chimed in on this Carlos Gonzalez subject. I recently wrote about Gonzalez, and why I didn’t see him as a legitimate MVP choice. Well, after his torrid two weeks I certainly see him as more legitimate than before, but I’m still not sold. So often when I’m checking up on something, I have another thought – an idea that jogs my memory – and end up heading down the rabbit hole. Well it happened again today and I’ll get into that soon enough.
People talk a lot about how offensive Coors Field is because the ball jumps, etc. Well, someone that commented on Joe’s blog mentioned something that I think hit the nail on the head. It has a lot to do with how the ball behaves in Coors Field, not after it’s been put into play*, but rather when it leaves the pitchers hand. Breaking pitches just don’t have the same bite and depth there that they do in other parks. This 1) makes it easier to hit them at Coors 2) and somewhat of a shock to Rockies hitters when they see a “real” breaking pitch on the road. I think this phenomenon should be explored, but I’m not sure I’m the right person to do it. Pitch F/X would probably be useful here.
*Let’s not forget how important it is how the ball behaves when put into play, either. Coors has an enormous outfield which outrageously inflates BABIP, and therefore, AVG, SLG and OBP as well. And don’t forget the obvious either, that balls go OVER the fence more often too.
Here’s how Gonzalez sits now, after a huge couple of weeks.
2010 Home: 25 HR, .394 AVG, .440 OBP, .801 SLG, 1.241 OPS, .391 BABIP, .515 wOBA
2010 Road: 7 HR, .288 AVG, .310 OBP, .450 SLG, .760 OPS, .378 BABIP, .330 wOBA
He’s actually emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate – I’m certain at least in the voters’ eyes – and if he were actually able to make up the 3 HR deficit to Albert Pujols and maintain his league leading batting average and RBI, he would probably win the MVP unanimously. As Posnanski points out, a NL player hasn’t won the elusive Triple Crown since 1967 when Yaz did it. But I still maintain – and anyone with eyeballs should too – that he’s hitting like two completely different people whether at home or on the road.
But anyway, when I thought of how cavernous Gonzalez’s home and road splits were, I thought of another player. Pablo Sandoval’s home and road wOBA differential is nearly as startling as Carlos Gonzalez’s – .185 versus .148. While Gonzalez is having an ultra extraordinary season at home and a now mediocre or average season on the road, Pablo has excellent numbers at home and absolutely dreadful numbers away from AT&T. Why?
First, let’s take a look at Panda’s home and road numbers in both ’09 and ’10.
Pablo “Panda” Sandoval
2009 Home: 13 HR, .412 OBP, .600 SLG, 1.012 OPS, .378 BABIP, .427 wOBA
2009 Road: 12 HR, .363 OBP, .514 SLG, .877 OPS, .322 BABIP, .366 wOBA
2010 Home: 8 HR, .336 AVG, .391 OBP, .534 SLG, .926 OPS, .357 BABIP, .393 wOBA
2010 Road: 4 HR, .208 AVG, .260 OBP, .303 SLG, .563 OPS, .233 BABIP, .245 wOBA
BUT, and this is a big but, his batted ball percentages don’t really support this enormous chasm in production. His line drive percentage (LD%) at home is 15.6% and away is 16.7%. LD% is the most important of them all, and a higher percentage basically always relates to greater success. This is because they result in a hit about 75% of the time. His ground ball percentage (GB%) is 48.6% at home and 41.4% on the road. A higher GB% is not good and almost always relates to less success, especially for those who are non-speedy. His fly ball percentage (FB%) at home is 35.8% and 41.9% on the road and his infield fly ball percentage (IFFB%) is 12.8% at home and 7.5% on the road. Unfortunately, his fly balls at home are going for a HR 10.3% of the time and only 4.3% on the road. Here’s what they looks liked in 2009, Stat – Home/Road: LD% - 19.0/18.3, GB% - 43.8/45.9, FB% - 37.2/35.8, IFFB% - 7.8/8.0.
Again, his wOBA delta home to away is an unbelievable .148. It’s obvious that Panda has probably lost a step and lacks some of the athleticism that earned him his now famous nickname. It’s also pretty obvious that it apperas pitchers have tied him into knots at certain points this season. But before we jump to conclusions and assume that we’ve seen the best of Panda, that he was a flash in the pan, I think we would all be wise to consider the factor of luck (or lack there of). Panda has a lower GB% and higher LD% on the road this season, and yet his BABIP is .124 points lower on the road. His skillset should lead us to believe that he’s capable of posting BABIP of .300 at the very least, and more likely considerably above that. My gut tells me it won’t be long befor Pablo is tormenting pitchers again on ankle breaking pitches and eye-high fastballs. If you don’t believe me, recall the look on Matt Latos’ face – the MLB leader in ERA – after Pablo took his eye high fastball in August and deposited it into McCovey Cove.
Apparently, Neyer found the subject intriguing as well.
Stats pulled from Fangraphs.com.