Friday, November 12, 2010

The Flip Side of Morneau's Complaints

In an email exchange with Star Tribune reporters, Justin Morneau recently spoke out against the decision by the Twins organization not to move in the home run fences after the team's first season at Target Field.

Morneau complained that it is extremely difficult for both right-handed and left-handed hitters to homer to the opposite field and suggested that this fact can cause players to develop bad habits that manifest on the road.

Unfortunately, the facts don't seem to back up Morneau's complaints. Before a concussion knocked him out for the season in early July, the first baseman was slugging .618 and on pace for a career-high 35 home runs. Granted, only four of Morneau's 18 bombs at that point had come in Target Field, but the fact that he'd gone deep 14 times while amassing a ridiculous .757 slugging percentage in 38 road games hardly reinforces any notion that "bad habits" were inhibiting his offensive approach in opposing stadiums.

Morneau surely is frustrated after watching many of his (and his teammates') screaming line drives fall short of the wall in the power alleys this summer. Parker lays out the data on the TwinsCentric blog today, backing up Morneau's concerns over the difficulty of hitting the ball out of the park, especially to right-center.

But the key point that Morneau misses in his remarks is how much these deep fences have aided the Twins' pitching staff, which was elemental in the team's outstanding 53-28 home record this season.

A big reason the Twins performed so much better at home this season is because their pitching was markedly superior there than on the road. Twins hurlers posted a 3.53 ERA with 64 home runs allowed in 81 home games while registering a 4.39 ERA with 91 homers allowed in the same number of road contests.

Specific pitchers have benefited greatly from Target Field's expansive confines. Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey were both among the league's most fly ball heavy pitchers this year, so both rely on keeping those fly balls in the yard.

At home, Baker went 8-3 with a 3.86 ERA, thanks largely to his yielding only eight homers in 86 innings. On the road, he went 4-6 with a 5.14 ERA and allowed seven more home runs in two fewer innings.

You'll find similar splits for Kevin Slowey, whose ERA at home, where he allowed a .416 slugging percentage, was 3.63; on the road, where he allowed a .515 slugging percentage: 5.63.

Nick Blackburn doesn't let hitters put the ball in the air quite as much as Slowey or Baker, but he does allow an awful lot of contact and so he too sees major benefits from a pitcher-friendly home stadium. At Target Field, Blackburn's numbers were downright solid: 7-4 with a 3.71 ERA and 10 home runs allowed in 89 innings. On the road, his results were beyond dismal: 3-8 with a 7.57 ERA and 15 home runs allowed in 71 innings.

None of these three starters enjoyed particularly great seasons, but they all could have been disastrous if not for the luxury of pitching in a home park that severely limited the power output of opposing lineups. Baker, Slowey and Blackburn couldn't be blamed for grumbling upon hearing Morneau's comments.

Considering the Twins' outstanding home record, coupled with the fact that their lineup scored more runs at home than on the road in spite of the home run struggles, it's difficult to view the distant home run fences as playing to the Twins' disadvantage. Quite the contrary.

Morneau made clear that his comments were intended for the betterment of the team as a whole rather than his own personal statistics, but he's not seeing clearly on this one. The Twins are making the right choice.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Morneaus complaint is garbage. He's only willing to use the entire field if theres a chance hell pick up a cheap HR going the other way? How about just worrying about hitting the ball hard and not about whether you can sneak one over the fence. His complaints are either selfish or delusional.

Dr. Truth said...

Someone tell him it might be hard to hit HRs at Target Field but it's impossible to hit them when your on the DL.

rover27 said...

I totally agree with Morneau. The twins FO denies it, but the park was planned this way. At the start of the year they were talking about the weather affecting HRs. The proved to be crap. Target Field produces boring baseball. Home runs are a part of baseball.

The reason the Twins built this cavern is money. It's cheaper to find mediocore pitchers like Slowey, Baker, etc. than to sign and keep sluggers that hit homers. So the Twins feel they can be competitive with cheap pitching and cheap hitters(those that don't hit the long ball) in low scoring games. It stinks!

patmc15 said...

