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Monday, May 14, 2007

HOME AND ROAD 

Okay gang, just stick with this, at least past the asterisks, okay?

I'm sure you know this, but Ervin Santana for the last two seasons has been two different pitchers; a good one at home and a Bartolo Colon v.2004esque one on the road. Is there any reason we should expect this gap to continue?

After yesterday's sterling perf, Magic has a 2.57 ERA at home this year against a 7.86 on the road. The big difference -- well, hell, I'll just show you:
WHERE   BF  SO/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  BABIP
Home 84 .202 .060 .024 .254
Away 128 .156 .109 .070 .345
It looks like he's had some bad luck defensively on the road (or has given up more screamers) and some good fortune at home. We might expect that to even out a bit (whether the cause is defense or Santana himself) as the season goes on. Of course, this is a pretty small sample. What did he do last year?

Well, last year he had a 3.02 ERA at home and a 5.95 away from the Big A. What do the peripherals tell us about last season?
WHERE   BF  SO/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  BABIP
Home 469 .162 .075 .017 .251
Away 377 .172 .093 .034 .287
Santana was slightly but uniformly better at home last year, too. Of course, there is some degree home field advantage, so that is to be expected. But beyond that, I see no reason to expect Ervin to vastly outperform his road performance at home. I think it's just one of those fluky things that evens out over time.

***

Okay, there's a punchline to all that.

The above is, nearly word-for-word, something I wrote about John Lackey three years ago. I mean, literally: I copied-and-pasted it, and just changed the names and numbers where appropriate.

Let's look at both guy's career numbers, Santana through now, Lackey in 2003 and 2004 only. What I'm going to show you is a differential; a positive means that the pitcher is better in that category at home. For example Santana's strikeout rate has been .005 points better at home than on the road in his career.
WHO      SO/BF  BB/BF  HR/BF  BABIP   ERA
Santana +.005 +.020 +.025 +.058 +3.65
Lackey +.003 +.007 +.017 +.044 +2.30
Now, I'll confess to some cherry-picking here, in that I didn't include John's rookie season; Big John didn't have such a huge disparity in 2002. But I know this: he struggled on the road in a big way in 2003 and 2004, but in 2005 and 2006, was actually better on the road than at home.

Now, as you can see, Santana's road disadvantage has been more extreme than Lackey's was in those two years. Still, I can't think of any legitimate reason that this disparity should continue at such an extreme.

Remember, Santana is a young pitcher -- he's a year younger now than Lackey was at the point we're comparing them. Remember how frustrating Lackey could be in his first two full seasons? Struggling on the road, the "Lackey Inning", all that stuff? Why would we expect Ervin to be any different?

Yes, he will struggle at times. Yes, he will frustrate. But I think we gotta stick with him. He has good stuff, has demonstrated brilliance, and usually keeps a good composure on the mound. I don't know that he's going to make the same jump that Lackey did between 2004 and 2005. But I think he's got a shot, and the Angels owe it to themselves to find out if he can do it.

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Comments:
A couple of other points:

Let's not forget that Santana was installed in the ML rotation at least a half year, if not a year and a half early. He was called up due to injury long before anyone expected he would be, due to injuries, and completely skipped triple A.

On the other hand, Lackey didn't have at least one, and probably two guys behind him that *weren't* in the ML rotation who *would have been* in the ML rotation on pretty much any other club in the league. One of the reasons it's so tempting to give up on Santana is because Moseley, and more importantly Saunders are lurking. I don't remember the Angels having that sort of depth in 2002.
 
It's not so much "give up" on Santana as "let him fix his inconsistency problems in the minors". If I were giving up on him, I'd recommend he be traded. That's inappropriate.
 
I don't want to give up on him, I think the Lackey comparison is a good one. But maybe we should trade him. I'm not talking boaut a trade to get rid of him, but can we package him and another prospect to bring in a powerful veteran hitter?

I'm glad we didn't bite on Joe Crede before his fluke wore off, but year in, year out guys like Dunn, Glaus, and Tejada. If the opportunity is there I don't think we can afford to pass.
 
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