Over the weekend the Star Tribune featured an article that discussed Justin Morneau's frustration with the lack of homeruns that were hit at Target Field in the Inaugural Season. He was quoted as saying that "right-center to left-center is ridiculous." He went on to say that hitters were impacted by the lack of homeruns because they would have to change their approach at the plate for series on the road.
ESPN breaks down the top homerun parks in something they call MLB Park Factors. This statistical analysis shows that Target Field was the hardest park to hit homeruns in during the 2010 season. Below you will see the bottom five ballparks in the homerun category.
30. Target Field (Minneapolis) 0.641
29. Safeco Field (Seattle) 0.675
28. Oakland Coliseum (Oakland) 0.701
27. Citi Field (New York) 0.719
26. Busch Stadium (St. Louis) 0.758
There are a variety of things that can go into this lack of homeruns. A team could have a great pitching staff that doesn't allow homeruns. Another excuse could be that the team might not have enough power hitters to hit homeruns.
There were many points during the early portion of the 2010 season that I would get excited at the crack of the bat when a Twins player would mash a shot to one of the power alleys. I quickly realized that there was no way that these balls were every going to make it over the fence. As a fan I quickly became aware of the points in the park where homeruns would go to die. There were numerous times that players would get "all" of a pitch and would end up walking back to the dugout shaking their head after a routine pop-out.
Nick Nelson also does a good job of looking at the flip side of Morneau's complaints. The philosophy of the Twins pitching staff is to pitch to contact and hit locations (eg. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey). When this happens there are going to be a number of balls that are put into play. Having a park in which it is hard to hit homeruns plays to the advantage of those pitch to contact pitchers.
It was the first season of the new stadium so there are going to be many parts of the stadium that the players had to adjust to. Outfielders had to get use to the new bounces off the wall. Infielders had to adjust to new bounces and a lack of foul territory. Batters had to get use to a new batting eye and the fact that the ball doesn't travel well in the gaps.
These are adjustments that needs to be made by players at every ballpark. A player playing at Fenway Park is going to approach an at-bat different than one at Wrigley Field. The parks play differently so your approach at the plate needs to be different.
Morneau was only able to play half a season at Target Field in 2010. These complaints from Morneau might be a good sign for Twins fans because we now know that he is focused on what he can do next season. Target Field might be where homeruns go to die but a healthy Morneau can make the ball soar out of any park.