Monday, October 18, 2010

Contact Problems Killed Tigers on Road

One of the themes of the Tigers 2010 season was winning at home and losing on the road.  Their 52-29 home record was tied for second best in the American League.  Unfortunately, their 29-52 road record was tied for second worst.  In contrast the Central Division winning Minnesota Twins were 53-28 at home and 41-40 on the road.  So, the Tigers were only one game worse than the Twins at home but 12 games behind away from home.  If the Tigers could have played .500 ball outside of Comerica, they would have battled to the wire instead of dropping from reasonable contention weeks before the season ended. 

This is not a one year anomaly for the Tigers.  Table 1 below shows that they had a similar pattern in 2009 going 51-30 at Comerica and 35-47 in other parks.  What is the reason for this home/road disparity?  Most of the attention has focused on their inability to score on the road.  They scored 5.1 runs per game at Comerica and 4.2 runs per game on the road in 2010.  While hitting on the road has been a struggle, their pitching and defense has also failed them outside of Detroit ( 4.1 runs allowed per game at home versus  5.1 on the road).  They also had large disparities in both scoring and run prevention in 2009.

Table 1: Tigers Team Summary, 2009-2010

Looking more closely at their offense (Table 2), the Tigers did not differ much in home/away games in terms of power in 2010.  In fact, their isolated power was actually a little lower at home than on the road (.145 versus .149).  Home and away walk per game totals were also similar (3.4 versus 3.3).  The big culprits were batting average (.282 versus .255) and strikeouts per game (6.3 K/G versus 7.9 K/G).  They had the same a similar problem making contact in road games in 2009.

Table 2: Tigers Batting Summary, 2009-2010

Table 3 shows that their pitching/defense was also much better in Detroit (.695 OPS) than on the road (.770) in 2010.  Again, batting average was one of the main areas of disparity.  They had a .252 batting average against at Comerica and .274 in unfriendly parks.  They also walked fewer batters per game at home than on the road (3.0 versus 3.6). 

Table 3: Tigers Pitching Summary, 2009-2010

Why they had so much trouble getting hits and preventing hits outside of Comerica is anybody’s guess.  It could be that they lacked focus or that they were pressing too hard on the road.  If it were just one year, I would say it was a random thing.  Two years does not make a trend, but the disparity in batting average and batting average against was large enough both years to suggest that something might be going on.  It’s something to watch in the future.  If they start off 2011 not making contact or preventing contact on the road, it could be a sign of trouble. 

Home/Road splits were abstracted from ESPN

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