clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Road Worriers

New, 25 comments

The Phillies are protecting their house, but they’re not taking care of business on the road, thanks to some strange dips in performance

Philadelphia Phillies v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The Phillies dropping two of three in a weekend series with the last-place San Diego Padres was probably not the way the team envisioned wrapping up its most recent road trip. But that’s what happened, all while a rookie starter shut them out and their former shortstop stole their lunch money.

The series loss in and of itself isn’t some cataclysm, but it’s the latest example of a worrisome trend: The Phillies have a tendency to go limp outside their home ballpark.

For whatever reason, the Phillies have an identity crisis. At home, they’re tough. They hit better. They pitch better. They battle until the last out. They have statistics so markedly better on both sides of the ball as to wonder what, exactly, is going on around here, dagnabbit. The numbers speak for themselves, and loudly.

Hitting

. G AVG OBP SLG HR R
. G AVG OBP SLG HR R
Home 56 .238 .320 .417 77 271
Away 61 .232 .314 .369 59 235

Pitching

. IP ERA Opp. AVG Opp. OBP Opp. SLG K K/9
. IP ERA Opp. AVG Opp. OBP Opp. SLG K K/9
Home 521 3.45 .230 .294 .378 587 10.1
Away 533 4.04 .252 .320 .396 465 7.9

Would you be surprised, after reading those numbers, if I told you the Phillies are 38-18 at home and 27-34 on the road? I’d bet not.

So, what gives? Why have the Phillies scored 36 fewer runs in five more games on the road than at home? Why do Phils pitchers have 122 more strikeouts at home in 12 fewer innings pitched? What does any of it mean? Well, it probably doesn’t mean anything, but that doesn’t stop it from being a little weird.

The Phillies haven’t won a road series since July 6-8 at Pittsburgh. Since then, they’ve gone 0-4-2 in six road series against the Mets, Marlins, Reds, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Padres, plus a one-game win in Baltimore on July 12. Two of those teams (Red Sox, D-backs) are bona fide contenders, while another (Reds) has played much better of late. The other three aren’t quite at the same level.

In recent years, a series loss or two to an inferior team would be acceptable. It’s baseball, these things happen, etc. etc. In the midst of a playoff push, these losses sting a little bit more, and tolerance for these lapses, against teams the Phils should probably beat two out of three times, is being tested.

Let’s look at how the regulars are performing at home and away.

Regulars Home vs. Away

Player Home AVG Away AVG Diff. Home OBP Away OBP Diff. Home SLG Away SLG Diff.
Player Home AVG Away AVG Diff. Home OBP Away OBP Diff. Home SLG Away SLG Diff.
Jorge Alfaro .232 .266 .034 .292 .325 .033 .359 .406 .047
Carlos Santana .257 .179 -.078 .386 .321 -.065 .487 .317 -.170
Cesar Hernandez .236 .286 .050 .355 .391 .036 .335 .406 .071
Maikel Franco .281 .277 -.004 .303 .336 .033 .497 .467 -.030
Scott Kingery .222 .223 .001 .269 .263 -.006 .345 .299 -.046
Rhys Hoskins .258 .248 -.010 .370 .361 -.009 .526 .460 -.066
Odubel Herrera .275 .265 -.010 .335 .315 -.020 .485 .419 -.066
Nick Williams .261 .265 .004 .346 .325 -.021 .478 .448 -.030
Andrew Knapp .225 .211 -.014 .273 .336 .063 .366 .344 -.022

The considerable drops in Santana’s numbers obscure even the closest challengers. Hits away from home are just not falling for him. In the non-Carlos division, nearly everyone has seen a big chunk of the SLG get lopped off once they hit the road. The lone exceptions in all cases, Alfaro and Hernandez, are doing their very best to counteract this supposedly team-wide trend, but even those counterweights can only do so much for the full team’s performance.

How about the pitching? Where does that giant drop in K rate hit the hardest? For this table, I’m going to switch from K/9 to K%, to get a better feel for strikeout drops on a total batter basis, rather than just denominating by outs.

Pitchers Home vs. Away

Player Home IP Away IP Diff. Home ERA Away ERA Diff. Home K% Away K% Diff.
Player Home IP Away IP Diff. Home ERA Away ERA Diff. Home K% Away K% Diff.
Aaron Nola 74 80 6 2.07 2.48 0.41 27.1 22.3 -4.8
Jake Arrieta 62.2 69.2 7 3.02 3.62 0.60 20.5 14.8 -5.7
Vince Velasquez 64 53.2 -10.8 4.78 3.02 -1.76 30.3 22.5 -7.8
Zach Eflin 42 48.2 6.2 3.21 3.88 0.67 25.9 21.1 -4.8
Nick Pivetta 67.1 52.1 -15 4.14 4.99 0.85 31.6 26.1 -5.5
Seranthony Dominguez 21 20.1 -0.9 2.14 2.66 0.52 35.4 31.6 -3.8
Victor Arano 23.1 21.1 -2 1.54 2.53 0.99 25.3 27.9 2.6
Edubray Ramos 13 20 7 0.69 2.70 2.01 25.0 23.8 -1.2
Tommy Hunter 20.1 23.2 3.1 4.43 3.42 -1.01 23.6 14.7 -8.9
Adam Morgan 17.2 16 -1.2 4.08 5.06 0.98 22.7 23.7 1
Austin Davis 13 10 -3 1.38 8.10 6.72 40.0 14.6 -25.4

First, your usual caveats. The sampling is a little haphazard; I included the full current rotation, but only a smattering of relievers from reasons ranging from IP samples (Pat Neshek) to sadness (Hector Neris). And the stat selection of IP and ERA is meant to give a teeny bit of context to the third set, because the K% dips are wild.

Davis’s is obviously a bit insane thanks to smaller samples of innings, but leaving him aside, seven other pitchers’ K rates have dropped by nearly four percent or more. The fewer the strikeouts, the more balls in play (or leaving the yard) to be fielded by a defense that’s been suspect. The end result, as you see a couple tables above, is 22 extra points of opponents’ batting average on a BABIP that’s only .006 higher on the road than at home.

Again, I won’t say I’ve found a meaning for this. The number of variables - from umpire, to weather, to quality of opponent, to pitch sequencing - makes this an incredibly complex thing to solve for. It could just be a combination of all of those things, or maybe something we just can’t quantify is part of the mix. Does the batters’ eye give opposing hitters fits at CBP? Have hitters choked up more when facing the Phils at home? The answer might elude us all season.

Regardless, the results between home and away games have been incredibly discrepant for the Phillies. If they’re going to continue to be a legitimate contender, it’d sure be a huge help to get rid of these road game bugaboos and pick up some more series wins going forward.