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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: The Curious Case of Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reason -

How many times have you taken a look to check Starling Marte’s stats the past few games, waiting for his downfall to start? Shoot, the past two weeks or so I can count at least a dozen for myself. Which is why I decided it’s finally time to return to baseball writing and to dig into Marte’s season thus far.

First of all, before I get to the good stuff, how awesome is his name? I’m automatically including it in my 2013 MLB All-Names team, which I now just decided to create. Be on the look out for that soon, lucky you. Now let’s continue.

Starling Marte

Basic Numbers -

Starling busted into the Majors late last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and cranked a homer in his first at-bat (Only July 26). In 47 games and 167 ABs, he hit .257 and did his fare share of striking out and not taking many pitches. Because of his less than stellar OBP, he found himself in the later half of the Pirates lineup for the majority of his first go in the bigs.

Heading into the 2013 season, projections seemed to think his first full year would play out much like 2012 did. Frustrating fantasy baseball owners by teasing them of stealing 20+ bases but lacking a high average to make him truly worth an early gamble.

Flash forward to May 13th. Starling is hitting .329 in 36 games with just as many HR (5) RBI (17) and two less steals (10) than he had in 18 more at-bats in all of 2012. The biggest change? His BABIP has skyrocketed from .333 last year to .413 in 2013. Before digging into his stats tonight, I was under the impression that he was/is due for a slump eventually and that this number will recede closer to .350-.375 and his AVG would likely end up around .275. However, looking at it a little more, I believe this isn’t the case. Every year of the his professional baseball career (starting in 2009), Marte has had a BABIP of .389 or higher, except in 2012.

Last year was his first time in both AAA and MLB, was it just part of the expected learning curve? Has he figured it out in 2013? What’s changed?

Sabermetrics -

Looking at Batted Ball data through almost the same amount of at bats in 2012 to 2013, surprisingly, not much has changed. Ground Ball Percent has risen to 57.5 from 57, Line Drive Percent up to 19.8 from 18.4 and Fly Ball Percents down a hair to 22.6 from 24.6. If none of these ratios have changed, his Plate Discipline must be the answer, right?

Bingo. Starling is now swinging is almost half of the pitches he sees (49% from 46.1% in 2012) and is making contact 79.2% of the time, up from 72.3% last year. The biggest jump comes is pitches contacted that are thrown outside of the strike zone as balls. A whooping 63.9% rate from 51.5% last year.

Why are more pitches being connected with you ask? Looking at Pitch Type, Marte is now experiencing an increased dose of Fastballs (56.8% from 52.1%) as well as change-ups (9.4% from 6.8%). The pitch he is seeing less of? Sliders. Now at only 14.2%, down from 18.7%. It seems that batting exclusively in the lead-off spot has led to a more appetizing array of pitches for Starling to hit, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Forward Looking -

It’s only normal to expect his BABIP to take some sort of a dip (especially if pitchers start throwing him more sliders), but not to the depths that experts have predicted. It will stay north of .380 and average will hover just north of .300 to finish the year. Tack on a potential 30 stole base campaign, along with a resurgence of Andrew McCutchen and you have all the makings for one valuable and exciting player.

Fantasy Analysis -

If you are fortunate enough to have Marte on your squad, you most likely picked him up via Free Agency. His ESPN Average Drafted Position saw him being taken around 224. Do you sell high? Well if your team is in trouble, go for it. Starling will easily end up a 20/20 OF and could easily eclipse 100 runs scored. He will go in the top 100 next year.

Did You Know? -

His middle name is Javier and he was born outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Baseball Pitching Options

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Baseball Pitching Options

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Will Emerson

Welcome, welcome! Time for another edition of Field of Streams, a weekly look at some viable and some not so viable fantasy baseball streaming options for the upcoming week. Is Wood good? Is there a Grimm pitching option this week? Is Francisco Liriano back? Francisco? That’s fun to say! Anyways, away we go. Please remember all stats are going into Saturday, May 11th’s action. Enjoy!

