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Robbie Ray has a Chase Field problem

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Ray has been a very good pitcher away from Chase Field for his career, the question now becomes if he can pitch in his home ballpark.

While Robbie Ray is in the midst of a breakout season, there is one big issue that seems to be plaguing the 25-year-old budding ace. That issue is the lack of consistent success in his home ballpark since the Diamondbacks acquired him after the 2014 season. Chase Field is a noted hitter’s park, but pitchers with similar skill sets as him have succeeded in the past there.

Early on the 2017 season, Ray has some ugly home and road splits. At home, he gets hit hard and on the road he is virtually unhittable. It could very well be a small sample size, but I checked his career home/road splits and we see the same issue. These numbers do not include Ray’s complete game shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates last night.

Robbie Ray Home and Road Splits through May 30, 2017

Split Starts TBF K BB wOBA K-BB% ERA FIP xFIP BABIP Hard Hit Rate WHIP HR/FB
Split Starts TBF K BB wOBA K-BB% ERA FIP xFIP BABIP Hard Hit Rate WHIP HR/FB
2015 Road 12 295 62 26 0.286 12.20% 2.49 3.42 4.11 0.273 31.7% 1.16 5.8%
2015 Home 11 250 57 23 0.355 13.60% 4.88 3.66 3.92 0.358 38.9% 1.55 9.3%
2016 Road 17 404 121 41 0.315 19.80% 4.50 3.76 3.38 0.323 34.7% 1.38 16.0%
2016 Home 15 373 97 30 0.351 17.96% 5.36 3.57 3.53 0.381 38.4% 1.57 14.9%
2017 Road 5 128 43 13 0.198 23.44% 0.81 2.10 3.35 0.200 40.8% 0.84 3.1%
2017 Home 5 120 31 16 0.385 12.50% 6.75 5.54 4.28 0.333 48.6% 1.65 23.1%
Career Road 34 827 226 80 0.286 17.65% 3.14 3.35 3.65 0.285 34.4% 1.21 9.9%
Career Home 31 743 185 69 0.358 15.61% 5.42 4.02 3.78 0.366 40.1% 1.58 14.3%

In his tenure with the Diamondbacks, Ray has been a significantly better pitcher away from Chase Field than in it. In fact, the biggest and most unusual discrepancy comes on balls in play. On the road, Ray has yielded a career .285 BABIP and at Chase Field the number jumps to .366. That’s a result of hitters getting better contact as Ray’s hard hit rate also jumps 6% in these splits from 34% to 40%. I said walks were the key impediment, although Ray’s strikeout and walk rates for his career are pretty close. Ray just needs to figure out how to get weaker contact when the ball is in play at home and that should help fix things.

I’m very optimistic Ray can make the fix at home. He’s pitched extremely well on the road this year, so it’s not a question of if he can pitch well. I do expect him to be a slightly better pitcher on the road than at home given that Chase Field is a hitter-friendly environment. If Ray can figure out a way to fool hitters and get them off of his fastball at Chase Field, the numbers should improve almost overnight. I have to wonder if the issue is related to why the organization seems to be willing to install a humidor at Chase Field. Once Ray gets more comfortable and has success in his home ballpark on a more regular basis, the sky is the limit.