Tagged: Target Field

The Mauer Power Story: Further Evaluation

Bllomberg Sport’s blog here at MLBlogs evaluates the evidence surrounding Joe Mauer’s power outage.  

They pose two possible explanations–the home field he plays in and the notion that pitchers have altered their approaches–and they find that he probably won’t repeat his 2009 power binge, but that he also won’t continue in his 2010 power outage to date.  

As they put it:

Target Field’s low home run
rate and the new approach by pitchers may be hurting Mauer’s home run numbers.
But the statistical variation in his HR/FB rate also helps explains the drastic
difference between 2009 and 2010. That rate suggests that Mauer’s MVP-type
numbers may have been affected by a statistical outlier, and that fans and
teams may have to reassess their expectations for Mauer’s power numbers. In
regards to how pitchers are approaching Mauer, it seems unlikely that the
recent adjustments can explain this year’s low home run total, as he has been a
top player in the league since 2004, and pitchers have been adjusting to his
tendencies every year. Meanwhile, Target Field has been playing like a large shopping
mall – but it does not explain Mauer’s low road home run total, or the fact
that he has yet to hit any homers at home.

Expect a middle ground to
emerge between the home run binge Mauer showed last season and the drought he’s
experienced in 2010.

Regression to the mean, baby, regression to the mean.
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Joe Mauer’s Power Outage

Nick notes that Joe Mauer’s power output is down from last season, at least in terms of his home run total.  On the other hand, his doubles are up, meaning that Mauer is still hitting long drives to the outfield, but they aren’t leaving the ‘yard.  He wisely observed that this might be the case when writing about Mauer before the start of the season.

The comments do a good job of discussing “causes”, but I thought I’d bring up three points.
(1) Joe’s 28 dingers last year was something of an aberration, an outlier, if you will, out of line with his previous career statistical profile.
(2) Joe got a bit lucky in 2009.  11 of his home runs were what Hit Tracker Online calls Just Enoughs, which are:

“Just Enough” home
run

 – Means the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet,
OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. These are the ones
that barely made it over the fence
. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, 11 of those homers Joe hit could have very well stayed within the field of play and thus been either flyouts or doubles.
(3) Target Field.  It has been compared to CitiField, the Mets’ cavernous ballpark.  Early numbers bear this out, though sample size remains a concern.  2009 saw the Twins playing their home games in a ballpark with a “park factor” much more favorable to hitters in terms of home runs (higher numbers favor hitters).  The park factor of the ‘Dome (Mall of America Rield) in terms of home runs for 2009 was 1.111.  Target Field, however, has displayed a home run park factor that is much, much lower at

0.562.

To me, those explanations suffice.  Going forward, even if Target Field ends up being a good home run park for left-handed hitters, it will likely be due to the prevailing summer winds coming from the south and the fact that rightfield is the northern edge of the stadium.  However, as Nick noted, last season Mauer’s home runs were largely hit to left center, meaning he will probably not benefit from winds out of the south. 
The question then becomes whether Mauer was worth his contract extension.  I still say yes, since, (1) he’s the premier defensive catcher in the game; (2) he is the face of the franchise and the confidence of the fan base can’t be underestimated; (3) most importantly, his offensive contribution is not–unlike, say, Ryan Howard’s–reducible to his home run total.  Even with only two home runs thus far in the season, Mauer’s wOBA is still at .371.  
So, while Mauer probably won’t be putting up 25+ bombs this season, he still will be contributing to the Twins’ success in many other ways.
Take it easy on Joe, he’s still the franchise’s best player.

Twins Open Road Trip With Victory

The Minnesota Twins opened their seven-game West Coast road trip with a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

The Twins’ now ride a five-game winning streak.

Evidence is still mounting that Target Field is not a homer-friendly stadium as Twins’ hitters, who have only hit 13 home runs in 27 home games, launched three home runs in Safeco Field, a ballpark that has a reputation of its own for being unfriendly to the longball.
Michael Cuddyer played second base Monday night in place of the injured Orlando Hudson.  He made no glaring mistakes, though he definitely looks more comfortable in right field.  Although Cuddyer played eight innings at second in 2009 and another 55 innings at second in 2005, the Twins’ infield defense will be less heartburn-inducing to watch if they play, oh, say, a middle infielder at second instead.  Thanks, Michael for making the effort, but I’m sure all Twins fans will prefer seeing you in the outfield.  And while you were good at first last season, if you are playing there a lot, that means something bad happened to Justin Morneau, and we don’t want that either.  
Francisco Liriano pitched a decent ballgame for the Twins, though, like Scott Baker on Sunday, he had a couple of innings in which he really had to labor.  All in all, he scattered eight hits over six innings, striking out seven and allowing three runs, which, though it constitutes a Quality Start, still seems like less than that against a Mariners ballclub most notable for their Offensive Ineptitude (27th in runs/game [3.66], 28th in home runs, 27th in batting average [.240], 26th in on-base percentage [.313], 29th in slugging percentage [.348], 29th in OPS [.661], 28th in OPS+ [83], 28th in team wOBA [.298]).
“Twinkie Talk” refers obliquely to Seattle’s offensive woes in this post’s title.
In Win Probability Added news, Josh Wilson of the Mariners earned a game high .196, but just didn’t get much support from his ‘mates. Delmon Young (.172), Michael Cuddyer (.156), and Justin Morneau (.097) led the visiting Twins.  Morneau is currently seventh in the Majors in Win Probability Added for the season.
The Twins look to secure at least a split in this four-game series tonight, sending Nick Blackburn to the mound. The Mariners will start Jason Vargas.
I hope Blackburn thinks it is still May.
Go Twins!

Target Field Playing as Pitchers’ Park So Far

Despite Derek Jeter’s solo shot, which powered the Yankees to a win over the Twins in the conclusion of Tuesday’s suspended game (boo, hiss,boooo), Target Field has played like a pitchers’ park so far this season, earning comparison to CitiField, the home of the New York Mets.   

However, this may change in the summer months, particularly for left-handed hitters, for, with the plate facing northwest, and the winds blowing predominately from the south, the winds will blow straight out to right field.  As this report notes:
A team-commissioned climate study indicates the Minneapolis stadium should favor pitchers early in the season because the wind tends to blow in from left field, then left-handed hitters should benefit when patterns shift during the summer.
However, the same article mentions that the Yankees though that their new stadium would play like the Old (well, new old) Yankee Stadium, and that wasn’t quite the case.
Additionally, this article, written by a real-life professional weather guy, discusses the many “micro-climates” in Target Field.
“Only time will tell” is simply a truism–something both obvious and completely unhelpful while also being true–but it’s about all I have to add.