Monday, August 14, 2006

The Challenge?

Ok, so I may ruffle a few feathers, but stick with me here. I am not accusing anyone of anything, I just want to do some research...and I am looking for some help.

The Sox only have 3 hitters who are over the .270 on the road. Most are well below that mark. Manny, Ortiz, and Lowell are the three.

At home, the only 2 regulars NOT over .270 are Varitek and Lowell. In fact, Youkilis (.324), Loretta (.339), Pena (.363), Manny (.356), Gonzalez (.338), Nixon (.338), Crisp (.315), and Cora (.339) are all over .300!!!

Now I know that there is a home-field advantage thing. But how is this really possible for everyone? It's not like they are all pounding the green monster enough to have averages 60-70 (and sometimes more) higher.

Mike Lowell, by the way, is the only hitter on the Sox OVER .300 on the road and does not do well (.254) at Fenway.

So, why did I call this post "The Challenge"? The challenge is to come up with viable reasons for an entire team crushing at home, and being generally below average on the road, at the plate.

For the life of me, I can only think of one or two possible reasons for some improvement, but not improvement at this level...Sleeping at home and not in a hotel room. Having extended series at home without traveling. The monster (may help a little...certainly Lowell's grand slam yesterday is not a home run in most parks, rather a fly ball). But what else? What are some other theories? Of course, other teams have claimed the Sox have a camera somewhere, but I think that is weak...For the most part, once pitchers decide on what pitch to throw, even if the dugout can whistle or clap or yell or whatever, the pitch is being thrown and there isn't enough time to adjust.


  1. They're big boys. It shouldn't matter what or whose bed they're sleeping in. But right now, in the middle of August, and 2 out in the lost column, ya gotta feel good.

  2. Peter, I'm sure you've traveled...Sometimes it is easier to just sleep at home. And, you get to bed earlier (most times)...and you aren't living out of a suitcase...and you aren't sharing a room...big boys or not it is possible it sucks going on long road trips and you aren't as rested.

    Still doesn't account for the huge gap in averages, though...

    And I am not so comfortable trailing the Yankees right now. Hell, the team lost 5 of 6 to the D-Rays and KC. Just because they swept an Orioles team they dominate means nothing.

    They are two back in the loss column, but they still have a lot of questions...

  3. Interesting point - I hadn't noticed that split before. (Though it's certainly reflected in the home-away won-loss percentages!). Two thoughts:

    - it's a statistical abberration. Seriously - stuff like that could just happen.

    - I'm not sure how this might ttranslate to BA, but this year Fenway is the hardest park in baseball to a home run in. It sounds insane, but check this out. That could be from new cosntruction, either on the .406 club or elsewhere. [I commented on this back in February.] Ortiz only has 14 (of 41) HR in Fenway; Manny only 13 (of 32). That's ridiculous. Like I said, I have no idea what that means for BA, but it's hard to imagine it's unrelated.

  4. Interesting point Earl, but wouldn't a decrease in HR spell more fly outs and therefore have an equal affect on average?

  5. Yeah, that's sort of a problem, isn't it? My point is just there's another massive home-away split, that also needs to be considered.

    Maybe Sox are swinging for the fences in other (HR-friendly) parks and not in Fenway? Now I'm reaching...

  6. Questec? or however it is spelled might have something to do with it.

    The decrease in HRs might explain why Beckett gives up the vast majority of his bombs on the road.

    However, last year the HR thing held true, as well.

    The averages were a little more consistent home and away last year, but there was still a considerable home field advantage.

    I am looking at other teams to see if there is this big of a gap, and I can't seem to find one that is this large...

    I understand that Theo is trying to get guys he thinks will excel at Fenway, but can someone be that good at predicting this type of success?

    I guess you could take into account all the weird nooks and crannies at Fenway and other teams not being positioned correctly, but that can't explain this huge gap, either.

    Very strange...

  7. I'd like to hear X's take on this...Where is that guy, anyway?

  8. No head explosion. Yet.

    Well, I have not had much chance to fully postulate my position on this. But I do think that the Fenway park HR drought actually plays largely into it. I do think there is also some level of statistical oddity to it. While the Sox hit for better average at home, their power on the road is more significant – while their pure SLG is greater at home, Isolated power is greater on the road. Fewer HRs would not necessarily mean fewer hits though. And sure some deep flies to left would be caught, but that has to at least be countered by the lack of foul territory in Fenway – which has a huge affect especially if we are only looking at average.

    I think a couple of factors that may come into play – the familiarity of home has been mentioned, but not in the context of the hitters background. Also, the energy of the fans can’t be discounted (see below for more details). Also, I don’t have data on it, but would bet the Sox play more night games at Fenway than on the Road. And, I think, hitting at night is probably a tad easier.

