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What could be behind the Diamondbacks severe home and road splits and what needs to change?

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The Diamondbacks at home have been tattooing baseballs while on the road struggling to hit baseballs. Part of the problem seems to be an inconsistent approach at the plate for most of the lineup.

The Diamondbacks offense has a Jekyll and Hyde feel, destroying the cover off baseballs at home and struggling to sustain any offense on the road. That’s also reflected in their record as they are 12-5 and home and 6-10 on the road. Chase Field is a very hitter friendly park, sporting a park factor around 103-107 each year. Coors Field in Denver Colorado is the only park in the division with a higher park factor at 115-118 while the rest of the parks in the NL West are about 95-98. On the road, the Diamondbacks offense would normally have a little bit of a drop-off in production, but the current splits are very concerning to say the least.

At home, the Diamondbacks are hitting .311/.373/.528 on the season with a walk to strikeout ratio of 0.42. On the road, they’re hitting .213/.288/.344 on the road with a walk to strikeout ratio of 0.34. That’s a result of strikeouts jumping by 6% on the road, which is a larger percentage than I’d like. Comparing wOBA and wRC+, the Diamondbacks are .384/126 at home and .279/65 on the road. Both numbers are fueled by unsustainable BABIP, with a .363 at home and .270 on the road. As the season progresses, we should see both numbers approach league average (.295-.315). Whichever regresses faster and quicker could determine where the team could be standing in July. I expect the wRC+ in both categories regress closer to 100 when the season is over.

Hitting in itself is very cyclical, as BABIP numbers behave like a damped driven system, resembling something like this if you need a visual. In some weeks, it will over-correct above and below a player’s true BABIP talent. The former is a hitting streak and the latter is a slump. Baseball itself is driven by on base percentage, because you have get on base to score runs. That’s why Fangraphs designed their weighted on base average (wOBA) to align itself with OBP as a measure of offense. High-power, low-walk guys will produce a wOBA larger than their OBP whereas their opposite will have their OBP outperform their wOBA. It’s a rare combination to have both, as Paul Goldschmidt does (.451 OBP, .432 wOBA).

What can really define a hitter in addition to their batted ball control is what they do when they don’t get pitches to hit. The best hitters in baseball spit on pitcher’s pitches just off the plate and foul off the ones that are too close to take in a 2-strike count, like Goldschmidt does. Comparing the rest of the team to Goldy is unfair already, but you’d like to see his teammates apply a similar approach to ABs. Jake Lamb is the only other player with a walk rate above 10% (at the cost of a 32.1% strikeout rate, which is unacceptable in its own right), with the other 5 players that have 100 plate appearances under-performing their own team’s walk rate.

At times the team will exhibit patience and a willingness to grind out ABs like they did to Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez in the Nationals series. Those two had to throw 220 pitches to clear 11 innings. The more pitches a pitcher has to make per AB, the more likely the advantage switches from the pitcher to the hitter. The longer the AB, the more likely the pitcher will either make a mistake over the middle of the plate or miss with enough pitches to put the hitter on base. You see that as a consistent theme mostly for the top of the order, but in some games the bottom of the order features players that will swing at the first strike, not necessarily being a hittable strike, and hit into an out. You see more of that on the road, so maybe there’s a comfort issue with the team. In the last roadtrip, the team was also battling the flu which didn’t help things one bit.

Hopefully as the season progresses, the team continues to work on drawing walks and creating more opportunities to score. At the end of day, the team needs someone who is hitting the ball to drive in those walks. On the most recent road trip, the Diamondbacks stranded 6 of 7 Gio Gonzalez walks on base, the 7th walk being caught stealing 3rd. Of course it didn’t help that three times in the game that Brandon Drury batted with runners in scoring position and was obviously too sick to play that day. When the opposing pitcher walks 7 and the only damage to him is a first inning solo home run by Chris Owings, there is a problem.

I have no problem with the lineup having 1 or 2 guys in there that are willing to attack the first good pitch they see, you don’t want the pitcher to always have an easy strike to start the inning. Ideally you want a lineup that’s very selective and doesn’t miss the hittable pitches, but the game is played by humans and occasionally mistakes are made and a ball isn’t hit right. Even Goldschmidt is going to fail more often than he succeeds, although he’s making a good bid to change that. At the end of the day, the Diamondbacks need to simply put out better ABs with runners in scoring position and take advantage of the opposing team putting runners on base. First, they should work on that at home and hopefully that translates away from Chase Field on the next road trip.