Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Target Field, home runs and the Derby

The format may not matter
to Yoenis Cepedes. In Home Run
Derby, he's in it to win it.
My interest in the Home Run Derby is seldom very high, and once Brian Dozier and Justin Morneau were eliminated this year the "competition" became background noise while I worked on a Facebook photo album from our vacation/minor league trip.

Still, I picked up via Twitter a sense that the new, supposedly quicker, format for the Derby was unsatisfying. Part of the disgruntlement, I suspect, is that the biggest power stars in the competition, Joey Batista and Giancarlo Stanton, lost out in the semifinals. Part of it, I suspect, is that Target Field is not an easy home run touch, so we got some 1-0 scores in swingoffs and matchups. And part of it, to be sure, is that my Twitter feed is heavy on the kind of serious fans who are at their core a little embarrassed that they care about the spectacle that is the Derby.

Still, Yoenis Cepedes won for the second straight year, so I'm not inclined to think the format resulted in an undeserving champion. Cepedes, it appears, is a batting practice monster, and Home Run Derby is glorified batting practice.

I was intrigued earlier in the day by a SportsCenter segment on why Target Field is a difficult home run part. Their "Sports Science" report noted that the posted dimensions of the yard are actually a little shorter than the major league average, but the stadium has proven over its four-plus seasons of use to be one of the more difficult home run parks in the majors.

Their analysis focused on the wind. It concludes that the summer wind generally comes in from right field -- through the Twins Plaza opening into the stadium. The wind is funneled into the Plaza by the tall buildings surrounding the park, and turns into mini-cyclones when it clears the seating area and reaches the lower field. This helps knock fly balls to right down.

The vagaries of the wind is a more reasonable explanation for how the park plays than the settling concrete theory occasionally espoused on the FSN telecasts. It has been my observation over time that the flags above the left field seats and the flags in right field seldom are flying in the same direction, which I interpret as showing that the wind swirls inside the park. The wide gap in the plaza area is an easy point for the wind to enter and exit, but elsewhere there is concrete and stone in the way

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