Home cooking gives Diamondbacks a boost

By Jim McLennan
AZSnakePit.com

The final homestand of the 2010 season for the Diamondbacks was a successful one. They swept the Colorado Rockies, all but ending their hopes of the postseason, and then took two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers, mounting a stirring eighth-inning comeback in the final game against the visitors’ bullpen.

The team almost broke even at home, ending with a record of 40-41; that’s actually four games better than last season. It was the woeful 24-51 road record that was the problem. The 174-point difference in win percentage between Chase Field and elsewhere would be the biggest in franchise history, surpassing the 173-point margin in 2007.

With that in mind, are there players on the team who particularly benefit from playing at home?

Hitters

The Diamondbacks scored 4.74 runs per game at Chase, more than half a run better than the 4.20 posted away from Phoenix. Collectively, they hit 22 points higher, and 55% of all their long balls came in front of a home crowd, as did a remarkable 74% of triples.

Three men in particular seem to enjoy home cooking, posting an OPS (on-base plus slugging) more than 200 points better there than on the road: Mark Reynolds (215 points), Chris Young (221) and Kelly Johnson (240). In most cases, it was their slugging that was responsible. Take Reynolds, for instance. He got on-base at a similar rate (.339 vs. .301), but 21 of his 32 home runs were at Chase Field, with only 11 coming elsewhere.

The same goes for Johnson, where the HR ratio was 16:9, and it was even greater for Young — only seven of his 27 home runs came outside Arizona. Johnson’s batting average was also 60 points better  Curiously, our catchers all seemed to have trouble at home. Miguel Montero’s OPS was 134 points lower — Miggy didn’t hit a single ball out of the park at Chase all year — while John Hester was a minus-173 and Chris Snyder also was in negative territory, albeit fractionally.

Pitchers

Despite Chase’s reputation as a hitter-friendly park, the Diamondbacks’ pitchers did better at home than on the road. Their home ERA was 4.53, compared with a 5.20 figure posted elsewhere. They allowed homers at about the same rate, but they struck out more batters and walked fewer. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio at home was 2.43, much better than the 1.58 in other parks.

The poster boy for this difference has to be Juan Gutierrez. Pitching in front of the home crowd, he was very solid. Over 34 1/3 innings, he had a 3.41 ERA, striking out 26 batters and walking just five. But anywhere else, Gutierrez struggled badly. He went 0-5 with a 8.44 ERA playing on the road, walking 17 in only 21 1/3 frames of work.

Joe Saunders and Sam Demel were others who also did better in their own park, posting ERAs of 3.12 and 4.43 respectively. Each had an ERA of 6.75 in road appearances.

On the other hand, two other members of the bullpen, Esmerling Vasquez and Aaron Heilman, didn’t seem to like Chase much this year, both putting up an ERA more than a run higher there.

Overall

These statistical splits might be especially significant if plans to adjust the environment of the ballpark come to fruition (although discussion of this seems to have cooled of late). That’s because the changes have the potential to affect the Diamondbacks’ hitters, too. With three of four 20-homer guys apparently hitting the ball a good deal better at home, we might want to think twice before doing anything that might derail their home success.