My 8th grade math teacher, Mr. Callahan, had a go-to saying for every situation, and any time one of us “Podunk, Joe-everyday slob-like” students forgot our homework, he'd simply shake his head and mutter, “Well it’s not tragic, but it’s not good either.”
So far this season, the Cincinnati Reds have made a habit of forgetting their homework.
Granted, the year is still young, with only 29 games down and 133 left on the schedule. But with a barely-in-the-black record of 15-14, the Reds have been a relative disappointment in the early going. It’s far too soon to make any sweeping judgments or generalizations about how a particular player will do the rest of the season or where the Reds will finish in the division come September, but one glaring thing has stood out in a macro sense thus far: the team is terrible on the road. The strength of a 12-4 home record gets tempered a bit when paired with a 3-10 road split, currently leaving the Reds fourth out of five teams in the NL Central, two games behind the Cardinals. And while kicking off a three-game series with the last-place Chicago Cubs this afternoon would appear to be a welcome remedy for the tough opponents faced in the season’s first month, those Cubs matchups will be taking place on the road in Wrigley Field. I suppose something’s gotta give.
But before the Jekyll & Hyde Redlegs attempt to get their 2012-regular-season groove back, let’s take a look at a few of those on the roster who have suffered the greatest disparities in their home and away performances.
Again, the sample size is small. A total of 29 games is rather slight to begin with, meaning these splits are contrasting 16 home games against only 13 road contests. Still, for some, you can already see an obvious divide.
Todd Frazier: The Toddfather has been straight-up bipolar at the dish, putting the fear of God into pitchers at the friendly confines of Great American Ballpark, yet doing quite the opposite away from Cincy. His home slash line of .316 AVG/.385 OBP/.684 SLG—resulting in a nice 1.069 OPS—drops to a ghastly .119/.213/.167 and .379 OPS on the road. (Yeah, his home on-base percentage is higher than his away OPS. Yeesh.) Surprisingly, his K% is actually pretty stable, but his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) plummets from .324 to .172. There isn’t a similar difference in his GB/LD/FB percentages either, which suggests Frazier must be terribly unlucky, or just making better contact in his home park. His wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) is 185 in Cincinnati, meaning he creates 85 percent more runs than league average at GABP. On the road? His wRC+ is 8, which…well, is pretty self-explanatory.
Shin-Soo Choo: Anyone who’s watched the majority of games this season can vouch for the fact that Choo’s defense has been far more suspect on the road, and the stats reveal more of the same in regard to his performance at the plate. He doesn’t fall off quite the cliff that Frazier does, but Choo’s slash line falls from .418/.568/.691 (1.258 OPS!!!) to a pedestrian .220/.328/.360 (.688 OPS). His .513 home BABIP is more than cut in half at .250 on the road, while his LD% drops from 26.2 to 9.8. And with this being Choo’s first season as a Red, it’s a little curious why he appears so much more comfortable in Great American.
Homer Bailey: The young right-hander, who was much better on the road last season compared to pitching at home, has flipped the script in 2013. He’s 1-3 in 6 starts, with his lone win at home and all three losses on the road. In 20 innings pitched at GABP, he has 0.90 ERA and an opponent slash line of .157/.230/.191. But in 17.1 road innings pitched, his ERA balloons to 6.23 with a slash line of .319/.355/.583. His WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) jumps from 0.85 at home to 1.56, while his K/9 drops from 10.8 to 5.71.
Jonathan Broxton: Rough pumpkins for Mr. Broxton. He has racked up only 11.1 total innings on the mound, with only 3.2 away from the Queen City. The results in those 3.2, however, have been downright atrocious. Home: 0.00 ERA, slash line of .115/.120/.120, WHIP of 0.39, and 7.04 K/9. Away: 19.64 ERA (not a typo), slash line of .389/.500/.941, WHIP jumps to 3.00, and K/9 falls to 4.91. Blergh.
It’ll be interesting to see if any of these four can turn the tide as the season progresses, particularly Frazier and Broxton. Home sweet home indeed.