The Twins are moving outdoors in 2010. Although the dimensions of brand new Target Field are virtually identical to those at the Metrodome, the implications of the move are enormous.
Somewhat intuitively, the artificial turf at the Metrodome led to fewer outs, more singles and more doubles on groundballs than at the average park. Twins batters might expect a dip in their batting average due to the move, especially those (Joe Mauer, Denard Span) who have thrived on big-time groundball success.
More important, however, may be the new park's potential impact on flyballs. In the cold Minnesota months of April and early May, the park will be a little less friendly than was the Dome for power hitters. During the summer months, however, home runs could fly out of the park considerably more often than at the Dome due to the added heat and humidity.
From a pitching perspective, the impact of the move is reversed: Twins hurlers who struggled to get outs on the ground in 2009 will get a little help, particularly during the early months.
The Metrodome both inflated strikeout rates and deflated walk rates. While it's hard to predict how that trend will transfer into such a radically different environment, it seems certain both traits will be muted somewhat. That could really hurt some clubs, but Minnesota drills command and pitching to contact into their hurlers from Day 1.
Manager Ron Gardenhire has few qualms about using his bullpen early and often, if needed: The Twins averaged the fewest pitches per start in the AL and bequeathed the second-highest number of base-runners to relievers. Injuries and youth made that even more of a necessity.
Carlos Gomez's glove will be missed in center field, but the downgrade to Span is much smaller than the upgrades made in the middle infield, where J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson make up one of the AL's better double-play duos, even with Hardy's range on a negative slope. Nick Punto's move to third base, where he'll be part of a platoon, has been long overdue.
Joe Mauer is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the bigs, but he has been throwing out runners less frequently for the past two seasons.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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