By now the amazing season that Justin Morneau is having isn’t just a well-kept secret in the Minnesota area. Indeed, there are dozens of baseball fans outside of the Twin Cities buzzing about Morneau’s performance. 

But there is more than meets the eye to the season Morneau is having, and Morneau’s numbers are, I dare say, more impressive than they seem.

For the record, Morneau is currently the American League leader in all of your RSL categories, with a .374 average, a .491 on-base percentage, a .710 slugging percentage, and a 1.201 OPS.  He also leads the AL in OPS+ with a  robust 225, and in bases-on-balls with 30.

This has translated well into the SABRmetrics as well: Morneau leads the majors in WAR, runs created, adjusted batting runs, adjusted batting wins, offensive winning percentage, and situational wins added.

And consider this crazy factoid: Morneau already has more adjusted batting runs in 2010, through 36 games played, than he did in all of 2009, in 135 games.

I don’t know what any of that means, but it seems to me that he is dominating baseball.

Now, if you’re paying attention to the Minnesota Twins at all, then the first thing that occurred to you when I read you all of those numbers is: It must be the new ballpark. It was certainly the first thing that occurred to me. If Morneau is a new player, and he has become that new player in the first season in his new home park, then the new home park must be responsible. Right?

And that, my friends, is where this gets interesting. Let’s take a little trip down to Splitsville and examine just what effect Morneau’s new home park has had on him.

Justin Morneau has played 18 games at home and 18 games on the road. In 18 home games, he has 77 plate appearances. In 18 road games, he has 84 plate appearances.


Homeruns: Justin Morneau has hit 11 homeruns this season.  Nine of them have come on the road.

RBI: Justin Morneau has 29 RBI on the season in 2010.  20 of them have come on the road.

Hits: Morneau has 49 hits this season, 27 of which have come on the road (as opposed to 22 at home).  Of his nine doubles this season, six have come on the road.

Walks and Strikeouts: Morneau has drawn 30 walks and struck out 28 times this season.  Curiously, 17 of his have come at home, while his strikeouts have been split evenly.

Total Bases: Morneau has had 33 of his 93 total bases—just less than a third—at home.

RSL Stats: Morneau’s batting average and on-base percentage are roughly even at home and on the road—.367/.380 and .506/.476—but get this: because of the doubles and homerun advantages on the road, his slugging percentage is nearly 300 points higher on the road—.550/.845—which has roughly the same effect on his OPS—1.056/1.321.

If you’ve paid any attention to Justin Morneau’s career, you anticipated his numbers going up this season because, well, it is an even numbered year. Just like Alex Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, and Bret Saberhagen before him, Justin Morneau is one of the most drastic every-other-season guys in baseball.

Check out this stat: Morneau’s OPS and batting runs numbers have never increased or decreased in consecutive seasons during his career. Even numbered years are always up seasons, and odd numbered years are always down seasons:

Year        OPS+       ABR

2003        73           -4.5

2004       121           8.0

2005        93           -6.3

2006       140          36.0

2007       122          19.0

2008       134          32.8

2009       129          22.9

2010       225          24.3

Nevertheless, there is no way anyone could have anticipated an “up” year quite like this one.

So what does it all mean?

Short story: Justin Morneau is playing the best ball in the American League despite actually being hurt by his own home park.  Considering the fact that he is currently third in the major leagues with 11 homeruns, it would appear that if he’d played all his games on the road so far this season, he would be running away with a homerun crown.

More importantly, though, it means that Justin Morneau has escaped a nasty American League trend. Remember, Justin Morneau’s 2009 season was curtailed in mid-September when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back, and he ended up missing the last two weeks of the season as well as the Twins’ improbably run to the playoffs.

But so far in 2010, Morneau has made it clear that he is fully recovered from his injury, and he has also loudly declared that any dip in his numbers last season were the result of injuries, and not an indication that he is anything but one of the elite hitters in the American League.

We’re listening Justin. There are dozens of us who can hear you loud and clear.

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