    As far as individual players there are some odd things as well. Ortiz actually hits better on the road, which kind of makes sense because of the massive RF. Plus focusing on BA alone is misleading – TEK actually has been better on the road

    So if I had to sum it up, I would say “The sox hit for a better BA at home as a result of an increase in the batters comfort coupled with the lack of foul territory.”

    And the ”increase in batters comfort is sum of hitters background, own beds and routines, night games and the intense fan atmosphere. And if you don’t believe the fan atmosphere, I submit two examples to you Renteria and Bellhorn. Renteria was never comfortable in Boston and his road/home splits showed it. Bellhorn was comfortable in Boston in 2004, but not 2005. And guess what the numbers show.

    Two nit picks along the way in the comments:

    I agree on the travel thing, more along the lines of it gets them out of their routines, but MLB players don’t share rooms on the road. Well, unless you are talking about a Wade Boggs - Margo Adams type of sharing. The days of a road roommate are long gone.

    I’m don’t think Questec has anything to do with HRs. Schilling hates Questec. But he is a much better pitcher at home. And his K/9 inning rate is 9 at home and 7 on the road, which should have nothing to do with the park.

  9. The Questec thing I added because it forces umpires to call a tighter strike zone. Which, if I can add, might have something to do with bad hitting on the road.

    The Sox play 81 home games with a very tight strike zone. Only because umpires are judged on the Questec. Therefore, they "get used" to seeing more pitches to hit because pitchers can't expand the strike zone that much.

    When they go on the road, pitchers can approach them differently...But more importantly they are having strikes called on them that they perceive as balls.

    Funny enough just looking at those stats, it seems like the Sox WALK a lot more at Fenway than on the road, but strike out about the same pace. Maybe they swing at more pitches off the plate to compensate?

  10. What other parks are Questec parks?

  11. I have heard al the Questec arguments and I still think Questec is a lame excuse. It seems to be used as an excuse by pitchers when they get squeezed. The funniest example of all is Schilling, who was a huge outspoke critic of the system. But look at his numbers now. At home he is a CY Young candidate. away, he is Bronson Arroyo (circa non April/May 2006).

    A couple other tidbits - sox walk rate at home is quite a bit lower 11.4% versus 12.4% and they do strike out actually a bit less (even when factoring in the pitcher hitting NL games). So the tighter zone thing is again a creation of a few vocal critics.

    Questec is used in about 10 stadiums (among the stadia are Fenway, Yankee, the Trop, the Bob (Source of Schilling's original ire - even though his stats have never really backed it up)).

    I think the umpires are good at what they do. Fantastic actually. Sure we have a few Doug Eddings or Chuck Merriweather or Bob Davidson or Don Denkinger moments/umps. But do you really think that they can adjust night to night in their strik zone calls based on whether a park has Questec? Like hitting, the call is a reaction. Fine tuned based on repetition. Plus, any study of increased or decreased offense/defense has shown there is virtually no affect.

    The purpose of the post was a challenge to come up with ideas, so sure, it is an idea. I just think it falls somewhere on the list below at least 10 other factors.

  12. I was thinking more about the effects on the hitters...Basically they get used to the tighter strike zone. I will find it but in Questec parks there are fewer strikes called per 9 innings...What I was thinking is that in parks like that you get more pitches over the plate than on the corners.

    I know that Fenway was definitely NOT kind to one Ben Grieve. There was a group of hecklers that completely destroyed his career in a single weekend. Maybe the opposite effect is happening to the Sox.

    But, if that were the tough on the road, out of their element, travel days, home field fans...wouldn't we see this in more teams?

  13. Sure, there is no one size fits all formula. The more pitches over the plate argument is an interesting one. The home fans and comfort of home is one that extrapolates very well to the Red Sox. The fans and atmosphere is very intense. Top of the charts intensity. The comforts off home applies nicely to the Sox as a veteran team. As these guys are a bit older, they are more likely to be married with kids (many, but not all have their families in Boston), and thus they will be better rested not just from the lack of travel, but way, way more likely to be home in their bed by midnight.

    I would love to see the data on called strikes per nine innings. Although I would be willing to bet that the difference is only going to be a strike or a strike and a half at the absolute most. Of course that could have an affect on a hitters psyche, but then again you could say the reverse is true. If the hitter knows in a "Questec" park the strike zone will be more tight, then he will watch more pitches (and thus the Sox would walk more not less). But again, the hitters like the umps aren't up their thinking. they are reacting. If they get a ball they think they can hit, they will hack away.