BP: Target Field's foul territory is key

The Twins will move into uncharted territory Monday afternoon when they open Target Field by hosting the Red Sox. The Twins will become the first team in major league history to move from a partially or totally covered stadium back to a completely outdoor stadium, as they spent their past 28 seasons at the climate-controlled and quirky Metrodome. Thus, there is no data to draw upon for teams making this transition and even very little anecdotal evidence from the two exhibition games the Twins played against the Cardinals at Target Field earlier this month.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said he felt the $565 million facility played fair, as it neither helped nor hurt the pitchers or hitters much. Three home runs were hit in each of the two exhibition games, and there were 23 runs and 40 hits combined. In the first game, which was played at night on April 2 with a game-time temperature of 65 degrees and the wind blowing out to left field at 15 mph, the teams combined for 3 homers, 12 runs and 17 hits. The next afternoon, it was 55 degrees with a 19 mph wind blowing out to right field at the start of the game, and there were 3 homers, 11 runs and 23 hits. As FanGraphs notes, weather will be a major factor in Minny.

Target Field, like so many other stadiums that have opened during baseball's building boom, seems to be built with the idea of favoring left-handed hitters, which is not a bad idea in the short term with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the middle of the Twins' lineup. The dimensions are 328 feet down the right-field line, 365 to right-center, 403 to dead center, 411 to the deepest point in left-center, 377 to the left-center gap and 339 down the left-field line. These are almost identical to the dimensions at the Metrodome. The big difference, however, is the foul territory. The Metrodome had 30,244 square feet of foul territory, while Target Field has just 22,042 square feet. When people talk about modern ballparks being smaller, it's not just that the outfield fences are closer. Less foul territory means more balls into the seats, which means more home run chances for Mauer and Morneau. This could offset the impact of weather, which will hurt power numbers.

John Perrotto is editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus.