Minnesota's Power Outage: Addressing The Twins' Lack of Power In 2011
As the Twins saw their postseason dreams come to a halt at the hands of the New York Yankees this past October, the team still had plenty to be proud of as they entered the offseason. The organization had brought baseball back outdoors in Minnesota for the first time in three decades, and saw a great deal of success in doing so.
The Twins were an American League best 53-28 at Target Field, removing any doubt as to whether or not the team would still have a home field advantage without the now deflated Teflon top that the Metrodome provided.
If there was one complaint about Target Field however, it was the lack of power that the team displayed within the confines of their home turf. As a team, the Twins only hit 52 home runs at Target Field in 2010, while hitting almost twice as many on the road. The team also struck out more than 100 times at home than on the road, a sign that the players were likely working on compensating for the dimensions of this pitcher friendly ball park.
On paper, the team has the capacity to put up great numbers and score many runs, but if the team doesn't solve their power struggles and put some pop in their bats in 2011, they may find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time.
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Morneau's 2010 season may have been halted at 81 games due to the lingering effects from the concussion that he suffered while sliding into second base in Toronto, but that didn't stop him from commenting on the his impressions of the inaugural season at Target Field. During a postseason interview, Morneau complained that the gaps were too deep and were putting Twins hitters at a competitive disadvantage.
Morneau is clearly more comfortable on the road than at Target Field, as he hit 14 of his 18 home runs in 2010 on the road, and compiled a slugging percentage of .757 on the road, while slugging only .487 at home.
Morneau relies on his power to make himself one of the most feared hitters in Major League Baseball. When healthy, his numbers speak for themselves. During his MVP campaign in 2006, Morneau was a runaway choice for the honor. His 34 home runs, 134 RBIs. OPS of .934 were superior to any other player in baseball.
If Morneau is able to come back from the effects of the concussion that took him out of the Twins lineup for so long, he'll need to overcome the mental block that he's created for himself and work with the field conditions as they exist.
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As the 2010 season approached, Twins fans grew very anxious to see another breakout year from outfielder Jason Kubel. After all, Kubel's 2009 season solidified his status as an effective power hitter. In 2009, Kubel reached career highs in hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage.
Needless to say it wouldn't have been surprising if Jason Kubel didn't live up to all of those numbers as he entered the 2010 season at Target Field, but Twins' fans couldn't have expected to see the shortfall that Kubel displayed. In 2010 Kubel's overall numbers dropped in virtually every category from 2009, and the home vs. away splits show a disturbing trend.
Kubel hit 21 home runs in 2010, but 13 were away from Target Field. His batting average at Target Field was 10 points lower than on the road, and his slugging percentage and on base percentage were also lower when playing at home.
Kubel admitted after the season that he had been missing the opportunities that the Metrodome afforded hitters, and that he had been over emphasizing pulling the ball, which led to his lower production. Kubel has displayed that he has the power to be a dangerous hitter, but he'll need to gain confidence in his opposite field power in 2011 if he hopes to regain some of the numbers he saw in 2009.
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Joe Mauer had an essentially perfect season as the Twins said goodbye to the Metrodome in 2009. The numbers Mauer had compiled throughout the 2009 season earned him American League Most Valuable Player honors, and ultimately also provided him with the richest contract for a catcher in Major League history.
Mauer had never been known as a power hitter, having never hit more than 13 home runs in a season in his first five seasons with the Twins. 2009 would be a different story. Mauer would go deep 28 times in 2009, while also compiling career highs in hits (191), RBI (96), batting average (.365), slugging percentage (.587) and on base percentage (.444).
As 2010 played out in Minnesota, Mauer also fell victim to decreased productivity at home. Mauer only hit nine home runs in 2010, a sharp decline from 2009. A more shocking statistic, only ONE was hit at Target Field. Mauer also batted 25 points lower at home, slugged 118 points lower at home, and as Mauer tried ever so hard to make something happen in front of his fans, Mauer grounded into almost three times as many double plays at home.
