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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals home-road splits telling

The St. Louis Cardinals are a dramatically different team at Busch Stadium vs. on the road.

Busch Stadium IIIBy Ian Walton

Following a poor 1-2 showing in Pittsburgh and a split with the Nationals halfway through their four game series, much has been made of the Cardinals’ inability to capitalize upon weaker opponents while the Cincinnati Reds slowly increase their divisional lead.  With the remainder of the Washington set and a three game series in Houston due up next, I wonder how much of their struggles have been due to a simple case of homesickness?

While only the Florida Marlins have a better record away from their home park than in it this season at the time of this writing, most playoff contending teams don’t have such pronounced trouble as the Cardinals on the road.  While enjoying a 41-23 (.641) record at Busch Stadium this season, the Cardinals are only 28-34 (.452) in their travels.  In fact, the following table shows that the Cardinals performed nearly equal at home and away as recently as the past couple of years.

St. Louis Cardinals Records Year by Year

Year Home Wins Home Losses Home Win Pct Away Wins Away Losses Away Win Pct Home Win Pct – Away Win Pct
2010 41 23 0.641 28 34 0.452 0.189
2009 46 35 0.568 45 36 0.556 0.012
2008 46 35 0.568 40 41 0.494 0.074
2007 43 38 0.531 35 46 0.432 0.099
2006 49 31 0.613 34 47 0.420 0.193

In 2010, the Cardinals have performed significantly worse on the road in most statistical categories.  While batting, their home .778 OPS drops to .723 on the road.  In particular, they seem to become much wilder at the plate.  At home, their BB/K ratio is a solid 0.69, but away it drops to 0.40!  Are they in a hurry to get back to their planes or hotels?  Are the opposing crowds rattling them?  What would cause them to completely lose sense of their plate discipline on the road?

The following table shows a number of home road/away OPS splits for various Cardinal players of note.  For better or worse, two of the players who were most skewed toward strong performances at Busch, Ryan Ludwick and David Freese, are no longer with the team.  Unfortunately, two of the three members of the Cardinals’ middle infield platoon, Brendan Ryan and Felipe Lopez, have also struggled mightily on the road.  The third, Skip Schumaker, is actually performing .100 points better away from St. Louis.  Colby Rasmus’ recent injury woes are untimely to fall during this recent trip, as his .991 away OPS by far leads the team (Pujols is second with .955).

Selected Cardinals Batters Home/Road OPS

Player Home OPS Away OPS Home OPS – Away OPS
Ryan Ludwick 0.926 0.734 0.192
David Freese 0.957 0.580 0.377
Felipe Lopez 0.751 0.605 0.146
Brendan Ryan 0.686 0.472 0.214
Skip Schumaker 0.621 0.721 -0.100
Colby Rasmus 0.736 0.991 -0.255
Team 0.778 0.723 0.055

Perhaps more striking than the differences between home and road performance at the plate are those on the mound.  As the following table shows, the Cardinals’ team ERA jumps from 2.92 at home to 3.96 on the road.  Notably, two of the team’s top three starting pitchers, their setup man, and their closer have performed dramatically better at home than on the road this season.

Selected Cardinals Pitchers Home/Road ERAs

Player Home ERA Away ERA Home ERA – Away ERA
Adam Wainwright 1.42 2.94 -1.52
Jaime Garcia 1.55 3.15 -1.60
Kyle McClellan 0.30 4.25 -3.95
Ryan Franklin 2.30 5.04 -2.74

In summation, many of the Cardinals are struggling to perform on the road this season, though for reasons that I don’t particularly understand.  The offense swings away like they have somewhere better to be and many of the team’s key pitchers simply lose their magic.  What I do know is that the Cardinals need to regain some focus on the road if they hope to reach the playoffs or beyond this season.

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