Yes, I know, bad puns will get me nowhere. But late at night after a long day at work and it's the best I could come up with.
Some of you might recall my previous posts looking ahead to what we'll see next year from other AL Central teams. My original intent had been to build up and then start looking at what we'll see on the Twins roster next year -- although the recent win streak somewhat derailed me from the whole "next year" kick, temporarily at least.
But I got to thinking -- we don't even really know what to expect from our stadium, much less our team. We've been so conditioned to people's stats inside a dome that sees balls get lost in the ceiling or take evil hops off a seam in the carpet in half of our games. Should I maybe only evaluate our team based off of our road splits?
Let me confess, one of my guilty pleasures is reading in-game threads and posts from White Sox blogs the day after we beat them. It's kind of fun. Do you know the one thing they keep harping on? That glorious day when we leave the Metrodome and give up our Domefield advantage... yeah, they can't wait until they face us next year.
Really? I thought we were the only ones who get to look forward to our new stadium! This is just a little disconcerting to me. What's it going to be like changing from that scrappy indoor team that always beats people with things like the "Butcher Boy"? Or air conditioning?**
There are certain factors we need to take into consideration to really imagine next year: Ballpark dimensions, elevation, weather, and the composition of our team are probably the key ingredients to think about.
Left Field: 339ft.
Center Field: 404ft.
Right Field: 328ft.
These dimensions are smaller than the Metrodome all-around. They've scraped 4ft. off of the left field wall, 4ft. off the center field wall, and just a foot off the already shortened porch in right. This will be a somewhat cozier ballpark than we're used to -- and we've already had to adjust to the lack of plexiglass in our lifetime!
Now, it's no Yankee Stadium, which takes the liberty of being a whopping 21ft. shallower in left, as well as 14ft. shallower in right (though they're both just as deep in center field -- I really hated geometry), but based on these dimensions we should still probably see a few more balls leave the park than at the Dome. We've seen how many of Mauer's homeruns are to left and center, and giving him an extra 4 feet there who knows what his power numbers are going to be like?
I went through the dimensions at Clem's Baseball of other parks, and while none really exactly match the new Target Field dimensions, the two that seem to come closest are Turner Field of the Atlanta Braves, and -- U.S. Cellular Field of the Devil's Children. (Ugh, it'll almost be like they're playing at home on the road!)
Now, both of those fields have a left field porch of 335ft., center field of 400ft, and right of 330ft. That's about four feet shorter than ours will be in in left and center and just a couple feet deeper than ours in right. That's about as close as it comes all around. Now, both U.S. Cellular and Turner Field are considered somewhat "pitcher friendly", and while that doesn't necessarily equate only to the dimensions, those play a large factor.
Mountains symbolize elevation, in my mind. And, one of the most "hitter friendly" parks is widely considered to be Coors Field, home of the Rockies, which we all know is high up on a giant mountain peak where it's really hard to breathe because the air is so thin. (Citation needed.)
The principle behind why elevation has anything to do with baseball is that the ball tends to travel further in lower pressure, and it doesn't carry as well in particularly high-pressure air -- and we all know that air pressure is associated with elevation.
Two extremes: Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park is located 9 feet above sea level. Coors Field, on the other hand, is located 5,183 ft. above sea level. That's why the ball carries just a little bit further in Coors Field.
Let's look at Turner Field and U.S. Cellular though. Turner Field is on the relatively high end of the spectrum, sitting at 1,050 ft. above sea level. That's really behind only Colorado and Arizona for lowest air pressure. The Cell is about middle of the pack, at 596 ft. above sea level.
While I don't know Target Field's exact elevation, it's safe to assume it will be similar to the Metrodome's, which is 812 ft. above sea level and right behind Turner Field as the 4th highest elevation. We've had the luxury of defined air pressure which has sustained our inflated roof, so we haven't really noticed the effect of elevation on the flight of the ball in Minnesota yet.
My guess though, is that it won't make too much of a difference. Sure, the ball might carry slightly further in Minnesota than at Citizen's Bank Park, but the only place that elevation is really noticeable in its effect on a game is in Colorado, which still has around 4,000 ft. of a gap on its closest competition. Still, the ball could carry slightly further at Target Field than some other stadiums, it's just something to keep in mind.
That's what July baseball is going to look like next year. OK, so, that's an exaggeration. But that is a picture from opening day at The Met in 1965. And you may recall that The Met was in the same city as the outdoor stadium we're building now.
I would love nothing more than to fly out from New York to be there for the opening of Target Field, but, truth be told I'm worried as hell that it would be snowed out.
Here's the thing though: the average high and low in Minneapolis in April is 56/36, and in Chicago it's 58/38. In May that jumps to 68/47 in Minneapolis and 70/47 in Chicago. It averages through the 80's and 60's during June, July, and August, and then in September it drops back down to 70/50 in Minnesota and 74/54 in Chicago. October, if we get that far, is 58/38 in Minnesota, and 62/42 in Chicago. Not that different from April. (I don't want to even compare these numbers to the average temperatures in Atlanta. That's not even relevant.)
So it will certainly get chilly, and the White Sox are used to that, but the Twins will just have to start wearing long underwear all the time. Its playable. Cold air is dense, which means that in April, May, September, and October, the ball won't be carrying as far as it will in June, July, and August. The temperatures will swing dramatically between our coldest point and our warmest point, so I wouldn't be surprised if our power numbers don't start flashing until a couple months in.
What about the snow though? That picture of the Met on Opening Day in '65 is scary. In truth, the average snow fall in Minneapolis in April is 2.8 inches, and in Chicago, where they've been playing outdoor baseball for awhile, it's still 1.7 inches. It's miniscule in May, and it doesn't really register again until October when the average snowfall in Minnesota is .5 inches and in Chicago it's .4 inches. Further, the average date of the 1st inch of snow in Minnesota doesn't usually hit until November 18, and the average date of the last inch of snow is April 2nd (which isn't too bad).
So, that just leaves us with what our team will look like next year playing in that environment. The real question is, with a smaller park does that mean we want ground ball pitchers? With almost two months of the weather hindering our homerun chances, should we seek high-contact hitters primarily to supplement the power threats of Morneau and Kubel?
I'll get to some of this stuff in a later post. For now, I need to rest off before I take off to Atlantic City for a weekend of Texas Hold 'Em. Wish me luck! If I win enough, I'll give it all to Joe Mauer and maybe we'll be able to keep him around a while longer?