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Home Wreckers?

The news that the Phillies won yesterday's coin toss with the Dodgers over the site of a potential "play-in" game on October 2 has been received less with joy than trepidation among the Phaithful. Attentive Phillies-watchers have seen all season that this team, in contradiction to everything we generally "know" about baseball, plays better on the road than at Citizens Bank Park. Even after last night's 6-2 win over the hapless Cubs, the Phils sit below .500 at CBP for the year, at 38-39. Their road record, by contrast, is 41-34; only the Yankees, Tigers, A's and Mets have been better, and all those teams will be playing next month. The only other teams with better road records than home records are the Rangers, Braves and (interestingly enough) Padres.

In context, the Phils are tied for the fourth-worst home record in the majors, with Baltimore; only the Braves (36-39), Royals (34-44) and Cubs (33-43) are worse. Those four teams (including the Orioles) are a combined 89 games under .500; the Phils, as of this morning, are six over. As Paul Hagen pointed out yesterday, only one team, the 2001 Braves, has ever made the playoffs with a losing record at home.

It's difficult to figure out why the team has struggled in what should be friendly confines--or, for that matter, why they've played so well on the road.

The club's hitting has been a bit better at home--though perhaps not as much as you'd expect given CBP's rep. The Phils as a team are batting .270/.349/.457/.807 there, compared to .259/.339/.434/.774 away. Chase Utley has been better at CBP (.933 home OPS, .839 road), as has Jimmy Rollins (.840/.763). And Mike Lieberthal goes from sub-Nunez to Pujols-ish when he gets to unpack: 1.008 at CBP, .615 everywhere else. But Ryan Howard has been slightly better away (1.107/1.060), as were Bobby Abreu and David Bell before they were traded. And Pat Burrell--who had a huge home/road split last year--has virtually no split this year. Dellucci, Victorino, Rowand and Coste also have had essentially the same performance wherever they've played.

How about the pitching (home stats; road stats)? Well, the struggles of Arthur Rhodes at CBP were both well-documented and very real: the veteran lefty pitched to a solid 3.81 ERA on the road, but a pig-ugly 7.32 at home.  And Tom Gordon has been signficantly worse in South Philly as well: 4.50 vs. 1.65. Jon Lieber has a 5.40 ERA at home compared to 4.60 away; presumably this was a lot closer before his Monday meltdown against the Cubs. But the rest of the starters are all pretty close:

Myers: 3.73 home, 4.15 away
Hamels: 4.30/4.14
Wolf: 5.24/5.67
Lidle: 4.94/4.40

In a very small sample size, Jamie Moyer is two runs to the good in front of friends and family (2.51 vs. 4.50). Overall, the staff has a 4.67 ERA at home--and a 4.64 on the road. They've allowed considerably more home runs at CBP, 113 to 85, but have compensated by giving up much less of everything else.

Given that they're hitting better at home and essentially pitching no worse, you'd expect the Phils to join the rest of the baseball universe and have a better home mark. That they aren't, and considering how front-loaded the schedule was with home contests, suggests that maybe the team started playing better at CBP around when they started playing better everywhere else: late July.

But that doesn't totally hold water either. Check out the month-by-month home mark:

April: 5-10
May: 11-6
June: 2-7
July: 9-8
August: 6-4
September: 5-4

Since the trade deadline, in other words, the Phillies are 11-8 at home. Over the same span, they're 19-10 on the road.

If anybody feels like doing some quality-of-opponent analysis--by which I mean how good the opposition was playing at the time we saw  them--maybe that would shed some light. I'm just baffled, though. And I hope that for these last four home dates and, if the baseball gods so will it, more to come in October, a home-field advantage manifests itself.