Francisco Liriano

Travis Wood, CHC- In the words of Cosmo Kramer, “It’s the Wood that makes it good. Not only has every one of Travis Wood’s starts this season been of the quality variety, but he has allowed two or fewer earned runs in all but one start. Wood is readily available in most formats, so clearly most people are overlooking his numbers. Well, maybe they just aren’t buying in just yet. Although Wood is sporting a 2.33 ERA, both his xFIP and SIERA are over four and he is only inducing ground balls at a 40% rate. That ground ball rate, a K/9 which, at best, should hover around seven on a good day and a BABIP of under .200, points to Wood receiving a great deal of good luck. Wood has two starts this week, at home versus the Rockies and the Mets. The Rockies have the second highest slugging percentage in the league and the Mets are well, middle of the pack offensively. I would avoid the Rockies start and I am about 50-50 on the Mets start.

Justin Grimm, TEX- Despite a clunker against the Brew Crew in his last outing, Grimm is still very much in the streaming discussion. Grimm’s overall numbers are still very good, with a K/9 over nine and a SIERA of 3.62 points to him being a very serviceable fantasy pitching option. The pundits still feel like the ERA will be closer to the five range and the K-rate will decline, but for now “Reaper” is still looking good. Although it is a two start week for Grimm, this week, I am not full on board with streaming him as he faces two lineups who have been very good offensively, the Athletics and the Tigers. I would actually take Grimm at Oakland but use him at your own risk against the Tigers.

Roberto Hernandez, TB- On the surface, Roberto’s numbers are nothing spectacular. Hernandez is 1-4, with a 4.66 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, but his SIERA is 3.25 and his K/9 is over nine. There is nothing pointing to this being the norm for Hernandez, but if he keeps pitching the way he is, he should continue to be a good spot start option. Hernandez throws against the Os at Camden Yards this upcoming week. The Orioles have scored the third most runs in the majors this season and actually do not strike out a ton. I like Hernandez for occasional starts, but would steer clear this week.

Francisco Liriano, PIT- Welcome back Francisco Liriano! Fresh of the DL, Liriano was a bit of alright against the Mets. Liriano pitched 5.1 innings, allowing one earned run on six hits, striking out nine and walking just two. Liriano will lock horns with the Brewers this week, a team that is fifth in the majors in OPS, so I wouldn’t be 100% about this start, but I feel confident in saying Liriano is about a 75-80% shot at a quality start here.

Dan Straily, OAK- Okay, okay, so Straily’s lat outing was, well, awful, sure. Here’s the thing though, ol’ Danny boy is still sporting a SIERA under 3.50 and a K/9 over ten, making him a favorite of mine. While I do like Straily, I would steer clear of this week’s outing against the Rangers and wait for a more favorable outing to spot start him.

John Lackey, BOS- Judging by the ownership percentage in ESPN and Yahoo!, many people are not buying into Slackey’s resurgence. Well, seems like almost every Boston starter is throwing well to start the season and while I do not expect them to keep up this pace, I do think they will continue to provide some quality pitching. Lackey has two starts this week, against the rays and Twinkies and I expect two good starts right there with chance for some “Ws”.

Ubaldo Jimenez, CLE- Yes it is true, Ubaldo’s overall numbers still look bad, but what you may not have noticed is, Ubaldo has actually put together a couple of nice consecutive starts. Now, as I write this Jimenez is pitching against Detroit and that could get messy, sure, but he has a start this upcoming week against the Mariners, which is a favorable start for most SPs. Although I am not completely convinced of Ubaldo’s turnaround just yet, it is the Mariners and I think he can pull off a quality start there.

