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Justin Morneau Sends a Poorly Thought-Out E-Mail

November 13, 2010

If the fences are at 300 feet, we'll win 162 games!

The Minnesota Twins made the playoffs this year. Easily, too. They finished six games ahead of the White Sox, and it wasn’t even much of a race for the last two months. They also had the best home record in the American League with a 53-28 record. Who can argue with that?

Justin Morneau, that’s who. In the latest ‘hitter who doesn’t like the spacious measurements of his ballpark,’ the concussed first baseman replied in an email to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about how disappointed he was that the front office hasn’t decided to pull the fences in at the Twins’ gorgeous new Target Field.

So…a couple of things.

First, I wonder if he discussed this with the pitchers, like Francisco Liriano:

FL Home: .641 OPS against – 107 IP in 16 games (6 2/3 IP / g)

FL Away: .704 OPS against – 84.2 in 15 games (5 2/3 IP / g)

or Scott Baker:

SB Home: .746 OPS against – 86.1 IP in 15 g – 8 HRA! (5 3/4 IP / g)

SB Away: .839 OPS against – 84 IP in 14 g – 15 HRA! (6 IP / g)

or Nick Blackburn:

NB Home: .726 OPS against – 89.2 IP in 14 g – 10 HRA (6 2/5 IP / g)

NB Away: .968 OPS against – 71.1 IP in 14 g  – 15 HRA (5 IP / g)

or Kevin Slowey:

KS Home: .713 OPS against – 91.2 IP in 17 g – 12 HRA (5 1/3 IP / g)

KS Away: .846 OPS against – 64 IP in 13 g – 9 HRA (< 5 IP /g)

Of course, Carl Pavano is the one of the five that bucks the trend, but he’s usually the exception to the rule. Such as, the rule that most adults given bucketloads of money to pitch a baseball in New York would be kind of excited and do what they can to stay in shape and not piss off their teammates.

En masse, Twins pitching had a .709 OPS against at home, and a .758 OPS against on the road; they gave up a homer every 44.4 at-bats at home, and a homer every 30.34 at-bats on the road. This reduces strain on the bullpen. The defensive help from the ballpark is not as dramatic a good effect as the Rockies’ offense, but it’s a boon for the pitchers who are playing half of their games there.

Morneau finished his email response by saying that he didn’t want to sound selfish, and that he was more concerned with the team’s success, adding “Home wins are the most important thing at the end of the day, but I believe we would have done that no matter what with the team we had. I think we had a team built around power and offense and were not able to take full advantage of it.”

Right. So if you’re going to win either way at home, wouldn’t you rather have the ballpark be less of a burden on your pitchers? The Rockies —

Wait a minute. Can we not gloss over something for a second? Built around power and offense? J.J Hardy, Orlando Hudson, Denard Span, Danny Valencia, Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto…built for offense? Turns out that’s not necessarily false. The Twins hit 90 home runs on the road. That would be third in the league behind the Red Sox (113 road dingers) and the Blue Jays (111). Huh. That’s interesting.

Joe Mauer had the most pronounced split, hitting eight homers away from Target Field and just one at home. Morneau himself hit 14 away and four at home. What about those other power hitters? Jim Thome, future Hall of Famer? 15 at home! And…ten away. Hmm. Michael Cuddyer? Seven at home! And…seven away. Double hmm. Justin, are you just talking about your own offensive prowess?

Well. Ok, let’s catch up with what I was gonna say.

The Rockies hit 108 homers at home and 65 on the road. They had preposterously large home-away splits. They brought the same habits they had at home on the road, and it didn’t work. They won 52 games at home, one less than the Twins.

Baseball America’s Tracey Ringolsby brought to mind George Brett’s quote from 1984, when he was asked what he thought of Tiger Stadium and its right-field porch that Detroit brought in over the decades:

“I’d probably have had a Darrell Evans type of career, hitting 40, 45 home runs a year with a .260 average. The reason I became the type of hitter I am is because of Royals Stadium. As a hitter, you adjust to your home park to take advantage of what it has to offer. Remember, you play 81 games a year, half your schedule in that park.

So adjust, Justin. Because, um, the Twins as a team had a difference of one-one-thousandth of a point between their slugging at home and their slugging on the road. Their OPS was 26 points better at home. They scored 17 more runs at home than they did on the field. They struck out 117 fewer times and walked 33 more times at home.

Whatever the hell Morneau is talking about, maybe he should take a page out of George Brett’s book and adjust. It seems the rest of the team did just fine.

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