With Justin Morneau's comments on the Target Field fences, I thought it would be a good time to update this , which I wrote after looking at the early-season Hit Tracker data on homers at Target Field. It suggested a couple things, none of which are too mind-blowing at this point:
1. In general, home runs are hard to hit at Target Field.
2. There is nothing especially peculiar about wind or temperature effects.
3. It's a pull-hitters' park. Home runs were very bunched toward the foul lines and away from the center of the field.
These all basically hold up with a full season worth of data, although the pull-hitter factor moderated somewhat.
Via ESPN, Target Field had the smallest home-run park factor in baseball--0.64. Thus, for a team that generally hits one home run a game, you'd expect only about two home runs every three games at Target Field. A player who would usually hit 30 home runs would probably only hit about 25 playing half their games at Target Field. Despite this, the park played very normally for total run scoring, with a .96 park factor that's only very slightly below average.
Like I said, the extremity of the distribution of home runs--the pull-hitter's-park effect--did moderate somewhat over the full season. Dividing the field into 4 equal pizza slices, you get the following percentages of home runs in a given section, going from the left-field slice to the right-field slice:
At Target Field: 22% (5th largest), 39% (17th), 22% (28th), 18% (6th)
Baseball average: 19%, 39%, 30%, 13%
(This is measured from off-the-bat direction, not landing-spot location.) The biggest oddity is the right-center slice, which shouldn't be a shock to anyone who's seen this picture. There is clearly a sizable homer dead zone where the tall right-field wall goes deep into right-center field. Straight-away center was difficult to reach also.
But this didn't even make Target Field's right-center the nastiest right-center field of the year. That distinction, both in terms of percentage and total number hit, goes to AT&T Park, with only 16% of homers going toward the right-center portion. Another 9 parks had between 21 and 24% of homers go to right center, so Target Field's number is low, but not without company.
And straight-away center? About 60% of homers went to the middle half of the field, which was the 3rd-smallest amount in baseball, but six parks were between 59% and 61%. Target Field ranks 5th in terms of fewest home runs to a narrower middle quarter of the field--true straight-away center. Comerica Park is the extreme outlier here at 11% compared to Target Field's 18% and an average of 29%. So again, low, but not unheard of.
This is all to say that while Target Field did suppress home runs more than anywhere else and does have a really rough center and right-center for long balls, I don't think it's a total freak show of a ballpark. Three parks--The Cell, Coors, and New Yankee Stadium--had HR park factors more extreme than Target Field's; and they're extreme in the other direction, which I think is worse. Yankee Stadium's right-center is just stupid. Over half of all homers at Yankee Stadium went off the bat to the right-center quartile. One hundred and thirteen homers were hit that way this year, which is more than the *total* number hit in three other major league parks (Citi, McAfee, and Safeco).
That's not real baseball. That cries out "Fix me!" Similarly, Coors Field's 1.36 park factor for runs scored is more a flaw than a feature, and I'd probably say the same thing about PETCO's very low park factor, typically around 0.8. I don't think Target Field has anything that's that out-of-whack.
I don't expect the hitters to be happy about it, but I think especially given the neutral overall park factor and excellent home record, there's no reason to put up some architecturally awkward inner fence just to please the hitters.