be skeptical of changing things up at the stadium, Goold says it could give fans a better ballgame.

“At some point, they have to ask if they want to change this, and if that's what fans want to see,” he said. “Is it a more entertaining game that they can provide by altering the ballpark?”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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