- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The Los Angeles Dodgers' Vicente Padilla and San Diego Padres' Wade LeBlanc are each scheduled to start Tuesday night, and while Padilla is the one coming off a two-hit shutout and sporting a 1.33 ERA over his past eight starts, there isn't a chance I'd use him in a spot-starter role over LeBlanc on this night. The reasoning is simple to me: Look where their games will be played, 3,000 miles apart.
By this time of the fantasy baseball season, owners should be looking a bit closer at the stats rather than blindly using ERA or wins to evaluate starting pitchers. With hitters, I admit I tend to play my best guys, no matter the matchups. With pitchers, I'm far more likely to take into account numerous factors and trends, and the primary one by this point is the home/road splits. For those looking for help Tuesday, Padilla is the one you don't want, because he's in Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park, while LeBlanc is in San Diego at cozy Petco Park.
I've watched the normally erratic Padilla pitch for years, and he knows how to use stadiums to his advantage. Similarly, he knows when he's overwhelmed. Pitchers obviously bring a different strategy to certain places. This season Padilla has a cool 1.61 ERA at Dodger Stadium, with a 0.71 WHIP. He has fanned 44 hitters in 44 2/3 innings. Only two pitchers with 40 or more innings of work in home games have a better ERA, and they are considerably better and more popular (Adam Wainwright, Josh Johnson). Padilla really isn't that good ... but in his large home ballpark, he is. In road games this season, Padilla has one win in seven starts and a 4.86 ERA. So do you feel lucky trusting this guy in Philadelphia on Tuesday? I don't.
LeBlanc, like most Padres hurlers, has superior numbers at home. In his last outing, at pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium, LeBlanc allowed eight hits and four runs in 6 1/3 innings, losing to Padilla. In road games, LeBlanc sports a 4.86 ERA, which is identical to Padilla's mark. In home games, as Tuesday's tilt against the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates is, LeBlanc's ERA is 2.67. Easy choice, right?
Here are some other pitchers who have a disparity between their home and road splits. You might want to think twice about their usage down the stretch:
Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners: He's no fluke this season ... at Safeco Field, where he has a 2.23 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. The lefty has won seven of his eight games there. But on the road, he has won just once in nine attempts, with a 4.50 ERA. Vargas is available in 80 percent of ESPN standard (10-team) mixed leagues, but his next three outings are on the road. Grab him when the Mariners come home.
Brett Myers, Houston Astros: Still think Minute Maid Park is a hitter's paradise? Well, it isn't. For years Wandy Rodriguez has been stronger there than the road, and this season Myers is 6-0 with a 2.29 ERA in 10 home starts and 2-7 with a 3.96 ERA everywhere else. It's mid-August, time to trust Myers, especially at home.
Tommy Hunter, Texas Rangers: This right-hander isn't getting lit up anywhere this season, so I checked out his career splits. Rangers Ballpark most certainly is a fun place to hit, and Hunter is hittable, but in 19 home starts in three seasons there, he is 12-4 with a 3.61 ERA, with a 1.22 WHIP. It defies logic. On the road he's unusable (5.59 ERA). This season Hunter is 6-0 at home with a 2.53 ERA and 3-1 with a 3.91 road mark. Use him appropriately.
Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays: Mr. Popular on the ESPN most-added list, as expected coming off his near no-hitter with 17 strikeouts, Morrow has been an attractive fantasy option all season at home, with a 7-1 mark and 2.83 ERA. His strikeout rate is actually better on the road, but his ERA is 6.44. Walks are the main problem. I would think twice about using him in certain road matchups.
Ricky Nolasco, Florida Marlins: Not everyone in this blog thrives at home. Nolasco, who is owned in 99.8 percent of ESPN leagues, has a home ERA of 5.46, shockingly high, especially when you consider his home ballpark is more of a pitcher's park. Of 132 pitchers with 40 or more home innings, he's 124th, and nobody else in the bottom 10 is heavily owned. Meanwhile, Nolasco has won five consecutive road contests. If you own him, you probably never sit him, but shouldn't you?
Phil Hughes, New York Yankees: The only Yankees starter with worse home numbers is Javier Vazquez, but that's kind of expected after the brutal start he had. Hughes is different. His home ERA is 4.79; on the road it's 2.61. Blame the 15 home runs at Yankee Stadium, while he has permitted just one on the road. Hughes did pitch well Monday at home in losing 2-1 to Jon Lester. In fact, he's 8-3 at home ... but all his other numbers are better on the road. If the Yankees want to monitor his innings, they should do so at home.
Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles Dodgers: Explain this one for me. The Buzzsaw, as he's referred to on the Fantasy Focus podcast, has a 4.61 ERA at cozy Dodger Stadium, the same place a vagabond with average stuff like Padilla can thrive. Billingsley has terrific stuff. On the road he shows it, with a 2.95 ERA. One-year fluke? Nah, turns out Billingsley's career ERA is half a run better on the road. Some things are just unexplainable. But by this point, the trend is obvious.
Eric Karabell pores over home and road splits among starting pitchers and comes up with some interesting findings on such players as Vicente Padilla, Brandon Morrow and Chad Billingsley.