Thoughts on the Field of Target

April 4, 2010 at 10:14 am 1 comment

People who live in Minnesota love Target. Everyone else in the country goes to Walmart, or Shopco, or the local general’s store. But here, it’s Target. That’s why we have the Target Center, and now Target Field.

It’s a beautiful ballpark. Well, that’s what everyone says. And I’ll believe them because by comparison to the Metrodome it can’t be any worse. Just like how ugly chicks next to uglier chicks suddenly aren’t so ugly (Particularly when alcohol is involved, but I won’t beat that dead cliche any longer than this sentence).

From the pictures I’ve seen though, Target Field isn’t an ugly chick. Why I haven’t seen an ugly chick with a concourse like the one Target Field has in a long time. Dayum!

But here’s what everyone mainstream sports journalist and occasional fan wants to know:

How’s it gonna play? Will the Twins lose the home field advantage they enjoyed at the Dome?

Could that come as a result of Twins players being on basically the same learning curve as the rest of the league in terms of playing the bounces and angles of the new park?

Will the lefthanded power hitters hit fewer balls out due to wind conditions and such?

Will the new grass surface negate the advantage the Twins appeared to have on artificial turf?

I believe I have an answer to most of these questions. Teams have better records at home than on the road. This always happens. If you’re a good team, if you’re a bad team, you play better at home. Last year, all but three teams had better home records than road records (Those three all came from the NL East: Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Florida). The Yankees were eleven games better at home than on the road. The Pirates, an awful team last year, were 40-41 at home, compared to 22-58 on the road.

What factors can explain this phenomena? The first factor most people look at are the fans Allegedly, the fans have a magical power, through their cheers and boos, to disorient the opposing team and to spur the home team to victory. In football, this has practical relevancy, as the fans have the ability to deafen the opposition so they can’t hear the snap count. In baseball, screaming insults to home plate is about as close to effecting the actual outcome of the game that a fan can get.

The second factor is familiarity with the ballpark. Home teams know their home park much better than the opposition, leading to them being better judges of what hops the ball will take (Which I think is only true to an extent. A player for the home team certainly is familiar with how high the ball will bounce off the surface, but he doesn’t have a mystical intuition about where each and every little bump on the field is and plays the ball accordingly). They also know the outfield walls better, and can turn doubles into singles by playing the wall to perfection. Michael Cuddyer apparently has this ability.

Easy now, ya won't pitch in Petco forever K-dawg

In some cases, teams are constructed with the home ballpark in mind. This is the third factor; that teams can be ‘suited’ to their home park. For example, San Diego’s Petco Field typically plays as the most pitcher friendly park in baseball, particularly with regard to home runs. So the Padres can take advantage of this in several ways. One, it’s easier for them to lure pitchers via free agency and trade, especially if that pitcher is looking to rebound from an off year. You saw that with Mark Prior, Jon Garland, Randy Wolf, etc. Two, the Padres can completely change the focus of their offense to that of speed and taking advantage of the vast expanses of Petco. Players such as Tony Gwynn Jr. have flourished at Petco due to the increased benefits of speed and getting on base, as opposed to slugging ability. Three, they can employ more fly ball pitchers, guys like Kevin Correia, who just had a career year last year, allowing only 17 home runs in nearly 200 innings (After he had allowed 15 in 110 innings the year before). As such his ERA came in at 3.91, despite his ERA+ (Which is adjusted for park factors) being a below average 95 (An ERA+ of 100 is average). So the Padres have the advantage of getting serviceable performance from below average pitchers. Therefore, they don’t have to spend as much money in free agency, their pitching prospects look better than they are, and when they play at home, they have a team suited to play there, resulting in a small, but significant, home field advantage.

In some cases, such as the Yankees new ballpark, you have a park built with the team in mind. The Yankees will always have a good amount of left handed power bats in their lineup, and with the short porch in right field, players like Johnny Damon will have career years (Almost all of his 24 home runs went to right field), and players like Curtis Granderson will be enticed to join the team with visions of career power numbers.

What does this mean for the Twins? First of all, Twins fans will always be crazy, as long as Joe Mauer lives and the team can manage to stay in relative contention. So they have the first factor covered.

As for the second factor, I would suppose that Twins players would start out on a more equal playing field with the opposition, with regards to hops and wall caroms. But Target Field is where they practice, and for all his faults, you know Gardy’s going to stress hiking up players familiarity with the park. By May, the Twins should have an advantage in terms of their familiarity with the place. They’ll have played 15 games or so there, while other teams will be seeing it for the first time.

And with regards to the third factor I mentioned, we’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out. We don’t know whether or not Target Field will be a hitters or pitchers park (Buster Olney has said it’s the former). But I don’t see what people are worried about; if it’s more of a pitchers park, that will benefit the Twins pitchers. If it’s more of a hitters park, that will benefit the hitters. Everything equals out.

Long story long, the Twins home record might be a game or two worse than last year as the players get acquainted. But their road record will probably be better, due to a stronger team on the field. And that’s what ultimately matters, the product on the field. So to all of you who say that the ambiguity of Target Field will cost the Twins the division.. you are very off base and are thinking either wishfully, or like to hear yourself talk (Or write). After all, the White Sox will be giving regular at bats to Juan Pierre, Mark Teahen and Andruw Jones.


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Pre-season Predickshuns Meh. (Game 1)

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. limewire  |  April 30, 2010 at 1:37 am

    lmao fun stuff man.


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