Road Home Runs Raise Questions

In the eighth-inning of yesterday’s 5-1 loss to Philadelphia (box score), rookie second baseman Paul DeJong launched the Cardinals’ twentieth – and final – home run of the 6-game road trip.  Even though St Louis finished the game with that lone marker, they averaged 6.5 runs per game in their journey through Baltimore and Philadelphia – two of the more inviting offensive ballparks in the league.

The home run notwithstanding, the Cardinals finished the game with only four hits on the afternoon – principally against Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola.  That was also a pronounced trend – not just during this road trip, but all season on the road.  They finished the road trip with just 54 hits and a .247 batting average.  Thirty-seven percent of their hits on the trip were home runs.

Earlier this month, the Cards embarked on a 7-game trip through Chicago and Cincinnati – losing all of those games.  They managed just 6 home runs – and consequently 20 total runs – on that trip, hitting .212 against two pitching staffs that have not set the world on fire this year.  This disappointing June that has seen the Cards go 8-13 so far is really a story of a team that has been 5-3 in their few home games this month, and 3-10 on the road, where they have not pitched well at all, and where they have hit only .229.

For the season, St Louis is scoring significantly more on the road (4.66 rpg v 4.03 at home), but doing it pretty much through the home run.  As we limp home, this team has now played 35 games on the road and 36 at home.  They are hitting .246 on the road, but with 51 home runs in those 35 games.  At home, the team batting average improves to .257, but with only 34 home runs (in 36 games).

This extends the pattern that lasted all last season, where the road-Cardinals hit 121 home runs and scored 424 runs (5.23 per), while the home-Cardinals managed 104 home runs and 355 runs (4.38 per).

Offensively, the numbers continue to suggest that this team is – perhaps – mismatched for the ballpark they play in.

Matt Carpenter

Matt Carpenter keeps walking.  He drew another walk yesterday and finished the road trip drawing 10 of the 23 walks St Louis had on the trip.  But after a single and a home run in the first game in Baltimore, the hits have stopped coming for the Cardinals newly re-instated leadoff hitter.  He is 1 for 15 (.067) over the last 5 games.  He was only 4 for 23 (.174) during the 0-7 road trip that proceeded this one.  During the Cardinals’ eight home games this month, Matt is hitting .419 (13 for 31) and slugging .742 (he has 7 doubles and a home run at home so far this month), so maybe the return to Busch will bring happier times for Carpenter.

Even though he is only hitting .171 on the road so far this month, he has hit 3 home runs away from home.  For the season, 8 of his 13 have come on the road.  Last year he hit .296 at home with 9 home runs, while he hit 12 homers on the road with a .247 batting average.

Jedd Gyorko

As he has started to hit more to right field, the difference in Jedd Gyorko at home and on the road is growing more pronounced.  Last year, Jedd hit .257 at Busch with 12 home runs and a .485 slugging percentage.  This year, the average at home has gone up (.269), but with a decline in power (4 home runs, .444 slugging percentage).  He hit .231 on the road last year with 18 home runs and a .502 slugging percentage.  This year, so far, Gyorko is 37 for 117 (.316) away from home, and slugging .564 on 6 doubles, a triple, and 7 home runs.

Gyorko’s name could be added to the prominent bats that have not prospered in spacious Busch.

Aledmys Diaz

Aledmys Diaz finished up a disappointing road trip on an 0-for-8 skid after his 0-for-3 yesterday.  He finished the trip with 3 singles and 1 walk for his 21 plate appearances – a .150/.190/.150 line.

Aledmys hasn’t had the best June either.  He is down to .242 for the month (16 for 66) with 3 walks (a .275 on base percentage).

Other Prominent Bats

Two of the most slanted home/road splits on the team belong to outfielders Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham.  These two have combined for 15 home runs this season.  All on the road.  Tommy is a .345/.439/.726 hitter on the road, and just a .200/.275/.217 hitter at home.  In 69 plate appearances this season at Busch, Tommy has one extra-base hit (a double).  In 226 career plate appearances at Busch, Tommy is a .217 hitter with 5 home runs.  The falloff in Piscotty is a little surprising.  During his first 115 games at Busch from 2015-2016, Stephen hit .311 with 18 home runs in 427 at bats.  He is hitting .244 this year at home.