Hector Santiago, CWS- K/9. enough said. No? Yeah, you’re right. How about a K/9 of 8.44, a sub-two ERA and a 3.24 SIERA? Now, Santiago may not be mainstay in the rotation, but after pretty much dominating the Mets in his last start, it may be worth considering in the future. At the very least, Santiago is slated to start Monday against the Twinkies so I have no problem saying, “stream away!”

Chris Tillman, BAL- Tillman does not have “ace” numbers, but he has put together four straight quality starts. Now, although in those starts the peripherals were not great and show that Tillman may be getting a bit lucky, he does draw the Padres this week and they are not exactly world beaters at the plate, so go ahead and get a start outta Tillman this week.

 

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Pitching Options

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Field of Streams: Fantasy Pitching Options

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Will Emerson

Well, the 2013 season is just about two weeks complete which means it’s time for the inaugural Field of Streams post! That’s right folks, you can tune in right here each week for a look at some viable, and even some not so viable, fantasy baseball streaming options for the upcoming week. Now, it is still a little tough early in the season to sort out what we can believe statistics wise, since the current sample size is rather miniscule. Nevertheless, I will press on to give you my, sometimes very sound, fantasy pitching advice. So now a look at some streaming options for the week of April 15th-April 21st!

BudNorris

Bud Norris, Astros- Yes, yes. If you have been following me at all, you probably know I have a soft spot for this big lug. Norris’ home numbers last season have been well documented by, well, me. This week he has two starts, one of which is at the Juice Box. Norris is already off to a very solid start this season, posting a sub two ERA through three starts. Of course his Ks/9 are down, sitting below seven and his BABIP is .231, so he has not been as lights out as the low ERA may indicate, but still, not a terrible start. Norris has a home start next weekend against the Tribe, which I have no problem green-lighting. Start number one of the week however is against Oakland, and the Athletics have been red hot at the plate, leading the majors in OPS. Norris did start one game against Oakland already and did not go so great. Now while only two of the five runs Norris gave up in that start were earned, his FIP for the game was up over six. So tread with extreme caution for that start but be ready to start him against Cleveland.

Erik Bedard, Astros- Yep, another Astro. Bedard is an intriguing case as we all know he still has some good stuff left that he shows every now and again. Bedard pitched four scoreless innings against Seattle which is promising, especially when his FIP for the game was only 2.15. The thing here though, is, he is facing the A’s this week and they have been hitting pretty darned well (see above), so I would recommend steering clear of Bedard for this week.

Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies- Chacin has had some good moments in his young MLB career and has stayed on my radar for spot starts for a good amount of time now. Jhoulys is sporting a 1.35 in this young season, but I’m sure he won’t continue that pace. Chacin’s 5.40 K/9, 3.75 xFIP and .216 BABIP thus far, certainly point in that direction. The K-rate is pretty much what can be expected, but what is promising this season thus far is his ability to keep the ball on the ground. So far in 2013 Chacin has managed a 54.8% ground ball rate, which is up almost 20% over last season. This could account for the much better xFIP, but the ERA should still hover closer to the high threes, low fours as the season progresses. This week Cahcin matches up against the Mets and Matt Harvey at Silver Bullet Stadium. Harvey has been fairly dazzling thus far and for reasons I cannot explain, the Metropolitans have been knocking the covers off of baseballs thus far in ’13. While I am sure this is by no means Jhoulys Chacin’s last appearance in Field of Streams, I would hold off on streaming him in the upcoming week.

