Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stat of the Day: May 10th

So, normally this column is a compilation of great/terrible/interesting performances from the previous day's action. However, yesterday didn't really produce anything like that: no 16-strike out games, no 44-point performances, nobody with a hat trick or a playoff shutout or anything like that. So instead, we're going to talk about a statistical anomaly in the world of baseball that is particularly interesting/unlikely/weird over the course of a full season

M. Scherzer (DET): 3-0 with a 6.23 ERA (road); 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA (home)
In eight starts this season, young Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer is 6-0 with a solid 3.20 ERA and 9.1 K/9.  However, looking deeper into Scherzer's performance in 2011 we find something strange: he is a stellar 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA at home, while also being 3-0 on the road. The difference, though, is that in road starts, his ERA is a whopping 6.23 this season. Not only is that an enormous home/road split in ERA, but Scherzer managed to rack up a win in three of four road starts. How is this possible? Well, in Scherzer's four road starts, the Tigers have scored an average of 8.25 runs per game. In fact, in his first start of the season, Scherzer departed (the road game) after allowing six runs on nine hits--including four home runs--in only five innings. He still got the win, though, as the Tigers scored 10 runs that game. In his four home starts, by contrast, they have scored only 3.75 run/game for Scherzer, but he has gotten the W in a 3-0 Tigers win and a 4-0 Tigers win. Now, why did this happen? Other Tigers starters do not show this same trend: though Rick Porcello is 1-1 at home and on the road, his ERA is actually 1.97 higher at home. That means that Comerica Park is not some amazing pitchers park that hides pitchers' flaws--Scherzer is just pitching better there. In fact, the reason for Scherzer's home success this season was actually the cause of his better home performance last year (his first with the Tigers) as well. In 2010, Scherzer had a 2.99 ERA at home and 3.99 ERA on the road. Though he pitched only 3% more innings on the road last year, Scherzer still gave up four more home runs and walked six more batters on the road--in only three more innings. Likewise, this season Scherzer has walked five more batters on the road in 5.1 fewer innings. He's also given up eight round-trippers away from Detroit but zero at home. This means that Scherzer is better able to limit the damage at home, while on the road he is prone to the big inning. This then leads us to the final question: why is Scherzer giving up more home runs on the road? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to this question.  Though it makes sense that the young Tigers hurler gave up four home runs in Yankees Stadium (the second-easiest park in which to hit a four-bagger), he also gave up two home runs at Cleveland's Progressive Field and one at Seattle's Safeco Field--the fifth and ninth-hardest stadiums at which to hit one out, respectively. This means that Scherzer is simply prone to the longball on the road. It was the same last season (12 road/eight home), his first year pitching at Comerica Park. By the way, Comerica is the 15th-easiest/16th-hardest place to hit a home run--right in the middle. So the Tigers aren't any more or less likely to give up home runs there, Max Scherzer is just an anomaly.

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