The Minnesota Twins recently announced plans to upgrade the beautiful Target Field with improvements such as a new high-definition scoreboard above the right-field stands and free Wi-Fi throughout the park. In response to this, 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau announced his displeasure that the team did not decide to move in the fences (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/baseball/mlb/11/12/morneau-twins.ap/index.html).
Target Field proved to be one of the most difficult fields in the big leagues to hit a home run. The Twins hit 52 home runs at home and 90 on the road while the pitchers gave up 64 at Target Field and 91 during away games.
As a slugger, I can see where Morneau would like the fences moved in. Many balls were hit to the power alleys at Target Field last summer that looked like sure home runs, but either hit the wall, the warning track or into an outfielder’s mitt. Sluggers want to hit more home runs and drive in more runs and that’s no exception to Morneau.
On the other hand, Morneau is coming off selfish. Moving in the fences may help him, but few others. I love watching Morneau play baseball, don’t get me wrong, but I disagree with his argument. At the very least, I disagree he went public with his complaint.
– You could still be in the Metrodome. After years and years of trying to get a real ballpark, the Twins finally build one of the most beautiful parks in the country and its first season is concluded with complaints. C’mon, Justin, be happy you’re playing under the sun on real grass and your locker isn’t the size of a broom closet.
– Most of the time, the Twins are a small-ball team. The 2010 Twins were an anomaly compared to most of the teams in the last decade. With the help from Morneau, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Danny Valencia, Joe Mauer and Jim Thome, the 2010 Twins played very little small ball. In fact, they were second-to-last in the American League in stolen bases (68). The Twins won’t be playing this kind of baseball forever. The 2001 through 2008 Twins would have thrived even more at Target Field.
– Home runs are overrated. Home runs are like a big plate of pancakes. They tasted delicious back in the late nineties when records were being broken every year, but after consuming them for so long, fans are getting sick of them. I’m no exception:
– Sluggers have been spoiled by small ballparks for too long. Almost every team in the majors has gotten a new ballpark in the last 20 years. Very few of them are considered pitchers parks. The exceptions might be Petco Park, Citi Field, Safeco Field and Target Field. Comerica Park in Detroit was a perfect pitchers and triples paradise before management decided to move the fences in after the 2002 season (the left-center field wall currently stands 370 feet from home plate – it used to be 395). If Target Field is a pitcher’s park, then it distinguishes itself from the other parks all the more. If the fences are moved in, it’s that much more similar to the majority.
– I don’t hear any pitchers complaining. What happens when the fences are moved in? Will the Twins hitters make up the difference in home runs the pitchers give up? The pitchers need to keep the ball in the park and Target Field fits this purpose. The majority of Twins are pitch-to-contact pitchers so the club needs a park that will keep the ball within its dimensions.
The best home run hitters normally aren’t swinging for home runs – they come naturally. If hitters are worried about not being able to hit a home run at Target Field, then don’t try. Aim for the gaps, doubles are more exciting anyway (https://tripleinthegap.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/tris-speaker-earl-webbs-records-can-be-broken/).
The Twins were 53-28 at home – the best in the American League. How could the Twins be so good at home when they can’t hit home runs there? The answer is simple: home runs aren’t needed to win ball games and this is the main reason Morneau is wrong. The Twins numbers at home (.282 AVG, .354 OBP, .422 SLG, .776 OPS) were much better than on the road (.265, .328, .421, .750). Minnesota’s offense produced more runs, RBI, doubles, triples, walks and had less strikeouts at home.
As for the pitching splits, the numbers are far more skewed. On the road, Minnesota pitchers had a 4.39 earned run average to go with a 1.32 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). At Target Field the pitchers’ ERA was 3.53 and their WHIP stood at 1.27.
So, to sum things up, Mr. Morneau, the Twins score more runs and allow much less at Target Field. Why on earth should the Twins mess with this formula?