Twins start off season well in new Target Field
May 7, 2010
After completing a three game sweep over the Detroit Tigers Wednesday afternoon, the Twins improved their home record to 9-3. They are one of four teams that have lost three games or fewer at home this season, and to no surprise, all four teams are in the top five in terms of best record in baseball.
I know it’s still early in the season, but, we do have a one-month sample of how teams are looking so far this year. The eight teams that would make it to the playoffs if the season ended today all rank in the top eleven teams with the best home records. Ironically, the Tampa Bay Rays are the only team that doesn’t fit this scenario as they have the eleventh-best home record, yet have the best overall record in baseball thanks to their 10-1 away record.
Back to the Twins though. They have posted this home record while breaking in a new ballpark. So, the big question here is, is it the team has so much talent that it doesn’t matter where they play, or have the Twins found early home-field advantage where they have the edge over visiting teams? I believe it’s a combination of both. This team has one of the most complete starting lineups in baseball, with their only question mark at third base. The Twins pitching staff ranks fifth in the American League and ninth in the MLB. We also have to remember this team has played only twelve games at home, and nine of the twelve games have been against teams under .500. The only team they have played that has a winning record at the moment is the Detroit Tigers.
A team with new a ballpark isn’t uncommon in this era; 28 of the 30 teams have ballparks that have been built between 1962 and 2010. The only two teams that have ballparks that were built before 1962: the Boston Red Sox who play at Fenway Park, which was built in 1912, and the Chicago Cubs, who play at Wrigley Field and built in 1914. Old Yankee Stadium was built in 1923 and was used until the 2008 season, when the Yankees moved into their new ballpark for the 2009 season.
Determining whether the team has found comfort in their new ballpark early or if the team is just that good is hit or miss. In 2004 the San Diego Padres opened up their new ballpark, Petco Park. On May 5th, 2004 the Padres posted an 11-5 record at home. By the end of the season, the Padres finished third in NL West with an 87-75 record and actually had a better away record than home record. On the contrary, the New York Yankees posted a 6-5 home record on May 5th, 2009 yet finished with baseball’s best home record and won the World Series. There are times when teams start out hot with their new ballpark and stay that way. The St. Louis Cardinals opened up Busch Stadium in 2006. By May 5th, 2006, the Cardinals were 12-4. By the end of the year the Cardinals had the fifth best home record in baseball and won the World Series. On the contrary, the Cincinnati Reds opened up Great American Ball Park in 2003. The Reds posted an 8-8 record on May 5th, 2003. By the end of the year, the Reds had one of the worst records in best ballpark and finished eleven games under .500 at their new home.
Now the teams could have just been that bad or that good to begin with and had nothing to do with the ballparks. But just maybe some teams can break in their new ballpark quicker than others. The question now: will the Twins fade as the season goes on like the 04’ Padres, or will they have late-season success like the 06’ Cardinals and 09’ Yankees?
Derek Johnson is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.