Matt Cain has evolved into an elite Fantasy starting pitcher, but how different would his value be if he played for a team other than the Giants?
Cain's flyball tendencies play well at AT&T Park, but on the road, he gives up home runs at a higher rate and sports a career 3.57 ERA and 1.22 WHIP that pale in comparison to his home stats (3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP). Cain is good enough on the road to start regardless of venue, but there are plenty of other pitchers whose Fantasy value is shaped much more strongly by where they pitch.
The Giants play in one of the majors' best parks for pitchers, especially when it comes to containing the home run. That has made a difference for their staff as a whole, as they allowed the fewest homers (53) in the majors at home in 2012, but tied for the 10th-highest total of home runs allowed (89) on the road.
Several other clubs play in parks that similarly favor pitching, while other stadiums are highly skewed towards batters. For pitchers who fall short of must-start status, those park effects can make all the difference as to whether you should start or sit them.
In last week's column on park effects and hitters, I outlined the criteria used to determine which venues are considered to be extreme parks for pitchers and hitters. The emphasis in this week's analysis will once again be on the effect that stadiums have on home runs, as this is where parks generally make their greatest impact. We will highlight the most extreme pitcher's and hitter's parks and identify the starting pitchers who stand to gain or lose the most value from their home stadiums.
I have taken PETCO Park and Safeco Field out of the analysis, however. Though both parks have traditionally been havens for pitchers, we have yet to see how the recent changes to their dimensions could affect the pitchers who play their home games there.
Note: All stats are current for games played through Monday, April 15.
Angels (Angel Stadium of Anaheim): As a Mariner, Jason Vargas benefited from pitching home games at Safeco Field, having compiled a 3.38 ERA there. He should have similar success at Angel Stadium, which could supplant Safeco as the American League's premier pitcher's park. Owners just have to be careful about starting Vargas in hitter-friendly road venues. If Tommy Hanson's velocity ever comes back, he could at least be worth starting in his home games, as the Angels' park should limit the damage caused by his mild flyball tendencies.
Giants (AT&T Park): Tim Lincecum's propensity to allow homers and walks has gotten so bad that he should be benched in standard mixed leagues, but even during his dismal 2012 season, he allowed only seven home runs over 102 home innings. If you're going to trust Lincecum, do it for his home starts. Some owners may look to bench Ryan Vogelsong on the road, as his ERA away from AT&T Park is just 3.82 since joining the Giants in 2011. However, those road splits have more to do with his strand rate than his homer rate, but as long as he continues to keep the ball in the park, he should be a safe start most weeks.
Marlins (Marlins Park): Aside from Jose Fernandez, the Marlins don't have starters worth using in standard mixed leagues, but a couple of deeper-league options have more value when pitching at home. Wade LeBlanc and Kevin Slowey are too flyball-prone to trust in most venues, but at Marlins Park, both are must-starts in NL-only leagues. LeBlanc in particular has a history of good splits at pitcher's parks, having fared well in home starts as both a Marlin and a Padre.
Athletics (O.co Coliseum; vs. LHB only): Southpaw Tommy Milone has actually had more problems with homers against lefties than righties, so it's little surprise that he has had great home splits as a member of the A's, given how tough his home park is on left-handed batters. In 17 starts at O.co Coliseum, Milone has allowed only eight home runs over 112 1/3 innings with a 2.72 ERA. When he pitches in Oakland, Milone can be used even in one-start weeks in standard mixed leagues.
Twins (Target Field; vs. LHB only): Of the Twins' top four starters, Vance Worley is the least reliant on ground balls to have success, so especially as a righty, he would seem to benefit from having Target Field as his home park. However, Worley has had more trouble containing righties over his career, and Target Field plays as a neutral power park for right-handed hitters. Fantasy owners can disregard the park factor for Twins pitchers, including Worley, in their home starts.
Red Sox (Fenway Park; vs. LHB only): The Red Sox starter who would probably benefit the most from pitching at Fenway Park is John Lackey (biceps), but he's stuck on the 15-day disabled list. Also, it's been since 2010 since we have seen evidence of Lackey getting a boost from his home splits, and even then, a .334 home BABIP erased whatever advantage he might have enjoyed from a low homer rate. There's not much of a Fantasy impact here for Boston's rotation.
Indians (Progressive Field vs. RHB only): Brett Myers has infamously struggled with the long ball over his career, but Progressive Field just might be the cure for what ails him. He has been more homer-prone versus righties, so Myers' new home park could help to keep his home run rate in check. It won't be enough to make him viable in standard mixed leagues, but Myers can be started in deeper leagues when he's at home.
Pirates (PNC Park; vs. RHB only): Better command made a difference for A.J. Burnett last season, but his move from Yankee Stadium to PNC Park played a role, too. Allowing only eight home runs over 110 1/3 innings helped Burnett to limit his home ERA to 3.10, so if you're ever going to sit him, it should be when he's on the road. James McDonald had favorable home splits in each of his two full seasons with the Bucs, and Monday's debacle at the hands of the Cardinals aside, McDonald should be used for home starts in deeper mixed leagues, even in some one-start weeks.
