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Springtime Storylines: How will Target Field play for the Minnesota Twins?

Mar 25, 2010, 11:15 AM EDT

Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  First up in the AL Central: the Twinkies

The
big question: How will Target Field play?

Maybe it’s not the biggest question. Who will be the closer now that Joe Nathan is gone probably fits that bill, but so many people smarter than me have already attempted to answer it that I really don’t have anything else to add. Personally, I’m more interested in the new ballpark.

Part of this interest is borne of years of fear and resentment of the old dome. As I’ve mentioned before, I was a Tigers kid from birth until 1987ish, and the Twins ruined
what looked like was going to be a storybook 1987 Tigers season. At about the same time I was adopting the Braves and, lo and behold, the Twins ruined the Braves 1991 season as well. Though there were home games for my guys in each of those series, my memory of them is dominated by that ugly, good-for-nothing dome. That dome with the HVAC system that I remain convinced was used to give the Twins an advantage. That dome that ruined baseball in those years for me personally and ruined baseball aesthetically for everyone else. I hated that place, brother, and I’m glad it’s dead as far as baseball is concerned.

But the problem is I like the Twins. Or at least I have since Kent Hrbek ceased bodyslamming his way across the baseball universe. I like their players. I like how they always seem to be a fundamentally sound bunch. I like how the team and its fans stuck it to Selig and his contraction schemes. I like how they rode out the parsimonious Carl Pohlad years and are now reaping the benefits of the more generous Jim Pohlad era. I really like their spring training setup.  Lots of good juju with this Twins team, and now they have a new home.

It certainly looks nice. But how will it play? It’s hard to get a true sense of such things until, you know, games are actually played, but there’s no harm in guessing a bit, is there?

The fences are set as such to be more or less neutral. The fact that it’s open air could suppress home runs during the chilly months, but it may actually promote them once it heats up, as Minneapolis is the fourth windiest major city in the U.S., behind only Milwaukee, Dallas and San Francisco. Direction matters, of course. Home plate at Target Field points to the northwest. For most of the baseball season, winds come from the south, which would generally mean winds blowing out to right field where, conveniently, there is an overhang. Gotta figure that lefties Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will like it. You have to figure the somewhat homer prone righty Scott Baker won’t. (note: some disagree on everything I just said about the winds. My dad was a weather man, though, so I know that just about anyone who talks about the weather is full of it. Especially weather men).

UPDATE: Forget all of that. The commenters have corrected me (and my sources): the first base line of Target Field points southeast and the third base line points northeast. Thus, a southerly wind will suppress home runs to right field and help homers to left.  The more you know (rainbow, star and “bling!”).

Granted, there’s only so much you can predict about a ballpark so this is all just fun.  But this game’s supposed to be fun, right? So let’s have some damn fun out there, OK?

So what else is going on?

  • Joe Mauer’s deal is done, so the greatest source of anxiety is out of the way. Because this is the Midwest and not New York, I predict that almost no one will get hung up on the whole “will Joe Mauer crack under the pressure of his new contract?!” hand-wringing. Joe Mauer will be just fine. And if he’s not, Twins fans will probably say stuff like “You know, Joe Mauer, he’s gonna be just fine.”
  • I said I wouldn’t mention it, but the closer situation is obviously the big concern right now.  Some people say things like “trade for Heath Bell,” but that doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the Twins would do, as they rarely do anything rash or panicky like that.  I agree with Gleeman: leverage the bullpen depth that was already there, go with a closer-by-committee thing unless and until it fails, and if it does, reassess.
  • Watching the Delmon Young/Jason Kubel/Jim Thome thing will be interesting. Kubel is a beast and is obviously too good to platoon at DH (not that you could platoon, seeing as both he and Thome are lefties), but you have to figure that the Twins will give the optionless Young one last chance to show that his bat can carry left field, leaving Thome in the cold. There was some life in Young’s stroke in the second half last year, as he went .300/.322/.502, but if he continues to muck about in sub-.750 OPS land, figure he gets benched, Kubel goes to left and Thome becomes the full time DH.
  • The Twins staff will be solid, if unspectacular. Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker aren’t anyone’s idea of aces, but you know what you’re gonna get from them. A full season of a healthy Kevin Slowey will probably provide much of the same. Carl Pavano fits alongside them as decent yet nothin’ special. The wild card will be Francisco Liriano. He was reportedly spectacular in winter ball this year, and has struck out 16 in ten spring training innings so far. If he can recapture even a portion of his former greatness — and it’s looking like he might — the Twins rotation will be damn nigh transformed.  

So how
are they gonna do?

The AL Central, while not exactly tough, is highly competitive. If any of the three contenders have a chance of running away with the division it’s the Twins, and they’ll do so if they (a) get anything from Delmon Young or, alternatively, bench him and go with Kubel/Thome, one of which will necessarily happen; (b) see a return to form from Francisco Liriano; and (c) figure out how to close out ballgames without a brand name closer.  None of those things seem like a major stretch and, for that reason, the Twins are my choice in the Central.

Prediction: First place, AL Central. And I don’t want to hear a damn word from anyone about how cold it will be in Target Field. The place has the same basic climate as Chicago, Detroit, Boston and New York.  They’ll be just fine.

  1. okobojicat - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    I don’t want to hear a damn word from anyone about how cold it will be in Target Field. The place has the same basic climate as Chicago, Detroit, Boston and New York. They’ll be just fine.
    THANK YOU! I just need to get up there in August for those fantastic Friday night games.

  2. skyjo - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    I hate to be disagreeable, but if home plate points NW, as you walk down the first base line, wouldn’t you be walking South (and East down the 3B line)? So a wind coming from the South would actually depress the HR rate to right field?

