Beau left this comment in response to The Franchise 1998 (Part 1):
I know it’s been beat to death, but what’s the prevailing theory as to why the Twins haven’t had a lot of boppers? Unlike the Royals, the Twins have had success lately, and even then, there wasn’t a lot of homers.
Many blame the Twins philosophy on stunting David Ortiz. Perhaps that’s partly true, but if Ortiz had flashed 50 homer power early on, I think the Twins would have let him do that.
Has it just been the lack of focusing on power in the draft? Or is home run power too hard to predict that early on?
Also, go Sano!
I figured this is worth its own post.
When the franchise first moved to Minnesota in 1961, the team had several boppers and were at or above league average in home runs every season from 1961-1967, including AL-leading totals in 1963 and 1964. In 1968, when nobody hit home runs, they were slightly below the AL average, then were above average in the two years in which they won the division (1969, 1970).
The 1971 season began a stretch in which the team was below league average in home runs 14 out of 15 years, with the lone exception being the 1983 season when they hit 141 home runs and the league average was 136.
Then, 1986 happened. The Twins hit 196 home runs, just two behind the league leading Detroit Tigers. They hit the same number in 1987, but that is the crazy outlier year when balls started flying out of parks everywhere, so they only had the 5th most home runs in the league (Detroit led again with 225). By 1989 the team was back below average. In 1991, the Twins were the league average home run team with 140.
Since 1991, the Twins have been above the AL average mark in home runs exactly once: 2004. They were dead last in 2011 and 2012.
One season in the last 22.
While 30, 40, and 50 home run players have been a dime a dozen in baseball since 1991, the Twins have produced exactly six seasons of 30 or more home runs for a single player (Morneau 2006, 2007, and 2009; Hunter 2006; Cuddyer 2009; Willingham 2012). Not a single Twin has hit more than 40 home runs in a season since Harmon Killebrew hit 41 in 1970.
Beau’s question, of course, is why this has been the case.
It does not appear to be a function of park factors. While Target field has slightly favored pitchers in its short history, the Metrodome averaged out to be a park that slightly favored batters. Neither park has been a launching pad but they weren’t exactly Yellowstone to the rest of the league either.
So, it’s the players. Is that the way the Twins prefer to draft them, or have they just had bad luck?
Seems to me like it might be a little bit of both. There was a time when it was common to hear Dick and Bert drop the old cliche about pitching and defense, or how you can’t expect to hit home runs every game but you can always bring speed to the ballpark. There is certainly an organizational emphasis on fundamentals, but it is hard to imagine that any team would completely avoid all power hitters.