When I wrote yesterday that it was hard to understand how the Dodgers could put together an 8-game losing streak and an 8-game winning streak back to back for seemingly no good reason, I neglected to notice that there may in fact be a good reason:
The Dodgers can’t win away from home.
It makes sense if you think about it, right? The entirety of the losing streak came on the road; the majority of the winning streak came at home. As soon as they hit the road last night, all of a sudden Cha Seung Baek (career ERA entering the game: 5.10) shuts them out over 7 innings, allowing only 3 runs. It’s pretty simple to see just by heading over to the MLB.com standings:
Fewest road wins, MLB 2008:
30. San Diego, 23
29. Atlanta, 24
28. Washington, 25
27. Seattle, 26
27. Pittsburgh, 26
25. Cincinnati, 27
24. Dodgers, 28
24. Kansas City, 28
The Royals, by the way, are 61-81, and no other team on that list is even within sniffing range of .500, much less the playoffs. Teams that have a better road record than LA include San Francisco, Baltimore, and Oakland, each of whom already have 78 losses or more.
The flip side to this is of course that the Dodgers have an excellent home record of 45-30, which is good for second in the NL behind Chicago and 6th in all of baseball. Unfortunately, if things stand as they are, the first round opponent of the Blue in the playoffs would be… Chicago, who would have home-field advantage as they’re going to finish with the best record in the National League.
So why is this? Oddly enough, the batting stats don’t really show much of a difference:
Dodgers offense @ home, 2008: .263/.328/.392 .720 OPS
Dodgers offense on road, 2008: .259/.327/.396 .723 OPS
Actually, forget “don’t really show much of a difference.” Those splits are creepily identical. However, the pitching splits… well… you might want to have the kids leave the room for this one, folks.
Dodgers pitching @ home, 2008: 2.93 ERA, .222/.283/.327 .610 OPS against
Dodgers pitching on road, 2008: 4.66 ERA, .282/.351/.433 .784 OPS against
Now, your first reaction is “it must be the pitching, because the hitters are pretty consistent no matter where they are, but the hurlers get killed on the road.” There’s definitely something to that, because a team with a pitching staff as good as the Blue have shouldn’t be giving up nearly 5 runs a game when they’re away from home, and we’ll get to that in a second. But the offense can’t get a pass on this entirely. Remember, Dodger Stadium is known as a park that is very friendly to pitchers (and this year, is ranked as the 2nd most friendly by one such rating, though I’m not entirely thrilled with ESPN’s methodology). What that means, though, is that the offense really is doing worse on the road than at home, because if you’re playing in a home park that depresses offense… having nearly identical stats on the road means that you are in fact performing worse on the road. If you were really performing exactly the same, the road stats would be higher due to not being depressed by Dodger Stadium.
Back to the pitching, though. That split between home/road goes way beyond park factors; it’s just too big. In fact, the .610 OPS against is the best home OPS of any pitching staff in the bigs. Again, the home park helps a bit, but not so much as to explain the fact that the .784 road OPS is the 20th best in the bigs. Why do the same pitchers perform so much worse away from home? Let’s check out some of the worst offenders:
Home: 3.27 ERA, .245 BA against
Away: 6.69 ERA, .312 BA against
Home: 2.73 ERA, .169 BA against
Away: 4.26 ERA, .273 BA against
Home: 3.54 ERA, .231 BA against
Away: 4.42 ERA, .273 BA against
Chan Ho Park
Home: 1.65 ERA, .226 BA against
Away: 4.40 ERA, .288 BA against
Pretty striking, isn’t it? One notable missing name is Chad Billingsley… who’s awesome no matter where he pitches. Either way, though, if the Dodgers get into October, they’re certainly not going to be playing all their games in Los Angeles – so they better figure out what’s going on, and fix it. Pronto.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness