Spring Training Hot Takes: Road Warriors Part One
Published: Apr 14, 2020
Due to how many scenarios continue to emerge for a potential baseball season, taking into account how things could affect fantasy will be fluid. With this in mind, the first step in this process took into account the bottom third of teams in underlying statistics such as isolated power, weighted on-base average and weighted runs created plus. Then looking into teams with a disparity in each category by home and road splits led to identifying individual players who could benefit from a shortened season playing games in Arizona only or in both Arizona along with Florida. This particle sample only focuses on six teams in particular as a starting point.
For instance, San Francisco appeared in the bottom third of isolated power (ISO), weighted on-base average (wOBA) and weighted runs created plus (wRC+) in home contests. But the Giants improved by 40 points in isolated power on the road, 31 points in wOBA and 14 points in wRC+ on the road. Two particular players would benefit from contests in Arizona full-time. Wrinkles of information in the event baseball changes its approach to maximize games during this pandemic may prove beneficial. With this in mind, here’s some diamonds in the rough to keep in your back pocket as drafts progress.
San Francisco Giants
Team statistics at home: ISO (.132), wOBA (.279), wRC+ (77)
Team statistics away: ISO (.172), wOBA (.310), wRC+ (89)
Home 2019: 68 games, 255 plate appearances, 21 runs, six home runs, 27 RBI; .231/.286/.372, .141 isolated power, .281 wOBA, 78 wRC+
Road 2019: 61 games, 253 plate appearances, 38 runs, 14 home runs, 42 RBI; .279/.364/.507, .238 isolated power, .364 wOBA, 124 wRC+
Seeing the stark difference in production at home versus the road seems shocking for Longoria. Especially the spike in power away from San Francisco. Full-time games in Arizona would take his overall season of 20 home runs with a .254/.325/.437 line to a much more appealing one even with some migration to the mean in his road slash line over a full 2020 season. Longoria also walked over 10 percent of his plate appearances on the road while cutting his strikeout rate averaging a home run every 15.64 at-bats. More power, a better on-base and increased counting statistics make Longoria a viable corner infielder if he escapes the bay.
Home 2019: 52 games, 187 plate appearances, 25 runs, eight home runs, 18 RBI; .238/.306/.452, .214 isolated power, .317 wOBA, 102 wRC+
Road 2019: 54 games, 224 plate appearances, 39 runs, 13 home runs, 37 RBI; .300/.357/.571, .271 isolated power, .382 wOBA, 136 wRC+
It’s almost astounding to think about how great Barry Bonds played at Candlestick seeing how so many Giants struggle at home versus playing on the road. Yastrzemski morphs from a low average hitting outfielder to a stud on the road in these initial splits. Migration to the mean comes for many in their second full season but a move to neutral field parks in Arizona could defray a collapse by Yastrzemski.
San Diego Padres
Team statistics at home: .160 ISO, .294 wOBA, 84 wRC+
Team statistics away: .184 ISO, .314 wOBA, 91 wRC+
Home 2019: 78 games, 317 plate appearances, 35 runs, 15 home runs, 40 RBI; .219/.297/.406, .187 isolated power, .297 wOBA, 86 wRC+
Road 2019: 78 games, 344 plate appearances, 46 runs, 17 home runs, 45 RBI; .289/.369/.513, .224 isolated power, .370 wOBA, 128 wRC+
Not only does Machado come at a reduced price in drafts, he’s eligible at shortstop and third base. One figures he’d adjust to his new surroundings coming off a playing his first season in the National League trying to justify his new contract. Added bonus would be playing a full-season in spring training parks in Arizona for the young slugger. Machado’s one of three players to hit at least 30 home runs in each of the previous five seasons (Nolan Arenado and Nelson Cruz ), will not turn 28 until July and hit 70 points higher away from Petco last season. Paying for a rebound by Machado made sense before the pandemic, but any adjustment by the major leagues to the schedule or ballparks makes him even more alluring.
St. Louis Cardinals
Team statistics at home: .155 ISO, .315 wOBA, 98 wRC+
Team statistics away: .183 ISO, .313 wOBA, 91 wRC+
Home 2019: 74 games, 282 plate appearances, 27 runs, one home run, 27 RBI, 12 stolen bases; .255/.330/.324, .069 isolated power, .287 wOBA, 80 wRC+
Road 2019: 71 games, 267 plate appearances, 34 runs, 10 home runs, 32 RBI, 12 stolen bases; .316/.394/.598, .212 isolated power, .385 wOBA, 137 wRC+
Raise your hand if you knew Wong led the Cardinals in slugging percentage on the road last year. Alright, put them down liars. Noting Wong hit 10 of his 11 home runs last year away from St. Louis does not give justice to the quality of his production. His wOBA rose by almost 100 points on the road with his wRC+ rising almost 60 points. At a time when fantasy owners overpay for stolen bases in drafts Wong continues to fly below the radar and if he gets to play games in neutral parks in Florida or Arizona in 2020, his power could also be underrated. Wong averaged a home run every 23.1 at-bats when not in Busch Stadium last year while hitting one at home in 247 at-bats. Things which make you go hmmm...
