StrategyJune 4, 2009

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Splits and Trends

By Jake Sheets

For my first of hopefully many articles, I’ll be exploring the underutilized aspect of splits data. I say underutilized because in a never-ending quest to improve our teams through trades and breakout waiver wire player acquisitions, it can be easy to forget to use the players you do have in the most efficient manner. Sometimes propping up a struggling team is as simple as rotating your regulars and reserves in an effective fashion. As such, understanding and applying splits data will not only help you get the most out of the players you do have, but will make it easier to identify useful players on the waiver wire.

Home Town Heroes

Hitters Home Splits

Ian Kinsler40/105298277.381.472.7521.225
Luke Scott24/71179240.338.434.7461.180
Billy Butler36/104174190.336.393.567.960
Melky Cabrera26/77135183.338.388.571.960

Of Kinsler’s 13 HRs on the season, eight have come at home, as have seven of his ten SBs. He’s a top second basemen regardless of whether or not you pay attention to his splits, but it’s clear he’s doing most of his damage in home games. Furthermore, Kinsler’s career splits support this recent trend. At home, his career average is .329, whereas he holds a career average of .248 on the road. His power and speed numbers are fairly similar at home and on the road, but an 80 point difference in career batting average is worth taking note of.

Meanwhile, Luke Scott (owned in under 50% of Yahoo leagues) has hit nine HRs in only 71 ABs in home games. Only Mark Teixeira, with 10 HRs in 91 home ABs, has more. Admittedly, Luke Scott’s large splits differential has much to do with the monster week he just finished off during the Orioles homestand, but his relatively young MLB career suggests this is an emerging trend — his splits from last year are fairly pronounced as well.

Lastly, Melky Cabrera is providing great all-around production at New Yankee Stadium. Prior seasons can neither reinforce nor negate these trends shown by Butler (lack of MLB experience) or Cabrera (new home stadium). However, these splits appear to be emerging trends. The fact that they’re this pronounced 50 games into the season suggests that they’re likely to continue into the near future. Which means they can, and should, be taken advantage of by the serious fantasy community.

Pitchers Home Splits

Josh Johnson43.121421.660.95
Jered Weaver44.240391.210.72
Kyle Lohse37.142243.131.02
John Maine2941202.481.07

Two young pitchers on the rise, Josh Johnson and Jered Weaver, have both been virtually unhittable at home. They each showcase ERAs well below 2.00 in home starts. However, they also both have ERAs above 4.00 in road starts. Weaver had yet to win a road game before last night’s impressive performance in Toronto, and his K/9 on the road (5.25) is noticeably worse than that in his home starts (7.86). Additionally, Weaver’s 2008 splits stats enhance the relevancy of his start to the season, as his ERA of 3.71 at home was over a full point lower than his 4.91 ERA on the road.

Kyle Lohse and John Maine, owned in 48% and 55% of Yahoo leagues respectively, each boast some of the best pitching home splits in the majors. Unlike Johnson and Weaver, neither is an elite source of Ks (Maine partially due to lack of IP), but both have been winning games with great ratios. Lohse has consistently pitched much better at home throughout his career, so this start comes as no surprise. On the other hand, before this year Maine hadn’t shown a strong preference towards pitching at home or on the road. In 2008 his road splits were better and in 2007 his home splits were superior. In 2009, it’s obvious he’s found his comfort zone in a more pitcher friendly home stadium. His home and road splits are amongst the most pronounced of all pitchers, evident with ERA of 5.02 in his road starts.

Road Warriors

Hitters Road Splits

Adam Dunn31/94139200.330.438.6491.086
Adrian Gonzalez30/962515241.313.421.8021.223
A.J. Pierzynski33/8813281.375.409.523.931
Nick Swisher28/92229260.304.400.7081.108

Adam Dunn and Adrian Gonzalez both suffer from calling pitchers parks their homes. While each is capable of mashing wherever they are, a more hitter friendly environment never hurts. Their preference for road games in indisputable. Of Gonzo’s league leading 21 HRs, 15 of them have come in road games. Accordingly, more than two-thirds of his RBIs have come away from Pecto as well. Similarly, last year Gonzo displayed comparable tendencies. He hit for a .308 average with 22 HRs and 70 RBIs on the road, versus .247 average with 14 HRs and 49 RBIs at home. Meanwhile, Dunn is hitting for a fantastic average and has had the majority of his HRs come on the road.

On the other hand, A.J. Pierzynski and Nick Swisher play their home games in two of the best hitters parks in all of baseball. Yet they’ve been abysmal at home and outstanding on the road. Of catchers with at least 45 road ABs (which includes Joe Mauer), Pierzynski is hitting for a higher average than any of them. His .206 AVG in 63 home ABs keeps his season total from competing with the best in the majors. Comparatively, Swisher’s road splits rival the best in the majors. His nine HRs tie him for second best in the MLB, his 28 RBIs tie him for first (with the previously mentioned González), and his .313 AVG ties him for sixth best of players with at least 90 road ABs. Yet his home splits are as bad as his road splits are good. A .123 AVG with only 1 HR and 12 RBIs is why he’s only owned in 62% of Yahoo leagues instead of all of them.

Pitchers Road Splits

Felix Hernandez38.221372.561.14
Edwin Jackson41.132301.310.90
Jason Marquis36.241172.701.09
Andy Pettitte31.131192.591.31

As was the case last year, King Felix displays a propensity to pitch markedly better on the road. The contrast between his home and road ERA, 4.41 and 2.56 respectively, is drastic. Meanwhile, the up-and-coming Edwin Jackson has been good at home and away, but his road stats rival the best MLB pitching has to offer.

Jason Marquis and Andy Pettitte, owned in 22% and 46% of Yahoo leagues respectively, each sustain ERAs below 3.00 in road starts as well as tremendous win/loss ratios. Even post-humidor, Coors is still a hitters park and New Yankee Stadium clearly is playing to the hitters advantage (unless your name is Nick Swisher). As such, it’s logical that these two pitchers would be at their best under more favorable conditions.

That about wraps it up. Remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Keep an eye on the spit data of the players on your team and scour the waiver wire for players you can use in a timeshare. Your team will be better because of it.

Jake Sheets is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Jake in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of jake_twothousandfive.
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