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Dealing with extreme home/road splits

7/20/2012

Pitching in road games versus at home is not a skill. Let's get that out of the way first. Sure, members of certain rotations are aided by spacious home ballparks, but not everyone in that situation is unusable on the road. Those in fantasy baseball daily formats should pay attention to ballpark splits and act accordingly.

In honor of what San Diego Padres right-hander Edinson Volquez accomplished Thursday, nearly no-hitting the woeful Houston Astros (just look at that lineup) and the fact I still wouldn't trust him and his penchant for frequent free passes away from Petco Park, here are pitchers I'd stream only at home, and then a few other notables I feel do not belong to be treated this way.

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants: Let's start with a big name. He's allowed 48 runs (47 earned) in 47 innings away from AT&T Park. On Friday, or perhaps Saturday if the rain gets in the way, Lincecum will throw in Philadelphia. Sorry, but I'm not on board. I've said often I would not cut Lincecum, because the strikeout potential and lure of the home games is too great, but his recent solid performances were home matchups with the Astros and then Matt Kemp-less Los Angeles Dodgers. He has one quality road start all year, and it came in Oakland. I spoke to his catcher Buster Posey at the All-Star Game, and he discussed Lincecum's lack of fastball command. In a large ballpark, if he avoids the walks, he can get away with it.

Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels: One might surmise he's not worth using anywhere, but road woes aren't a new trend for Santana. He's an eight-year veteran with extreme splits, and it's not like he plays home games at Petco Park; the right-hander's career road ERA is 4.94 (1.40 WHIP), while at home he boasts a 3.76 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. And remember 2006, when he had a 3.02 ERA at home and 5.95 on the road? This isn't that year, but he's actually been unlucky at home. He's allowing a .196 batting average at Angel Stadium, so I expect his current 4.25 ERA there to improve. This weekend Santana is scheduled to face the Texas Rangers. It's not a great matchup, but don't be afraid to leave him active.

Tommy Milone, Oakland Athletics: Milone and colleague Jarrod Parker are scheduled to face the mighty New York Yankees at home this weekend, although it is relevant that Robinson Cano's team does lead baseball in road OPS and home runs. Regardless, Milone's road ERA is 5.69, more than five times higher than at home. He's a soft-tossing, fly-ball lefty with unremarkable stuff. Parker has a far brighter future and really hasn't been bad on the road (4.08 ERA), although I worry about overall rookie regression. Still, I'd simply sit Milone out of O.co Coliseum. With Parker, it depends on the foe.

Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners: The surprising lefty once discarded by the New York Mets is on pace for 16 wins and 148 strikeouts, and there's nothing wrong with his 1.17 WHIP. Most assume he's a product of Safeco Field, which I concur with, but he's also won consecutive road outings in Kansas City and Oakland, allowing four runs in 15 innings. Want the bad news? Nobody in baseball has allowed more home runs. The last time Vargas did not permit one was in early May, 13 outings ago. And while he's won seven of 12 road starts, his ERA is 5.04 with a low K rate. I'm not using him at Tampa Bay this weekend, but for future home games, assuming he isn't traded, sure.

Pitchers not to sit on the road

Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds: Back in March, the assumption was that Latos, formerly a San Diego Padres stalwart who wasn't special on the road, would be in more trouble at his hitter-friendly home ballpark. Instead, his current ERA is considerably lower at Great American Ballpark. Still, the 5.00 road ERA is deceiving. Latos has fanned 49 in those 45 innings. His road BABIP is higher than his home one, though I suspect that tells us he's not as safe as we think at home. He has two awful outings this year, each on the road, but three of his better starts have come on the road. Latos was going to see his numbers worsen after leaving Petco Park. I don't think it matters where he pitches, frankly.

Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox: He looked good to me Thursday night. Buchholz still has miserable season stats, but his 5.71 road ERA versus his 4.83 home one isn't indicative of meaningful data. The guy was just hurt and bad for two months. Since June 1 his overall ERA is 2.63. Use him anywhere.

A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates: You see his 2.10 home ERA and 6.30 road mark and think he's an obvious problem away from Pittsburgh, but he's also the possessor of baseball's worst outing in 2012, a historic 12-run explosion in St. Louis. It all counts, but it doesn't need to define a trend that doesn't exist, either; remove that one outing and Burnett's road ERA is 3.85, not great but certainly palatable.

Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs: This oft-mentioned name in trade rumors has extreme splits, a 2.12 ERA at Wrigley Field and a 5.67 road mark, which some fantasy owners believe will make him an obvious sell-high candidate when he's dealt. Garza's not an ace, fantasy or otherwise, but he's certainly competent. In 10 road starts, he's allowed 14 of his 15 home runs. There's no logic to this. The contender that acquires Garza will perhaps be disappointed in his impact, but this home/road thing shouldn't last.