"Target Field could very well be the AL version of Petco"

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Thumbnail image for target-field-100407.jpgThat’s the verdict of a Yale physicist who deftly notes that it’s colder outside at night in Minneapolis than it is inside the dome and a sabermetrician who has studied the effects of cold air on the trajectory of baseballs and has noted a few interesting things about the prevailing winds in Minnesota.

But like I said the other day, this stuff is just way too premature. No one knows what’s going to happen in a ballpark until a team plays in it. Yankee Stadium v.3 was supposed to play just like v.2 did and it didn’t in its first year. AT&T park was supposed to substantially favor hitters.  Yes, I know there is some science behind the predictions here, but my dad was a meteorologist for 40 years and he’ll be the first one to tell you that predictions that are based, at least in part, on prevailing winds are rendered mostly meaningless once you, you know, put a bunch of buildings in front of those winds.  He’ll also tell you that those guys on your local TV news “Storm Team” who freak out every time a snowflake falls need should be taken out and shot for desensitizing the public to legitimate severe weather warnings, but that’s another post.

I will close by noting that both Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have more home runs and higher career slugging percentages away from the old dome than in it, and those include a lot of games in a big cold park in Detroit. Upshot: don’t worry your pretty little heads about it, Twins fans.

UPDATE: For a bonus look at outdoor baseball in Minnesota — a look way, way back in time, actually — check out The Daily Something today.  Great stuff.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