Friday, November 12, 2010

A case of slugger entitlement

Justin Morneau thinks it's too difficult to hit home runs in Target Field.

Not, you realize, because it hurts his individual stats. No, he says, he's thinking about the good of the team:

It affects the hitters a lot, and you start to develop bad habits as a hitter when you feel like you can only pull the ball to hit it over the fence. You take those habits on the road. ... I think we had a team built around power and offense and were not able to take full advantage of it.

It's probably unfair and flip for me to connect Morneau's logic with his concussion, but a fuzzy head might have something to do with it.

Justin Morneau and his teammates (and league rivals)
found home runs harder to come by in Target Field.
Despite what Morneau says, that's not a bad thing.
One: Reworking your park every year to fit your roster is a fool's game. Even if you know that you have a hitter's park (or a pitcher's park) -- and one year's results, while indicative, is hardly conclusive -- the structure remains while the roster changes. By the end of the 2010 season, players were talking about the ball jumping more than it had earlier. I doubt that we truly have a handle on how Target Field plays. 

Two: Morneau hit .375/.448/.757 on the road last season. Yep, Target Field really wrecked his swing for those games.

Three: What's good for Morneau's home run totals is bad for Scott Baker's ERA. A park that gives pitchers something isn't a terrible thing.

Four: There wasn't that much difference in offense -- runs scored -- in the Twins' home and road games. There were 712 runs scored in Target Field in 2010, 740 elsewhere. The Bill James Handbook puts the one-season park factor at 96, meaning that runs were about four percent below average in Target Field. This is hardly the Astrodome. (The difference could easily be random.)

The park last year depressed home runs, not offense. Doubles were 12 percent above average in Target Field, triples 20 percent. 

The big guy believes that when he hits a big fly, he's entitled to jog around the bases. I'd rather see players running. Doubles and triples are fine by me.

Five: The baseball I grew up with didn't feature opposite-field home runs. That's a phenomenon that arose with the steroid era. Changes in hitting techniques probably had more to do with it than chemicals, but the fact remains that such hitters as Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson and George Brett pulled their home runs. Hitting prowess doesn't rely on opposite field taters.

It ain't broke. Don't fix it.


  1. Early prediction on our vet pitcher for 2011 right here.

    Jarrod Washburn, who did not pitch in 2010 but has not officially retired, is thinking of a comeback. "This past week I have already been contacted by a couple teams, just to gauge my interest in coming back, so that has made me think about it a little."

  2. I agree, Ed. It's still too early in the TF game to go making changes like that. They should give it a few more years, at least, before they decide it's necessary to move the fences in. What's wrong with building a team around doubles, triples, even singles, and speed and base-running smarts?