Travis Wood, Cubs- It’s the wood that makes it good! I like Travis Wood fine, but as far as a fantasy pitching go-to guy, well he has never really had much of an impact. The brief numbers in ’13 are very promising. Wood has a 1.46 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP and a 7.30 K/9 which is quite good, wouldn’t ya say? But this is not completely out of nowhere. Since August 1st Wood has had a 3.34 ERA, which falls right in line with when the Cubs staff taught him a nifty little cut fastball. But before I make it seem like Woodsy is rosterable there are some flags here. Wood’s xFIP right now is 4.43 and his ground ball rate is at 35.3%, which is not great when you pitch about half of your games in a hitter friendly park like Wrigley. Since those numbers are similar to what he put up last season, it feels like that ERA is about to skyrocket at any time. Now he could still prove a viable streaming option throughout the season, but he has the Rangers this week and while many of them have not seen much of Wood, I would still say avoid him this week

Jeremy Guthrie, Royals- Guthrie has never been lights out, that is for darned sure, but he has, for the most part, been a very solid and consistent pitcher. Guthrie is off to one of those solid starts with KC this season, posting a 3.55 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP with a nice little 7.82 number in the K/9 column. An xFIP of 3.54 shows that the ERA is probably where is should be, but based on career numbers the Ks will fall off a bit. Guthrie should be good for a spot start here and there, but this week he draws the Bravos, who are playing some good baseball right now, so actually, not here. So as far as Guthrie is concerned this week, I would say hands off, boys and girls.

Ervin Santana, Royals- Could this be the return of Big Erv? Santana has looked good in his first two starts of 2013. Obviously a small sample size, but you have to like the 3.21 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 9.64 K/9 Big Erv is sporting in the early goings, but can we believe his turnaround? Well, his xFIP is 3.23, so what Santana’s doing right now, just may be legit. Ervin’s groundball rate is just a hair under 35%, but if he can manage to keep that K-rate he can get away with this. Problem is, only once in his big league career has Big Erv posted a K/9 over eight, so it is tough to say whether or not the strikeouts are for real. I would definitely keep an eye on Santana, but he heads to Fenway this week and that could spell trouble. I would watch Big Erv closely, but would be wary of starting him against the BoSox.

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals- Probably not a name you expected to see on here, but what you may not have noticed is, good ol’ Jake has thrown 15 and two-thirds scoreless innings to starts this season. Now that is the kind of number that will jump right out at you when you’re hunting for streaming options, but you may want to hold up on pulling the trigger here. Westbrook has posted an xFIP of 5.52, a WHIP of 1.34, a 2.30 K/9 and a .212 BABIP. Not one of those numbers points to Westbrook being a viable fantasy pitching option, even if he does draw the Pirates this week. While only the Marlins have scored fewer runs than the Buccos and no team in the majors has a worse OPS, they have started to show signs of life on offense. So while a guy with a 0.00 ERA against a team who has not scored many runs this season seems appetizing and all, I would recommend staying away from this trap game.

Eric Stults, Padres- I immediately think of Eric Stoltz every time I hear or read the name, Eric Stults, which is obviously a major plus for him. Add in the fact he has a 9.90 K/9 and an xFIP of 2.79 thus far and my curiosity is heightened. The K/9 is way above what is expected from Stults and will most likely fall, but that sub three ERA last season and a ground ball rate around 60% should not make that too much of a concern. Stults sgould get two starts this week, against division foes Los Angeles and San Francisco, but away from Petco. Luckily neither one of these parks is all that hitter friendly, so Stults could do alright. My one concern is that the Dodgers have been quiet on the run scoring front thus far and with the collection of hitters they have, they are due for a breakout. Plus, Stults already gave up four earned runs in five innings this season against the Dodgers. That aside, I am giving the nod to stream Stults this week, but not as wholeheartedly for that Dodgers game.

Garrett Richards, Angels- Young Mister Richards has looked fantastic out of the gate. A 2.08 ERA, .92 WHIP and 10.38 K/9 are ace numbers for sure. A 1.81 xFIP and 58.3% GB rate point to the digits he’s posting thus far being, well, the real deal. Richards has been lights out and it looks like, for now at least, he can keep it up. Richards starts this week against the Tigers and Justin Verlander. A tough matchup for sure, but I like his chances this week. I say stream away on Richards. In fact, you may just want to keep him on your roster for awhile.

