This week saw the Twins set their season high winning streak at five games — by sweeping the lowly Royals and taking the first two from the Orioles, all at home, a truly impressive feat, to be sure — before dropping the final game of the Orioles series because, inexplicably, they couldn’t score any runs against Jeremy Guthrie. That guy was on my fantasy team for a while, and believe me: he sucks. But today is an offday, and on offdays I don’t dwell on the failings of the previous day. Instead, I try to avoid dwelling on how much I hate offdays by thinking about random, useless stuff all day long! So here are your useless offday thoughts to tide you over.
Time is winding down to the end of the season, and the exodus from the dome. Everyone, of course, is excited about the new stadium. It’s going to be great, they tell us. Real baseball, played really outdoors. The team will have more money, so we can feel really great about the fact that the Pohlad family will be getting larger, sweeter profits* while they don’t actually spend the money on acquiring more players.
* Paid for by our ticket money, and our hot dog money, and our tax money. Well, your tax money. I don’t live there.
Are you as excited as I am?
Shockingly, Rob Neyer is pretty excited about the possibility of the Twins sucking once they don’t have the dome any more. He points to an article by Steve Aschburner that talks about the new stadium, but raises the issue that the Twins have enjoyed a significant home field advantage:
For all its affronts, though, the Metrodome hosted moments that Target Field will be hard-pressed to duplicate. The Twins, through the All-Star break, had gone 1,193-1015 in the monochrome building since it opened, including a 372-243 home mark since manager Ron Gardenhire took over in 2002. They have won six division titles while calling it home, with two AL pennants. Their World Series titles both owed much to the Dome, from its alien feel for St. Louis (1987) and Atlanta (1991) to the deafening crowd noise; the Twins won all eight Series games played in the Dome and lost all six on the road.
I’m pretty sure quite a bit has changed about the dome since the World Series victories decades ago, including the height of the baggy, the ground rules regarding the speakers, the bounciness of the ground, the actual surface of the grass, and probably some other things I’m forgetting. So I wouldn’t bring up anything that happened that long ago. That said, the fact that they’re 178 games over .500 since 1982 and that includes being 130 games over .500 since 2002 says to me that the Twins have had their best, strongest home field advantage during the Gardy Era. So maybe all those changes have helped the Twins.
Maybe the team is just better now than it was during the 90s. Is that possible? Neyer?
Teams that play in freaky ballparks — the Twins, the Rockies, the Red Sox, the Padres — tend to have larger-than-normal differences between their home and road records. This might be a home advantage and a road disadvantage, as was the case for many years for the Rockies. I don’t see why it has to be, though. My guess is that whatever home advantage the Twins lose in their home ballpark, they will not gain by playing better on the road.
Or it’s because the organization tends to model its players and its roster in a particular fashion because of the features of their home park. If you have a really fast infield and rock hard ground, you’re going to want a bunch of slap-hitting speedsters* in your lineup to take advantage of that … and that’s what the Twins have done over the years. Conversely, if you have short fences and long grass and wind that carries the ball you’re going to want a bunch of lumbering sluggers who put the ball in the seats … and that’s what the White Sox have done.
* At least that’s what you might think you want to do. The point is that this is what the Twins have, in fact, done. And that I’m giving them the opportunity to blame the dome for it. We’ll see what they do in the next 2-4 years to reshape the roster to better fit the new environment.
So the Twins will lose their “dome field advantage,” but many teams have an advantage at home (all of them, actually), so is it really that unthinkable that the franchise won’t be crippled by this move?
If that’s the case, they’ll have to play better — fundamentally better — just to stay roughly where they’ve been, record-wise. That’s a tall order, but of course their new ballpark is supposed to bring higher revenues and the related ability to compete financially with their competition.
It’ll depend on the actual environment of the new stadium, of course, but the Twins will have to change their roster to try to match what they’ve got. If the ball travels well, they’re going to want to ditch all their fly ball pitchers for ground ball pitchers and replace the ground ball hitters with fly ball hitters. Of course, Neyer would probably consider this “fundamentally better” baseball, and would say he was right all along. Fine. But it’s just going to be a natural process of fitting your roster to your environment.
In the end, everything probably comes out in the wash. But nobody should pretend the organization won’t lose something when it finally leaves that big old barn of a building.
Hopefully it loses a bunch of enmity from the press, who have always been annoyed that they have to travel to the untamed wilderness of Minnesota in the first place, and positively angered by the Metrodome. Beat writers will probably rave about the new stadium. Of course, Rob Neyer will continue to write bi-weekly screeds about how the Twins have no fucking business being in the major leagues, and should just send all their good players to a real team like the Red Sox.