Cardinals (Busch Stadium; vs. RHB only): Lance Lynn is being started in 78 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, but with a career 4.37 ERA in away games, should he be benched when pitching on the road? Lynn's HR/9 rate in away games (1.0) is considerably higher than in home games (0.6), but he should still be good enough to use in most weeks, regardless of venue. Lynn has been penalized on the road with a .350 BABIP that is bound to shrink going forward.
White Sox (U.S. Cellular Field): Contact pitchers with decent walk and ground ball rates are easier to find than a Kardashian in a grocery store tabloid, so there's no reason to go out of your way to get Jose Quintana in a mixed league. If you do own him in a deeper format, you can at least trust him when he makes starts on the road. Not surprisingly, Quintana has been taken out of U.S. Cellular Field nine times in his 69 1/3 innings there, contributing to a 4.54 home ERA. Away from his launching pad of a home park, Quintana has a 3.12 ERA and a 0.7 HR/9 rate. Quintana has probably overperformed a bit on the road, but he should still be worth a deep-league start when away from the Windy City.
Orioles (Oriole Park at Camden Yards): With high flyball rates, Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez both profile as pitchers who would fare worse at Camden Yards than away from it, and that has actually been the case. Chen's ERA and WHIP splits are actually not very drastic, as he has piled up more strikeouts in home starts. Gonzalez, on the other hand, has been a far better pitcher overall on the road than at home. Having pitched fewer than 40 career innings at home, perhaps Gonzalez's splits will narrow. Both pitchers have strong enough flyball tendencies, though, that they are risky in home starts. Unless they are facing particularly weak lineups, they should be sat when pitching in Baltimore.
Rockies (Coors Field): Is Jhoulys Chacin back to his rookie form? His early ERA and WHIP say "yes," but a 6.5 percent whiff rate says "maybe not." Even assuming the best for Chacin, he has not been immune to the Coors Effect, so he is a risk to start at home. If he continues to induce grounders like he has in the early going, Chacin should be safe to use in away games, and a 3.01 career road ERA attests to that.
Reds (Great American Ball Park): Homer Bailey has been aptly named for his home starts, and even during last season's breakout, he allowed 21 of his 26 homers at GABP. He may not match last year's 2.32 road ERA, but Bailey is good enough at limiting home runs away from Cincinnati to be a worthwhile start in most formats. Mike Leake also has lopsided splits, but he's had enough trouble with homers on the road (career 1.1 HR/9) that he is still just a deep league option during road trips.
Brewers (Miller Park): Kyle Lohse comes to Miller Park after enjoying low home run rates as a Cardinal, which were aided by pitching home games at Busch Stadium. He may be trustworthy most weeks on the road, but he is not an automatic start at home. Mike Fiers has issues other than this flyball tendencies, as his starts are being skipped for now. Even if he resumes getting regular turns in the rotation, Fiers should be avoided some weeks at home, where he has allowed 12 home runs in 74 2/3 career innings.
Yankees (Yankee Stadium; vs. LHB only): Both Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have lopsided HR/9 splits. Nova's 5.02 ERA from last season has rightfully soured owners in many mixed leagues, but Hughes' 3.70 ERA from June forward last year showed that he still has value. He's still not all that safe at home, though, and he relied on an 80 percent strand rate (per FanGraphs.com) to post a 3.74 ERA at Yankee Stadium in 2012. Hughes is worth owning in mixed leagues, but he should be used with caution whenever he has home starts.
Rangers (Rangers Ballpark at Arlington; vs. LHB only): Derek Holland has been good at containing lefties, so you might think that he is capable of taming his home park. However, the Ballpark at Arlington is also a pretty good -- if not extreme -- venue for right-handed power hitters. That has certainly factored into Holland's career 5.20 home ERA. With a 3.50 road ERA going back to 2011, Holland is a solid option for standard mixed leagues when he's on road trips.
Indians (Progressive Field; vs. LHB only): Lefties have taken Zach McAllister out of Progressive Field nine times in just 49 1/3 innings, so his home park is clearly not working for him. He's mainly an AL-only option anyway, but even in those formats, owners should consider sitting the righty during homestands.
Blue Jays (Rogers Centre; vs. RHB only): Like fellow southpaw Holland, J.A. Happ has been much better at handling lefty batters, but his struggles with righties could be especially problematic at Rogers Centre. Happ made strides last season in improving his ground ball and walk rates, so he is worth owning in mixed leagues, but his splits make him a gamble to start when he pitches at home.
Phillies (Citizens Bank Park; vs. LHB only): Lefty batters have frequently taken both Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan deep over the course of their respective careers, but that won't have much of a Fantasy impact for either pitcher. While both are dangerous to use when starting in Philadelphia, neither is a recommended option on the road either.
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