So there you have it, your first Field of Streams of 2013. Now, as I said it is tough this early in the season to get a great read on what numbers to believe, but you can start to formulate some opinions. Tune in next week when, hopefully, I have more viable than non-viable streaming options. Well keep, keep on truckin’, I guess.

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Field Of Streams: Fantasy Baseball Pitching Options

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Field Of Streams: Fantasy Baseball Pitching Options

Posted on 16 September 2012 by Will Emerson

Welcome back to another edition of Field of Streams, your in depth look at some viable, and some not so viable, fantasy streaming options for the upcoming fantasy week. I do apologize, I seemed to forget about rotisserie players last week, as they are still looking for pitching options down the stretch if they have innings to spare. So without further ado, on with the show! Here comes your look at your fantasy streaming options, owned in less than 50% in ESPN and Yahoo! leagues, for the week of 9/17-9/23 (all stats and information are prior to Saturday’s games):

Jose Quintana (CWS)- Since Quintana burst onto the scene this year, I have found him intriguing, yet overrated. His 6-4 record with a 3.52 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, is eye catching sure, but the 5.28 K/9, .291 BABIP and 4.03 FIP have pointed to a bit of a regression. A regression like the 8.00 ERA and 1.78 WHIP he is sporting this month. Ironically, his BABIP is .444 this month and his xFIP is 3.41, which means he is actually now pitching better, but posting worse fantasy numbers. Weird, right? He has the Tigers and Angels this week, no easy matchups by any stretch of the imagination. His last start was against the Tigers and he pitched fairly well. Quintana tossed 7.2 innings with an earned run, seven strikeouts, seven hits and two walks in a winning effort. Quintana is still a mystery to me at this point, and I just am not completely sold on him. The two starts are enticing, but I am very hesitant to recommend him this week against the Tigers and Angels. I still say steer clear of JQ. (14.6% owned in ESPN and 19% in Yahoo!)

Alex Cobb (TB)- Still sticking with Cobb, although on the surface his last start against the Orioles was not great. Overall Cobb has been solid and although he did not make it out of the 5th against the Os, he did not end up with the worst line imaginable. He threw 4.2 innings, giving up seven hits and two earned runs, two walks and six strikeouts. Alex also managed to have a 64.3% ground ball rate, an xFIP of 1.81 and a BABIP of .500 in that start, so he may have been just a tad bit unlucky. He looks to have the Jays and Red Sox at home this week. Both of those offenses have been up and down as of late and according to Bobby Valentine the Red Sox are also throwing out the weakest September lineup in their history, or something to that extent. I say go with Cobb to help capture you that elusive fantasy championship! (11.5% owned in ESPN and 18% in Yahoo!)

Kevin Correia (PIT)- There is not a lot that points to Correia being a great fantasy option at this point, this is for sure. A 4.29 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and a K/9 around four is not great. He is on the road twice this week and his road numbers are even worse. Correia’s road ERA is 4.75 and his WHIP is 1.47 and that is with a .266 BABIP. So why is he even in this article, you may ask? Well his two starts this week are against the Cubs and Astros, two of the worst hitting teams in the National League. This is no lock however, as these are still road starts in parks that are not pitcher friendly. There is a decent shot at wins, so this is really the wild card pick of the week. If you are close in the pitching categories, it is still a shaky, or turbulent, stream, but if you are just looking to chase wins or literally a few strikeouts, that second start may be worth a shot. (1.3% owned in ESPN and 3% in Yahoo!)

Marco Estrada (MIL)- It’s as if no one is taking me seriously, that spots on the “Ponch” Estrada bandwagon will be filling up fast! Estrada has been solid since entering the Brewers rotation and his last outing was no different. Against the Bravos, he tossed 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits, walking one and striking out six. This week is a two start week for “Ponch” so go ahead and grab him, as he could be a big difference maker for you. (19.2% owned in ESPN and 20% in Yahoo!)

