There will be new lights coming to Oriole Park at Camden Yards next season. This seems like just about the most mundane bit of information possible - the Baltimore Sun reported it after a Public Information Act filing with the Maryland Stadium Authority - except for one thing: The new lights will be all LED lights.
If you’re not sure why that matters, don’t worry. I didn’t know either. It turns out that there’s apparently some belief that LED lights were part of the culprit behind the Orioles record for futility set in the three-game series in Houston back in May. That was the series where the Orioles got swept while setting a MLB record in striking out 52 times over a three-game series.
The idea that lights could somehow be to blame for that many strikeouts seems rather ridiculous on its face, but you never really know with baseball players. It is definitely the case that another Baltimore Sun reporter, Orioles beat writer Jon Meoli, asserted in a tweet today that Houston’s LED lights were “famously to blame” for the Orioles strikeout futility back in May.
May was a long time ago in baseball terms. A lot of games have happened between now and then. But I feel like I would have remembered if the Orioles came away from Houston blaming the issue on the lights.
I think we can all be forgiven if this bit of information was not in our awareness because neither of the stories he filed about the strikeout record at the time actually mentions the LED lights, unless you count a passing reference of “under the bright lights,” so it certainly wasn’t famous to fans.
At the time, MASN’s Steve Melewski relayed a quote from manager Buck Showalter’s post-game presser at the conclusion from the sweep in which Showalter referred to a “change in the lighting” and asked rhetorically, “They get new LED lighting?” Showalter also alluded to “some real thoughts I’ll keep private” - further thoughts on the lights, perhaps?
This is something that happens a good bit, where things are common knowledge among the beat writers because of comments made when the tape recorder’s not active. Melewski’s story is interesting because the only player actually quoted is Adam Jones. Most of the time, several Orioles will give thoughts, even after losses.
Perhaps they all complained about the lights off the record, not wanting to sound pathetic, like when Bryce Harper became the only left-handed hitter in history to say he doesn’t like hitting in Camden Yards. Harper complained of Camden Yards being too dark. Maybe he’ll be happy about brighter LED lights.
There were, in fact, new LED lights in Minute Maid Park in Houston this year, and if they gave the Orioles fits, the O’s weren’t the only team with problems. There are a few stories throughout the year of the Astros also having issues, including one about Astros outfielder George Springer having lost four balls in the lights - and that was only in mid-April.
As it turns out, the Astros were one of the worst home batting teams in the American League, and one of the better ones at hitting on the road. Perhaps their own hitters were affected?
The very same company, Musco Lighting, that installed Houston’s LED lights has been contracted to install the new LED lights at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. So if the lights were somehow to blame for all of the strikeouts - which remains a ridiculous notion, no matter what the players believe - well, they’re going to have to get used to it. Or else they’re going to strike out a lot at home too.
Would we even notice the difference? The Orioles of 2016 were plenty capable of striking out regardless of the lighting conditions. Next year’s Orioles, with most all of the same cast, figure to do the same. But yes, we would notice, because there’s a big difference between the Orioles setting strikeout records and the Orioles striking out at what is, for them, a more normal pace.
The story about the Astros having problems with their own lights mentions that other teams with LED lights are the Mariners and Yankees. The Orioles went 0-4 in Seattle this year and 4-6 in New York, with two of those four wins coming in day games. It’s a couple of extra pieces of information to make you go, “Hmm...” but it’s nothing conclusive.
If by some circumstance, LED lights do actually favor pitchers, hey, maybe that’s good news for a much-maligned Orioles rotation? Sure - provided that they have outfielders actually capable of catching balls in the lights. The outfield defense, as we all know, was not a strength for the 2016 team.
Whether there is or isn’t some kind of LED light effect is so far beyond the control of fans there’s really no point worrying about it. Maybe whatever it is about the LED lights will be peculiar to Houston and won’t carry over to the light setup that is installed in Baltimore. Minute Maid Park has a roof while Camden Yards does not, to name just one major difference that could affect the lighting.
Or maybe we should just all start panicking now. The lights are coming! The lights are coming to take away our runs!