Do you believe in magic? Because something special is happening this season at Target Field.
Home field advantage is a big deal in sports. In baseball, it can give the home team one last chance to tie or win a game. However, statistically, it’s not something that can determine a winner or loser before the game starts in baseball (if you’re wondering, college sports exhibit the biggest home field advantage effect).*
A 2011 article in Sports Illustrated reports home crowds, travel schedules for visiting teams and home field characteristics were not factors in giving home teams an advantage. However, the authors wrote, athletes had a behavioral and physiological response that gave them an edge, similar to animals who are defending their home against intruders. Interesting, no?
The Twins are doing an impressive job at defending the home turf this season at Target Field. They have a 43-27 record so far this season. That’s a strong statistic considering this is the first September homestead that’s mattered since the Twins inaugural season at the ballpark in 2010.
Eleven of the Twins remaining 18 games of the regular season will be at Target Field.
The Twins could have a rare 50+ win season at home, something they’ve just 10 times before.
In those years they’ve gone on to win the World Series, clinch divisions and have a heck of a time in the post season.
In recent years when Twins weren’t playing well, aside from the coaches and players, fans were quick to blame several factors at the ballpark. The outfield trees were distracting to batters. The next season the trees were removed and fans balked the trees took magic winning powers with them. While playing outside people complain it’s too hot or it’s too cold. The excuses were never-ending.
If a building can determine a team’s success, surely the people paid to play in it have to be factored into its winning ways too.
Before the season started manager Paul Molitor promised the Twins wouldn’t have another 90-loss season. He’s kept that promise. The team is out of the basement of the AL Central and are on track to their first winning percentage above .500 since 2010.
Veteran Torii Hunter returned to add some pop to the lineup and locker room. Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and the Twins bullpen found ways to win.
After years of waiting, fans are gleefully watching Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano’s power blossom. Their impressive rookie seasons have been filled with towering blasts into the stands and defensive gems in the outfield.
What we don’t know is how the final stretch of the season will shake out. The Twins are chasing a wild card spot with the Texas Rangers. There could be another game 163. They could play the Yankees in the post season. Or the season could wrap up on October 4th against the Royals.
Maybe it’s the ballpark, Maybe it’s the players. Maybe it’s just the Twins’ time.
Regardless, it’s fun to watch meaningful September baseball in Minnesota with hopes of playing well into October. And of course, who doesn’t enjoy those post-win clubhouse dance parties?
*Source: Moskowitz, Tobias J., and L. Jon Wertheim, “What’s Really Behind Home Field Advantage”, Sports Illustrated, 17 January 2011, pp. 65–72.