Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lack of power could play well at Target Field

With the signing of Jason Marquis during last week, the Twins roster for the 2012 season is close to being finalized. There is a small amount of room in the payroll to possibly add a bullpen arm but only time will tell if the Twins move in this direction. The pieces of the line-up are in place for next year and this makes it easier to predict the offensive production this nine-man line-up will be able to produce over the course of the season.

Some writers, like Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN, have predicted that a healthy Twins line-up could vault the Twins to the top of the American League in their ability to produce runs. Obviously, this is only an estimate and the health of many of the key pieces is still in question. Even if the Twins do put more runs on the scoreboard, the pitching staff is going to have to allow a lot fewer runs to bring the team back into contention in the American League Central.

After the second full season at Target Field, the Twins organization knows a lot more about the intricacies of their new ballpark. The team has found some difficulties in the power department in their new home and they even tried to improve the batter's eye in center field. This means it is easier for the Twins to create a line-up on the field that is built for the quirks of Target Field.

Here are the Bill James predictions as posted on FanGraphs.com for each player that figures to be in the Twins starting line-up for 2012:

Denard Span: .288/.361/.379, 4 HR, 41 RBI, 64 R, 16 2B
Jamey Carroll: .274/.353/.332, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 45 R, 12 2B
Joe Mauer: .326/.412/.466, 11 HR, 71 RBI, 77 R, 31 2B
Josh Willingham: .248/.352/.460, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 71 R, 29 2B
Justin Morneau: .288/.369/.494, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 39 R, 18 2B
Ryan Doumit: .275/.335/.443, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 46 R, 26 2B
Danny Valencia: .278/.328/.420, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 46 R, 24 2B
Alexi Casilla: .264/.331/.347, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 52 R, 15 2B
Ben Revere: .280/.325/.326, 0 HR, 30 RBI, 56 R, 13 2B

With each of these players starting half of their games at Target Field, the potential to hit home runs is significantly decreased because of the way that the field plays. The large gaps in the outfield and high fence in right make a few home runs trots turn into stand-up doubles. There are not a lot of home run threats in this starting nine but that could be put together by design.

If the middle of the line-up is composed of a healthy Mauer, Morneau and Willingham, there is plenty of potential to see the ball fly out of the park. The Twins have also surrounded their key middle of the line-up pieces with players who can get on-base at a very consistent clip. After the putrid offensive output in 2011, it would be a welcome sight to see runs on-base at a higher rate.

There are three players the Twins will be relying on next year to be in the starting line-up who have little power potential. Carroll, Casilla, and Revere will be lucky to hit the three projected home runs as Bill James predicted in the above chart. The speed of Casilla, Revere and Span as back-to-back-to-back hitters in the line-up could be fun to watch on the base paths. Ozzie Guillen might be gone from the AL Central but the little piranhas could be all over the field for the Twins.

In the end, the Twins will not be slugging the ball out of many ball parks in American but that looks to be by design. Target Field has played to hitters who aren't trying to smack the ball over the fence with every swing. The organization limited their budget this year so going to get a player big name slugger like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols was out of the question.

The line-up the Twins has for 2012 projects to score more runs than last season...

And that has to be a welcomed thought for all Twins fans. 


TT said...

Its hard to see how those numbers for Morneau indicate a healthy player. Morneau hit 18 HR's in 2010 in half a season. Those guesses look like the results of a statistical algorithm, rather than a realistic appraisal of offensive production.

thrylos98 said...

Yeah... I take those projections with a grain of salt the size of Dead Sea. If you add the runs from all these players they add to >500 so they are actually "projecting" way worse than last season :)

thrylos98 said...

make that <500 sorry

NoDak Twins Fan said...

The projections did not have all of these players in 150+ games. Plus there would be bench players who would also be contributing to the run total for the season. I was focusing on the nine projected starters at this point