John Lannan (WAS)- Good ol’ John Lannan is back in the rotation with Stephen Strasburg shut down for the regular season. Lannan has never been flashy, but can tend to get the job done and could provide a much needed solid start for you. His last start, albeit against the Mets, was darned decent! Johnboy threw 5.2 scoreless innings allowing only five hits and one free pass. Now he is not gonna provide a ton of strikeouts, but he could get a quality start against the Dodgers this week. (1.6% owned in ESPN and 3% in Yahoo!)

Ross Detwiler (WAS)- Another appearance in Field of Streams for Detwiler. Ross continues to get things done for the Nationals. His xFIP and low K-rate do seem to point to some regression, but against the Dodgers in this upcoming week, I would expect a start similar to his last outing against the Braves. In that outing he threw six strong innings, allowing only one earned run, allowing seven hits and one free pass, while striking out five. Go ahead and stream him this week, I say! (37.8% owned in ESPN and 38% in Yahoo!)

Andrew Cashner (SD)- Now I recommended Andrew Cashner last week and the Rockies knocked him around pretty good. Nevertheless, I still stand by Cash Money at the Giants next week. As a starter he still has a K/9 over ten, and his WHIP is 1.14, with an xFIP of 2.41. So that clunker against Rockies should be an anomaly and throwing in San Fran against an inconsistent Giants lineup should be good for him. Cash in on Cashner (sorry, could not help myself) this week and if he throws another clunker I will not recommend him again this season. (10.6% owned in ESPN and 13% in Yahoo!)

Andrew Werner (SD)- Apparently any Andrew in the Padres rotation makes it into Field of Streams. But with Werner, why would he not be on your radar? Four starts, and in each he has gone at least six innings, exactly six in three of those starts, and allowed no more than two earned or unearned runs in any of those starts. He is rocking a 8.51 K/9 and his xFIP is 3.41 so while a modest regression is on the horizon I still feel safe recommending the kid at the Giants this week. (7.5% owned in ESPN and 11% in Yahoo!)

Joe Kelly (STL)- I am not completely sold on Kelly’s overall value now or for the future, but he has that Cardinals pitching magic working for him. The 3.60 ERA looks good, but with a FIP over four, a K/9 of 6.21, a WHIP of 1.41 and a BB/9 over three his ERA will rise at some point, but not this week friends! This week he has the Astros and unless you live under a rock or don’t follow baseball, which would make it weird that you are reading this, you know Houston does not have anything close to a good offense. Stream Kelly this week and take advantage of this matchup. (4% owned in ESPN and 6% in Yahoo!)

So there you have it, another edition of Field Of Streams in the books! So what did we learn this week, children? 1) Andrews in the Padres rotation are good to go B) Ks/9 are the bee’s knees 4) “Ponch” Estrada is still the cat’s pajamas; spots on his bandwagon will be going fast and F) there is still time to cash in on Cashner while you can! Good day and godspeed!

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Bud Norris Is My Home Boy

Posted on 12 September 2012 by Will Emerson

If you are an avid reader of Field of Streams here at Full Spectrum, and you really should be, you have probably read just how ridiculously good Bud Norris has been at the Juice Box this year. You may also know that I adore pitchers with high Ks/9. The K/9 is why I have always liked Buddy Boy Norris. His career K/9 of 8.83 is quite tantalizing and that is why I have stuck by him, sort of, waiting for a breakout season. The long and short of it is, I am still waiting. His 3.77 ERA last season made it seem like he was turning the corner a bit, but this season has looked, well, not so hot. He is 5-12, but with the Astros and the light hitting lineup they have been trotting out onto the field for a large portion of the season, I would not hold too much stock in the win-loss record anyways. Let’s look at some other numbers, like his less than impressive 4.93 ERA and his subpar 1.42 WHIP. Not so good Al. The Ks are still flowing like wine, but he has not looked so good overall…..except when he pitches at home.