Since Mauer was expected to be more of a contact hitter who compiled a plethora of singles and doubles, many fans will forgive Mauer for not going deep more often. But with the glimpse of Mauer's potential that fans saw in 2009, it has to be hard not to think he's playing under his potential.
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If Target Field was supposed to be a pitchers ballpark in 2010, Jim Thome didn't get the message. Thome's first season as a Twin proved to be an important key to the Twins' success in 2010, as Thome found himself in the lineup on a very regular basis after the loss of Justin Morneau.
In 108 games with the Twins in 2010, Thome hit 25 home runs (15 at home), and amassed and impressive .627 slugging percentage and 1.039 OPS. Thome was the spark that the Twins lineup often needed, providing many key pinch hits in clutch situations. His walk off blast against Chicago at Target Field put an exclamation point on his summer.
Division rivals Chicago and Detroit have made moves to solidify their run scoring capabilities as 2011 approaches, and if the Twins want to keep pace, they'd be wise to make sure Thome is still wearing a Twins jersey next season.
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Danny Valencia spent the early part of the 2010 season in Triple-A Rochester, but his early returns proved to be enough to earn him a shot in the big leagues. Valencia batted .292 in Rochester, driving in 24 runs in 185 at bats.
As the Twins entered June, the team had no clear cut starting third baseman, and had grown to expect futility from that part of the lineup. It was at that point that the team decided to give Valencia a shot, calling him up on June 3.
Valencia didn't disappoint, batting .311 in 85 games with the Twins. Valencia didn't impress anyone with his power upon arrival, as he was mainly a singles-type hitter during the early part of his tenure with the Twins. Valencia did show signs of power as the season progressed, hitting multiple grand slams for the Twins and sending a couple moonshots to Target Field's upper deck.
We haven't seen enough of a sample size to know what type of player Valencia will be in the long run, and it wouldn't be surprising to see his numbers regress from the 2010 season. But if Valencia is able to repeat his successes of his summer and fall with Minnesota last season, he'll be a very important part of the lineup in 2011.
Depending on where Jim Thome ends up next season, the Twins may need to look outside the organization to fill the power void that they'll face.
Vladimir Guerrero is a very dangerous hitter who can make an impact on a game instantly. In 2010, Guerrero hit .300, while hitting 29 home runs and driving in 115 runs. That sort of production would be a welcome addition to the Twins lineup, and could go a long ways in keeping pace with the power that the White Sox have at their disposal.
Bringing in Guerrero is a long shot at best, as he'll likely demand a salary that is outside of the Twins' comfort zone. At the same time however, the Twins have more revenue coming in than ever before, and have shown recently that they're willing to make moves to improve the talent of their team, even if it comes at a price.
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Derrek Lee would be another great option for the Twins in 2011. The Twins have long been seeking a right-handed power hitter to complement their lefties, and Lee would certainly provide the pop they're looking for.
Lee hit .260, hitting 19 home runs and driving in 80 RBIs. Lee could capitalize on the lower wall in left at Target Field, and would be a threat to shoot the gap with his power.
Lee would also come with a high price tag however. Indications are that Lee is looking for somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-10 million for a one year deal, which is likely more than the Twins are willing to pay for his services.
Chris Parmelee was the 20th overall pick of the Minnesota Twins in the 2006 MLB entry draft. Between his time in Class A Beloit and Fort Myers, Parmelee showed some signs of power, hitting at least 14 home runs per season between 2007 and 2009.
Parmelee struggled in 2010, and was ultimately demoted from Double-A to Single-A midway through the season. Parmelee did make the best of his situation, batting .285 with eight homers and 61 RBIs between class A and AA in 2010. Parmelee also earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .339 with 11 doubles and a .405 on-base percentage in 29 games.
Parmelee was added to the Twins' 40 man roster in November, and there is an outside shot that he would get a shot at showcasing his talent with the Twins in 2011, but all indications are that Parmelee is still at least a year or two from being ready for major league action.