Target Field: Where homers go to die
Continue Reading - Pages: 1 2
Target Field opened in 2010, and the expectations were high. Coming off yet another short American League Division Series appearance in 2009, fans were left wanting more. And the Minnesota Twins delivered, mostly by increasing the payroll significantly. Between the better on-the-field product and the novelty of Target Field, it’s no surprise that the Twins sold out nearly every home game that season. Players like Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young all had solid campaigns to help lead the way.
Despite the fact that the Twins had a fantastic record at Target Field that season, going 53-28 — good for the third best home record in the majors — one thing became abundantly clear: this team had difficulty hitting home runs in their own ballpark. In 2009, the final year at the Metrodome, the Twins hit 96 home runs there, which was tied for 10th best in baseball. Notably, this was before the team signed Thome as its resident slugger. But then Target Field happened. The Twins hit only 52 home runs at Target Field in 2010, good for 28th in baseball. It’s a significant drop.
The Twins weren’t the only victim of Target Field’s power-draining ability. In fact, ESPN’s Home Run Tracker notes that, in 2010, Target Field surrendered 1.43 home runs per game (116 total), good for fourth lowest in baseball. 2011 wasn’t much better. There were 126 home runs hit at the Metrodome’s successor, which averaged out to 1.56 per game. This was the ninth lowest total in baseball.
Not surprisingly, some Twins players began to voice their concerns. After the 2010 season, Justin Morneau stated, “Right center to left center is ridiculous,” and claimed that it was nearly impossible for batters to hit an opposite field home run in Minnesota. Cuddyer, who had been one of the more powerful hitters in the Twins’ lineup, hit only 10 home runs at Target Field in 2011, after hitting seven there in 2010. By comparison, Cuddyer hit 18 dingers at the Dome in 2009. Clearly, it wasn’t simply a mistaken perception that Target Field was tough on hitters or favored pitchers (though in fairness, some players, such as Jose Bautista, didn’t seem intimidated by the new stadium).
Thome and Cuddyer left Minnesota for friendlier confines (Cleveland and now Philadelphia for Thome, and the rarefied air of Colorado for Cuddyer). Even former Twin Jason Kubel grumbled about the difficulty of going yard at Target Field. Kubel left Minnesota this past offseason, heading west to Arizona, where the ball travels pretty well in that desert air. Maybe these players were eager to depart for other reasons, but if you earn your salary predominately on your ability to hit for power, and your place of employment just happens to be extremely tough on power hitters, it’s tough to think that Target Field wasn’t a factor in their decisions.
The Twins organization, for its part, has suggested that it is not willing, at present, to bring in the fences at Target Field. In its defense, there are only two years of data on the stadium. That only amounts to 162 regular-season games. Importantly, however, the New York Mets eventually listened to player concerns — and reviewed the objective data — and moved their fences in, as much as 12 feet in some areas, in time for the 2012 season. Clearly then, there’s precedent for these relatively minor adjustments, even in newer ballparks.
For the Twins, in my opinion, there are three possible courses of action on this issue: Move the fences in and build a lineup designed around power, albeit at the expense of some of the starting pitching; keep the fences where they are and make moves aimed at acquiring players with speed and gap power; or keep the fences where they are and try for a combination of speed and power. It seems that the Twins, at least for the short term, have taken the third approach. By signing players such as Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit — guys who can hit the ball out of any ballpark — the Twins suggested that it was necessary to at least attempt to replace the power lost by the departure of Kubel, Thome, Young and Cuddyer.
Share and Enjoy
Continue Reading - Pages: 1 2