At home this year, Bud has been virtually lights out! His ERA is 1.90, his WHIP is 1.04, his K/9 is 10.18 and his K/BB ratio is 4.41. And this is not all smoke and mirrors, although he does have a BABIP of .280 and an 85.9 LOB %, his xFIP at home is 2.96. These are some extremely good numbers, but many pitchers are generally better at home, right? Right. But Bud is pitching in Houston, a somewhat notorious hitter’s park and look at how he stacks up against other starters at home. Here are the top five ERAs at home by starting pitchers whom have thrown more than 50 innings at home this season:

David Price (TB)- 1.66

Justin Verlander (DET)- 1.70

Chris Sale (CWS)- 1.72

Kris Medlen (ATL)- 1.75

Bud Norris (HOU)- 1.90

That is some pretty good company for Bud, but these guys generally also pitching fairly decently elsewhere as well. Below is the difference between home and road ERAs for these same pitchers:

Price: -1.70

Verlander: -2.32

Sale: -2.29

Medlen: .23

Norris: -5.44

5.44! That is an eye-popping difference! No need to do the comparisons for WHIP, but let’s just say there are probably not a ton of starters that have a WHIP that is .68 lower at home than it is on the road. Also, his K/9 is 2.4 higher at home than on the road, and hitters are hitting at a .210 clip, which is .84 points lower than it is on the road. The comparisons can go on and on, I’ve got plenty of statistics available, but I think you get the point. It is not just that he is dominating at home, but the fact that he is pitching so much better at home. So how in the heck is he doing it?

Well, Norris is walking half as many batters at home and somehow his strand rate at home is almost 25% higher. It also helps that at home he is indcuing more ground balls by an eight percent margin. So more walks, less strikeouts and fewer groundballs would tend to lead to more runners and more runs. His HR/FB ratio is twice as high on the road. With less grounders and more flyballs, but a similar line drive rate we can pretty much make the leap that more hard hit balls are getting hit in the air on the road leading to the uptick in the homers. So you can see how the numbers are happening, but it does not explain why. No starter in the majors has such drastically better numbers at home this season, so what is up with Bud?!  Is he changing his approach on the road? Well let us look at his pitch breakdown for home and road starts.

On the road Bud seems to be mixing his pitches less and relying more on his fastball. On average he is throwing the heater 58.93% of the time on the road, as opposed to 53.07% at home. In fact, in over two-thirds of his road starts he has used his fastball more than 59% of the time, while doing that in only 10% of his home starts. At home Bud is using his slider about four percent more and his changeup around two percent more. The more steady diet of fastballs he is feeding hitters could certainly be the reason for more flyballs and the much higher HR/ FB rate on the road. Hitters are certainly not chasing as much on the road that is for darned sure. At home, on average, throwing less fastballs and a better mix of pitches, batters are chasing balls out of the zone about 34% of the time as opposed to about 28% on the road. That is a somewhat significant difference. It would make it seem that he is not mixing his pitches as much on the road and thus fooling batters less, right? While I do not have a home-road breakdown of his pitch movement, considering that when batters are chasing these pitches they are making contact 10% more on the road it would appear that either he is not mixing his pitches as well or he is not getting as much movement or perhaps a combination of both. Whatever you may think, Norris is clearly not fooling hitters as much on the road and the pitch selection and movement could be the biggest difference. So what does this mean for Bud Norris in the future?

Well, his home-road splits have not been this drastic in previous seasons, so there is a chance this is a big anomaly or fluke this season. In all likelihood Norris will still be better at home next season, but I would guess you would not see this large of a difference in the numbers. Look for a bit of regression in the home numbers next season as well as the road numbers improving a bit. However, if the start of next season resembles this year’s ridiculous splits, then the Astros may want to possibly hire a hypnotist to trick Bud into thinking he is pitching in Minute Maid Park every time out. They may want to avoid the one from the Simpson’s that made Roger Clemens think he was a chicken however.

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