Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Twins spreading misleading information?

With a winter filled with discontent over the dimensions of their new ballpark from the hitters in their lineup, the Twins front office appears to be in full PR mode in curtailing the public’s beliefs that attending a game will not mean you will automatically be denied a souvenir home run ball.  

Two weeks ago, during the Twins’ Winter Caravan stop in Mason City, Iowa, pitcher Glen Perkins addressed the crowd on his thoughts about Target Field. Said the left-hander:
“I would say it’s leaning toward a pitcher’s park, but you never know. Yankee Stadium the first year was a hitter’s park and then it swung the other way last year.”
Yesterday, during his lunchtime live chat at beat writer Joe Christensen also alluded to this phenomenon in response to an inquisition regarding the team’s chances of hitting more home runs in 2011 at Target Field:
 “I have my doubts, but the Twins believe it's important to give it another year before going overboard with any changes. They correctly point to Yankee Stadium, which wasn't as much of a hitter's park in 2010 as it was in 2009.
Christensen’s use of the word “they” suggests that members of the front office are the ones circulating that tidbit. After all, Perkins spent very little time at the major league level in 2010 and did not pitch a single inning in New York. He couldn’t have been privy to this first-hand. With all of the criticism emerging from the clubhouse, including calls for the walls to be moved in (ostensibly, an expensive task), the organization had to communicate something to the team. Regardless of the source or background, the fact is that the statement is almost patently false.

Superficially, there was some decline in the numbers at home in New York. For instance, in 2010 hitters posted an OPS of 783 at the new Yankee Stadium, the second-highest in baseball and the highest in the American League, but experienced a ten-point drop in OPS from the previous year (793) when it was regarded as an offensive Mecca. Yet, ten points is hardly a resounding affirmation of a transition from a hitter-friendly park to a pitcher-friendly one.   

Similarly, while the ballpark paced the majors in home runs hit in ’09 with 237, when the season ended this past year 14 fewer home runs had been hit. Still, that 223 in 2010 was the second-highest total in baseball.

Based on those two facts alone, I’d hardly be inclined to calling Yankee Stadium anything but a hitter’s paradise. What’s more is that according to’s Park Factors, despite the decrease in total bombs launched in its confines all things considered, Yankee Stadium actually became a place that was easier to hit home runs over the previous season. In 2009, the Bronx ballpark posted a HR Park Factor of 1.201, the highest in baseball. Although it lost the long ball title to USCellular Field and surpassed by Coors Field in Denver, the Yankees’ home field had a HR Park Factor of 1.420.

Likewise, in terms of total offense, Yankee Stadium’s 1.177 Runs Park Factor was far superior in comparison to ‘09’s 0.965 Runs Park Factor it listed after the stadium’s inaugural season. To summarize, it was found to be easier to score runs and hit home runs at Yankee Stadium in 2010 versus its first year.

Simply put, despite the Twins' claims to the contrary, Yankee Stadium did not revert towards a pitcher's park.

In the end, there is no need to repeat a misleading message in hopes of enticing players or fans to think of Target Field somehow emerging as a Yankee Stadium-like venue in 2011. Rather, focus on the number of home runs that aren’t leaving the park courtesy of the visiting team as opposed to the number of home runs you are missing out on. Target Field may not do anyone any favors in the home run department but it served the team extremely well in 2010 and some members of the offense should embrace that concept.