Central Processing: Home Field Advantage


Outside of opening day, April 12th is the next day I am anxiously awaiting.  Why April 12th?  Because that is the day that the Minnesota Twins will again be playing baseball, not in a dome, but in a brand new open air stadium.  It is a day I have dreamt of* since I was a young boy.

*For those of you not aware, I grew up in a Minneapolis suburb, I grew up a baseball fan, and I grew up absolutely hating the Metrodome.

When my wife and I were getting done with college, we sat down to discuss whether we wanted to move to Minneapolis to be near my family or to move to Kansas City to be near her family.  We weighed the pros and cons to each city and being a huge fan of baseball, I’m not ashamed to admit that the respective ballparks played a factor in my decision making.  Did I want to watch major league baseball at the sterile, dark, and cramped Metrodome or seated under a bright blue sky in the breeze at beautiful Kauffman Stadium?

Kauffman Stadium and Kansas City won out* and after 10 years there is no doubt in my mind that we made the right decision.  The Royals are my team now, but the Twins will always have a place in my heart.  Due to this connection from my childhood I’ve been following the team’s quest to get a new ballpark built and it seems like a dream that opening day at Target Field is just 71 days away.

*Sorry mom and dad!

I’ve heard and read all the nonsense about the weather, and have listened to people talk about the conditions in April and October like the Twin Cities are located in Northern Canada.  I laugh when people question whether or not the fans will turn out for early April ballgames.  No one should ever underestimate the general love for the outdoors and the love of sports that resides in each and every Minnesotan.  If you need an example see fishing, ice.

In addition to the stories about the weather, another line of articles has run parallel from the moment it was announced that the new stadium I dreamt of for so long would become a reality.  It’s the line of thinking that suggests that the Twins will be adversely impacted when they leave the “cozy” home field advantage of the Metrodome for the open expanse of Target Field.

Anytime a team switches venues there is an inherent degree of uncertainty, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the media was overselling the homefield advantage that the Minnesota Twins had enjoyed playing under the teflon roof of the Metrodome.  Sure I was aware of all the numbers, like how since 2001 they were 439-290 (0.602) at home 354-375 (0.486) on the road, but what I never saw was any mention of how that stacked up against the other teams in the AL Central.  It seemed another edition of Central Processing was in order so I started doing some research.  I used the 2000 season as the starting point to get a full 10 seasons worth of data involved.

These are the Win % of each team in the division from 2000-2009 with W-L record in parenthesis:

0.529  Chicago White Sox (857-764)
0.504  Cleveland Indians (816-804)
0.450  Detroit Tigers (729-891)
0.415  Kansas City Royals (672-948)
0.532  Minnesota Twins (863-758)

These are the records of each team while playing at home from 2000-2009:

0.576  Chicago White Sox (467-344)
0.534  Cleveland Indians (432-377)
0.488  Detroit Tigers (395-414)
0.447  Kansas City Royals (361-447)
0.587  Minnesota Twins (476-335)

It shouldn’t come as  a surprise that every team, including the Royals fared better at home.  The Twins were the best home team in the division, but they were also the best team overall in the division during the past ten seasons.  The Chicago White Sox were second in both, the Indians were third in both, and on down the line.   Teams typically play better at home, and good teams will fare better at home than mediocre ones.  It seems like an obvious point to make, but people seem to lose sight of that when they talk about the Twins and the Homer Dome.  Peter Gammons is just one of the many baseball writers, who should know better, that wrote an article on the subject with a title of “Twins bid farewell to home-dome advantage.”

The general feeling among baseball writers and fans is that the Twins have been a good team because of the Metrodome, but I think the oppositie is true.  The Twins have been able to capitalize on their home field because they have been a good team.  The home and road fates of all the AL Central teams over the last decade lead me to believe that the quality of the team in question has a much bigger say in their home winning percentage than that team’s venue does.

For the sake of argument, what would happen if the Minnesota Twins had been just a 0.500 team at the Metrodome over the last 10 seasons?  Since they played 811 games I’ll go with a 405-406 record.  The team’s total W-L record would shift from 863-758 to 792-829 and that record would still be enough to place the team in 3rd place ahead of the Tigers and the Royals.  It is also important to note that the Twins have fared better than most during the last 10 seasons on the road with a record of 387-423.  That works out to a win percentage of 0.478 which is a significant number.  It’s harder to win on the road, and the Twins have been almost a 0.500 team.

While opposing players will certainly be happy to never look up at the discolored teflon roof of the Metrodome anymore, I don’t think any Twins players, new or old, are going to miss it either.

The bottom line is that no matter how you slice it, the Twins are a good team.  Whether they play their home games in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Target Field, or Kauffman Stadium, they are going to win more than their share of games because they are an intelligent, consistent, and well-run organization.  As such, they will build their team to capitalize on the quirks and nuances that Target Field provides.

(Wally Fish is the lead blogger for Kings of Kauffman and FanSided’s MLB Director.  Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)