But what really gets me is that everyone just naturally assumes that Target Field is just going to be a generic cookie cutter stadium plopped out of the same mold of a dozen others, and that the Twins won’t have a new, natural home field advantage. Everyone always gets annoyed when a new stadium has contrived “quirks,” like the crazy ass walls at Citi Field that serve no purpose but to mess with outfielders. Old stadiums had quirks because of limitations and constraints of the plot of land they were dealing with — and in case nobody noticed, Target Field is located on a lot way too small for a stadium, and is nestled between a factory and a river. It has a big ass limestone wall in right field.
Who’s to say that these constraints won’t lend themselves to some actual quirks in the new stadium that the Twins can take advantage of? Nobody knows what’s going to happen with that limestone wall. Will balls hit it and bounce unpredictably, rewarding left handed pull hitters? Imagine if every time Morneau smashed one off the baggy, it careened wildly in an unknown direction. Conversely, what if it bounces straight, and a line drive against it can fly all the way back to the infield? These are unanswered questions, but the fact that they’re there means there very well could be some home field advantage for the Twins next year. Don’t tell Neyer, he might hurt himself trying to figure out another fancy and backhanded way to say “the Twins suck.”
During the offseason, one of the glaring holes on the team was third base. With Punto “entrenched” as the shortstop, third would be manned by a mostly pathetic Buscher/Harris platoon, which would have been pretty inadequate both offensively and defensively. The main opportunities for upgrade were Casey Blake, Mark Derosa, Ty Wigginton, and Joe Crede.
Blake’s contract demands were way too high, and he went to the Dodgers. Bill Smith claimed the price to trade for Derosa was too high, so we missed on him. It was down to Wigginton vs Crede.
Wigginton was coming off his breakout season, having posted a 128 OPS+ and basically mashing the ball — Crede was coming off back surgery. Before the season, I figured Wigginton could be worth 3.0 wins, and Crede could be worth 1.9 wins (Crede’s worth was pushed down by injury risk, and Wigginton’s was probably buoyed by his strong 2008). So when the Twins claimed Wigginton wanted “Blake money” and decided to stop talking to him, I didn’t have a huge problem with it until he signed with the Orioles for Mike Lamb money. Once again, Smith looks like a liar, or an incompetent boob.
But … we have the benefit of hindsight! How have these two third baseman fared this season, and should the Twins regret this decision?
Wigginton: 91 G, .259/.306/.387, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 28 R, 40 K, 19 BB, -0.5 WAR Crede: 88 G, .229/.293/.421, 15 HR, 48 RBI, 42 R, 52 K, 29 BB, 1.9 WAR
So, yes. They’ve both seen somewhat limited duty, Crede’s due to a state of perpetual almost-injury, and Wigginton’s due to ineffectiveness. Personally, I’d rather my players be ready to play every day, but given the choice between being out because you’re hurt and being out because you suck, I think I’d have to go with hurt. Right? Gleeman’s take* on Crede’s state of “injury” this season:
Despite having to accumulate plate appearances to make money Crede has played in just 88 of 126 games, and the amazing thing is that he’s been out of the lineup 30 percent of the time without spending a second on the disabled list. Instead he’s missed 3-5 games every couple weeks, leaving the Twins to play with a 24-man roster for long stretches while essentially being “day-to-day” for five months.
Anyway, it looks like Crede’s got the advantage everywhere except in making contact and drawing walks. Overall, he’s been worth 2.4 wins more than Wigginton, which is huge, and points to the Twins having made the right decision between these two guys. (I’ll leave out whether it was good to let it get to that, but whatever.)
* By the way, I am amused that Gleeman’s article is titled “Twins getting what they paid for with Crede,” yet he doesn’t mention what they’re paying him or what he’s been worth, and doesn’t address value or cost in any way. Anyway, he’s right. Crede is guaranteed $2.5M with incentives that could push it to a total of $7M. So far this year, he’s produced $8.4M worth of value. Despite the low batting average, the lack of walks, and the nagging injuries, the Twins have actually gotten more than they bargained for when they signed Crede. Plus there was that walkoff grand slam!
Of course, Crede probably won’t be back next season, and we’re going to have to find another 3B option. Hopefully it’s Danny Valencia, and hopefully Valencia actually turns out to be good. Because the Twins have really, really struggled with that position lately.
Not coincidentally the Twins rank 11th in the 14-team league with a measly .695 OPS from third base, which is nothing new for them. Corey Koskie was Minnesota’s third baseman from 1999 to 2004, hitting .280/.373/.463 with 52 extra-base hits per 500 at-bats, but since losing him to free agency five years ago Twins third basemen have ranked 10th, 13th, 14th, 11th, and 11th in OPS among AL teams.
Who would have thought that replacing Corey Koskie would prove to be so impossible?30 comments