Of batters going the other way, the only two of any note are Dexter Fowler (who is slashing .275/.377/.565 in his 36 games at home, while batting just .217/.294/.396 on the road), and Kolten Wong.  Wong (whose concept seems to have changed from middle infielder with pop to high batting average/high on base) is hitting .359/.443/.533 at home vs. .213/.319/.311 on the road.  Kolten had been a .239 lifetime hitter in 686 at bats at Busch before this season.

Carlos Martinez

Yesterday wasn’t the best we’ve seen Carlos Martinez, but he still managed a solid effort, going 6 innings and allowing just 3 runs (2 earned).  Even though he was tagged for the loss, Carlos extended his quality start streak to three in a row and 10 of his last 11, a stretch that has seen Carlos go 6-3 with a 2.32 ERA and a .181 batting average against.  Of his 15 starts this season, this is the sixth time that the Cardinals have scored no runs for him while he was in the game.

During his first two years in the rotation, Carlos was a dominant pitcher on the road.  He made 29 road starts over those seasons, posting a 17-5 record (one of those losses coming in relief) with a 2.50 ERA, a .215 batting average against and a .315 slugging percentage allowed.  In 187.1 road innings those years, he served up only 9 home runs.  Through 7 road starts this year, Carlos has 4 quality starts, a 2-5 record with a 4.29 ERA.  He still isn’t getting hit very often (.235 batting average against), but has been touched now for 7 home runs in 42 road innings.

Conversely, up until this season, Carlos has never truly appreciated the joys of pitching at Busch.  In his four previous seasons in St Louis, Carlos has pitched in 80 home games – 36 as a starter.  He began this year with 18 career quality starts at home, a 15-13 record, and a 3.75 ERA, featuring a .262 batting average against.  In 2017, Carlos has thrown 7 quality starts among his 8 home starts so far.  The results have been a 4-1 record and a 1.85 ERA.  Opponents are hitting just .174 against the talented right-hander at home and have managed just 3 home runs in 58.1 innings.  If these trends persist, we may start floating theories that might explain them.

Home/Road Splits of Other Starters

Martinez’ home/road splits are generally the same throughout the rotation – and most are even more dramatic.

Adam Wainwright has made 7 home starts.  Three of those have been quality starts.  In his 40.2 innings at Busch he has been reached for 2 home runs.  His record at home this season is 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA.  Adam on the road has also made 7 starts – just one a quality start.  He has combined for just 31.1 innings in those games, during which he has served up 6 home runs.  He is 2-4 on the road with a 9.48 ERA, a .356 batting average against, and a .585 slugging percentage allowed.

The schedule has tilted most of Lance Lynn’s starts to fall on the road so far this year (9 of his 14).  As with most of the rest of the staff, this hasn’t worked out all that well for him.  He has pitched just 49 innings over those 9 starts and has served up 13 home runs (2.39 per every 9 innings).  He is 2-3 with a 4.41 ERA on the road.  He is 3-1, 1.53 at home.

Eight of Michael Wacha’s 13 starts have been at home – and the results have been effective enough.  Through those 8 starts, Wacha has 5 quality starts, 43.2 innings pitched, 3 home runs allowed, while going 3-1 with a 3.50 ERA.  Only one of Wacha’s road starts was a quality start.  Through his 5 road starts, Michael has given us 24.1 innings, 5 home runs, an 0-2 record, and a 7.03 ERA.  He has been hit at a .346 clip in his road games.

Of the Cardinal starters, only Mike Leake has managed a level of home/road balance.  Leake has actually been better in his 7 road starts (4-2, 2.76) than his 7 home starts (1-4, 3.30).

The team ERA is 3.34 at home and 4.91 on the road, with the starters showing the most variance.  They have combined to go 16-8 with a 2.80 ERA at home, and 10-16 with a 5.15 ERA on the road.  It may well be true that the spaciousness of Busch works significantly against the productiveness of the offense.  It may also well be true that the spaciousness of Busch is the only thing keeping most of the Cardinal starters afloat.

Matthew Bowman

With a good seventh inning yesterday, Matthew Bowman continues to make progress.  In 10.1 innings this month, Matthew carries a 1.74 ERA and a .206 batting average against.

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