Home 2019: 80 games, 282 plate appearances, 44 runs, 10 home runs, 32 RBI, three stolen bases; .219/.311/.389, .170 isolated power, .301 wOBA, 90 wRC+
Road 2019: 79 games, 335 plate appearances, 53 runs, 20 home runs, 46 RBI, six stolen bases; .247/.325/.498, .251 isolated power, .343 wOBA, 110 wRC+
Many speculated getting out of St. Louis would benefit Marcell Ozuna . Both Ozuna and DeJong owned the same slugging percentage on the road last season. DeJong’s home run per at-bats away from St. Louis of 14.75 sits well below his 28.8 home run per at-bat rate in home contests from last season. Plus, DeJong hit for a higher average with better underlying statistics in road games hinting his power could carry over from his road games to neutral park sites in either venue proposed by the major leagues in Arizona or Florida.
Tampa Bay Rays
Team statistics at home: .170 ISO, .316 wOBA, 103 wRC+
Team statistics away: .185 ISO, .325 wOBA, 102 wRC+
Home 2019: 73 games, 278 plate appearances, 19 runs, five home runs, 16 RBI; .204/.253/.304, .100 isolated power, .242 wOBA, 53 wRC+
Road 2019: 76 games, 306 plate appearances, 50 runs, 15 home runs, 36 RBI; .303/.375/.528, .225 isolated power, .378 wOBA, 137 wRC+
Perhaps the poster boy of this experiment, Adames hit 15 of his 20 home runs away from Tropicana Field with huge gains in on-base and slugging percentages. His wOBA jumps over 100 points along with his isolated power. It’s not apparent if this will be an outlier in Adames’ development but it’s worth noting how well he hit away from Tampa Bay with the possibility of games played in neutral field sites in a truncated season. Like others above, Adames owned a home run per at-bat rate of one every 18.07 on the road versus one every 52 in home contests.
Home 2019: 66 games, 245 plate appearances, 24 runs, eight home runs, 27 RBI; .239/.335/.399, .160 isolated power, .314 wOBA, 102 wRC+
Road 2019: 60 games, 242 plate appearances, 30 runs, 11 home runs, 36 RBI; .284/.393/.523, .239 isolated power, .382 wOBA, 140 wRC+
On the surface, Choi projects to be a middling option at corner infield more appropriate for on-base percentage formats. However, taking into account his 17.91 home run per at-bat rate last year on the road compared to his 26.63 rate at home becomes more attractive if the Rays play games away from Tropicana Field all season. Especially given the spike in isolated power and slugging percentage with a wOBA approaching .400 by Choi in road contests.
Team statistics at home: .172 ISO, .308 wOBA, 98 wRC+
Team statistics away: .201 ISO, .320 wOBA, 98 wRC+
Home 2019: 53 games, 185 plate appearances, 11 runs, zero home runs, 13 RBI, seven stolen bases; .250/.277/.291, .041 isolated power, .244 wOBA, 55 wRC+
Road 2019: 60 games, 236 plate appearances, 25 runs, three home runs, 21 RBI, 15 stolen bases; .294/.325/.412, .118 isolated power, .312 wOBA, 93 wRC+
Not going to delve too deeply on Gordon, but at a time with everyone seeking stolen bases, he’s actually a worthy flier. With so many outfield positions in flux with the Mariners and Shed Long ’s rough spring, Gordon could see an uptick in playing time in games in Arizona with a better average on the road and more aggressive running based on last season. Not someone to reach for in drafts, but as a last pick in 12-team leagues targeting speed, Gordon could pay dividends.
Team statistics at home: .150 ISO, .311 wOBA, 93 wRC+
Team statistics away: .161 ISO, .315 wOBA, 92 wRC+
Home 2019: 68 games, 278 plate appearances, 30 runs, three home runs, 30 RBI, eight stolen bases; .269/.329/.368, .099 isolated power, .301 wOBA, 87 wRC+
Road 2019: 60 games, 253 plate appearances, 31 runs, nine home runs, 34 RBI, eight stolen bases; .350/.381/.529, .179 isolated power, .382 wOBA, 136 wRC+
Although Newman stole the same amount of bases no matter the venue, note his appreciative gains across his slash lines and underlying data when away from Pittsburgh. Buying his power breakout last year based on how home runs rose across baseball cast aspersions on Newman in regards to draft capital. But, as this exercise illustrates, hitting in neutral parks in Arizona or Florida could be a boon to his production in the year ahead. It’s a small sample size, but Newman owned a better on-base percentage and slugging rate than former teammate Starling Marte on the road last season.
While this exercise could prove to be fruitless depending on how the major league season evolves, it’s worthwhile to note how some of the top performers on teams with less than advantageous home ballparks could fare in a hypothetical season out of them. There’s no guaranteeing a carry over effect, but certainly something to note as more information comes available in an ever changing baseball landscape.