I think rover has it exactly right but I completely disagree about it stinking. Just as you said the Twins can put a cheap competive team on the field when they need to (when revenues comeback down to earth) thus we wont have to suffer through anymore streches like the 90's. I would rather see close low scoring games than sub .500 seasons.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Twins need some guys like Edwin EncarnaciĆ³n.

Anonymous said...

i completly disagree with rover27. the twins might have a small budget but its only because they have so many young pitchers on their team and even some hitters. currently the twin have a low budget but they have so much young potential in the rotation i think in 5years pitchers like scott baker and kevin slowey are really going to be all-star material so in those 5 years their pitching payroll might even double if they plan on keeping these guys.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe the Twins need some guys like Edwin EncarnaciĆ³n." Nope.

Its might seem like target field is huge just because of how stupid easy it is to hit hr in the east.

Anonymous said...

You've left me unconvinced. I'm going to listen to the people who are actually swinging the bat when they explain how the park affects their hitting.

Gary said...

Disagree, when you compare the tapes this year's playoffs to last year's playoffs I dont see a difference in Morneau's swing.

Anonymous said...

You misspelled Complaint

Nick N. said...

I'm going to listen to the people who are actually swinging the bat when they explain how the park affects their hitting.

Fair enough, but when the team is as successful as the Twins were at home and when Morneau's numbers are as good as they were in the road, I have a hard time caring whether he thinks the home park messes up his swing.

Disagree, when you compare the tapes this year's playoffs to last year's playoffs I dont see a difference in Morneau's swing.

Zing.

You misspelled Complaint

Wow, what a stupid and obvious typo. Thanks for pointing it out, it's been fixed.

Anonymous said...

Another problem with playing in a cavern is the Twins will never be able to sign any free agent sluggers. They won't come unless they're overpaid.

And any sluggers that come up through the minors will probably leave as soon as they're able.

Dave said...

Wasn't that the argument why Coors Field would ensure the Rocks would never have good pitching? Ubaldo Jiminez sure is a crappy pitcher...

USAFChief said...

I'm not even convinced that TF is going to prove to be a difficult place in which to hit HR's. There's no reason for it to be, the dimensions aren't overly generous. Let's wait five years and find out for sure if this is even an issue.

Dave said...

Span totally jinxed it for good when he did that trot-and-point BS on a ball that was easily caught for a fly out.

Anonymous said...

Get Dan Uggla before Detroit signs him. He can hit it over any fence and it is better if he does it as a Twin than a Tiger.

BENJAMIN said...

It is surprising to me that such a "team first" guy like Morneau would make such a comment. Nick is completely right - the numbers speak for themselves. 53-28 is an outstanding home record. I will say that if you are going to have such an expansive outfield, you should have some outfielders that can cover all that ground. Delmon Young's defense is just plain awful (slightly improved over last year's disgustingly terrible defense) and I am sick of pretending that Denard Span is anything close Torii Hunter. Maybe we were spoiled for all those years but I wish we had someone else out there.

Anonymous said...

Benjamin, get a clue. Delmon Young did not lose games with his D and his bat won a LOT of games.
Span is an above average fielder and a good leadoff hitter.

Wonder what Morneau would get us in a trade for a starting pitcher

Matt said...

The Twins hit 90 on the road, while their opponents hit 91.

They hit 52 at home while opponents hit 64.

Justin's complaint is about money (his), NOT competitive advantages for his team.

They got outhomered at home, enough said.

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Anonymous said...

Morneau is most likely voicing the opinion of the clubhouse. The player the fences hurt the most was Mauer. Those HR's that barely made it out in the Dome last season became warning track fly balls. Because Mauer can't pull an inside pitch with any authority, the very accessible right field fence doesn't come into play. His "natural" swing puts the ball in the allies for outs. One other note, all the Twins have to do is look at the tape of the last Blue Jays series; they had no problem putting the ball out of any part of Target Field.