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    I took that to mean that the catcher and ump are facing NW (i.e. CF is to the NW from home) meaning that if you walk down the 1B line you’re walking north, and that a wind blowing from the south blows out to right.

  4. Matt - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Home plate does not point NW as no ballpark has home pointing anything close to west or the sun would be in the batters eyes. It does point NE though which lines up with the wind comment.

  5. Bill@TDS - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    I have to disagree with this: Kubel is a beast and is obviously too good to platoon at DH
    Kubel is a beast, of course, but the only thing that matters w/r/t the question of whether you’re “too good to platoon” is how good you are against same-handed pitchers, and in that, Kubel sucks. He has a career .853 OPS vs. RHP and .670 vs. LHP, and the splits were even more extreme in 2009.
    The ideal DH platoon partner for Kubel would be Delmon (.685/.833 in 2009, and neither can field worth a damn), but that would have required them to go out and get a LF who can field and hit lefties, which they don’t have. Which is why, as much as I like Thome and his contract, I was hoping they’d go out and get a Reed Johnson type instead.
    Even as it is, they’d probably be best off platooning Kubel with Brendan Harris (.785 career/.751 2009 vs. LHP).

  6. The Common Man - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    The Twins in first. That’s why you’re the best in the business, Craig.
    recaptcha: least bourbon (that’s depressing, I want the most bourbon)

  7. Craig Calcaterra - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    TCM: “less bourbon?!” Excuse me, I have to go out and shoot the catchpa machine.
    Re: NE/NW, I was just going off what the articles I was reading said re: orientation. If I’m wrong about that, obviously things change. However, worth noting that if the orientation was on the north side of NW, it could work. At least for night games.

  8. Charles Gates - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    I was watching a Twins ST game on TV a few days ago and the announcer said that Delmon Young lost 30lbs in preparation for this season. I don’t recall if it was said that he was in the best shape of his…

  9. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Mar 25, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Not sure if someone has linked you to it or not, but Joe Pos has a quick note about your Greenberg article in his latest post:
    http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2010/03/24/ichiro-suzuki-seattle/

  10. Old Gator - Mar 25, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Allowing as how your kidneys eventually filter all the glycol you were born with out of your blood when you live down here in the tropics, the idea of an open air stadium in Minneapolis where anything without Pucks is going to be played – Shakespeare included – makes me shudder. I think maybe they could use Ted Williams’ head as a flagpole knob up there with no more or less deterioration than in a cryogenic cylinder.

  11. boy scout - Mar 25, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    Check this diagram here. http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/TargetField.html
    Catcher and ump will be facing SE, so winds blowing to south should benefit Mauer, Morneau, and Thome.
    Captcha: park murmur!

  12. d - Mar 25, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    I don’t think the orientation is correct – if you look at the webcam: http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/min/ballpark/new_ballpark_webcam_full.jsp you’ll see. If they were to put a runway from catcher – to CF it would probably be 45 (so the catcher/ump are facing north east actually).
    bagging the

  13. d - Mar 25, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    actually, I think if you’re walking down the 1b line, you’re headed east, towards Boston :) if you were to run the bases clockwise, and walked down 3b line you’d be headed north. but, a southerly wind would definately help out to right/right center.
    tanzania capetown

  14. janus - Mar 25, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    A rather thorough and impressive projection of how Target Field might play is at http://stickandballguy.com/blog/tag/target-field/. Part 2 has the weather stuff.

  15. sean - Mar 25, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    Having actually been to the stadium (not inside though), and after verifying on Google Maps, the 1B line points SE and the 3B line points NE. So, a true southerly wind will suppress home runs to right field and slightly help home runs to left field.

  16. Gary-O - Mar 25, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    The batter at Target Field faces east. The streets in Minneapolis run parallel the Mississippi River which flows northwest to southeast. Too bad Google maps does not show Target Field yet, but it does show the site if you search it. First base runs in the same direction as North 7th St., therefore the batter faces east.

  17. David - Mar 25, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    Honestly, in this day and age there really should be no excuse for new ball parks to be designed and built with Obstructed Views. With the cost of admission being what it is and then the cost of several beers on top of that, you should be able to go to a modern ball park and be able to see the whole field from your seat. None excuse. I chalk it up to just stupid design or laziness on the architects side.
    captcha: recently ready…indeed

  18. boy scout - Mar 25, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    You’re right d. I figured out the angle of Camera #1 then checked on Google Maps. Looks like the first base line points SE, which means the catcher and ump face east.

  19. quibbler - Mar 25, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    I am moved to quibble about the word “generous” applied to Jim Pohlad. Yes, Twins fans are pinching themselves in wonder at having a payroll up near $100 million. But it was not the Pohlads’ generosity that produced it; it was the taxpayers.’ For every dollar Pohlad spends on payroll, he is being given two by the taxpayers. And I mean that literally. The new stadium, subsidized at taxpayer expense, is what raised revenues enough to raise payroll. But the Pohlads never promised to put their windfall into payroll. In fact they explicitly said that they would stick to their formula of spending 50 to 55% of revenues on payroll. So for every dollar of publicly subsidized income spent on payroll, another goes into their pocket. It’s a beautiful stadium, the team’s future is bright; I shouldn’t be complaining; but I just couldn’t let that one word go. Generous, they’re not.

  20. BCTF - Mar 25, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Twins are friends to the muslims

  21. BRANDYKELLER20 - May 8, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    I strictly recommend not to wait until you earn enough money to order all you need! You can get the business loans or just secured loan and feel free

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