Ludwick, Lee, and Road Field Advantage

Over at SweetSpot, we’ve assigned letter grades to each team two months into the season. I gave the Padres a grade of F but tried to accentuate the positive, finishing my writeup with a snappy one-liner: “Also, they don’t owe Carlos Lee $37 million over the next two years, so there’s that.”

I hope it’s snappy. That’s what I was going for anyway.

But seriously, can you imagine how much worse the Padres’ situation would be if they had Lee’s contract on their hands? We complain about Ryan Ludwick, who clearly isn’t the player he was a few years ago (although apparently there is a campaign to get him to the All-Star Game as a participant), but at least he is relatively inexpensive. To the obligatory chart:

Player       Age  PA   BA  OBP  SLG OPS+ Yr/$ TmRec
Ryan Ludwick  32 220 .258 .320 .414 109  1/7* 24-31
Carlos Lee    35 215 .251 .284 .384  87  2/37 21-34

*Okay, it’s actually $6.775, but I didn’t want to make the column wider. So in the interest of saving space, I added this long-ass footnote instead, which makes as much sense as paying Lee $37 million over the next two seasons.

There is unmovable, and then there is unmovable. The fact that the Padres don’t have Lee made me consider pushing their grade up to D-minus.

Ludwick, for his part, collected four hits in the Padres’ 5-4 victory over the Braves in Atlanta on Tuesday. He is 10-for-20 over the past week, and the Padres have won a season-high four straight games… all on the road.

We’ve discussed this at length, but it bears repeating because it is so remarkable. The Padres suck at Petco Park but are a great — not good, but great — road team this year:

      W  L  RS  RA
Home  9 20  65 116
Away 15 11 122  96

The only National League teams with better road records are St. Louis (18-13) and Florida (17-10). Those two teams are contending right now because they don’t have MLB’s worst home record (I’m told it helps).

Meanwhile, folks are still whining about Petco Park. And while “Why do the Padres play so poorly at home” is a valid question, there is another one that isn’t being asked…

Since Petco Park opened in 2004, the Padres own a .487 road winning percentage. During that same stretch, all MLB teams own a .454 winning percentage. Never mind for the moment that the Padres yield nearly that same advantage (.518 vs MLB average of .546) at home, what I want to know is this: Why do the Padres play so well on the road?

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44 Responses »

  1. The Padres’ home/road splits this year are entirely inexplicable. I could not be happier with how the team has been performing on the road, but I’ve only witnessed two victories at home in person this year over 6 trips to Petco in 2011. Furthermore, the starting pitching is uncharacteristically allowing more runs at home which will ultimately result in a less than stellar at home record. I cannot help but wonder what the real problem is when I’m watching games on Channel 4 and Tony Gwynn plainly states that line drives will result in base hits. So many are complaining about the park dimensions, but I have to agree with Tony Sr. in that the Padres are flat-out not hitting at home… I’m sincerely hoping the summer will bring us more runs at Petco.

  2. Great comparison of Lee and Ludwick. I was horrified at the contract he received, but not at all surprised I ran into fans online who were upset we hadn’t signed him to something similar instead of letting him go to the Astros. This illustrates the point beautifully!

    Other possible reasons to upgrade the team to a D- : not having Vernon Wells’ contract around their necks in LF; not having Alfonso Soriano’s contract around their necks in LF. ;-)

  3. Is .487 really a huge deviation from .454? There doesn’t have to be a reason. Every sport is going to have a team or two that has randomly played better on the road than at home and vice-versa. I find myself begging the question too, then remember that we are only 2 months into the season. I have wondered if the batters eye is bad at Petco since the Padres, this year, are striking out so much more at home. I have also wondered if the thicker air somehow makes it more difficult to see the ball and thus recognize what is coming. Then I remember that the other teams have the same disadvantage with any of these explanations. So alas, I conclude only 2 possible reasons…. statistical randomness or it is purely psycological. Maybe the Padres should invest in some sports psycologists.

  4. @PadresFuture: The .487 vs .454 is over 6+ seasons. That’s 594 road games for SD and 17,824 for MLB, so pretty decent sample size. My biggest concern is that the dimensions become a crutch to lean on when things aren’t going well. I know this is the case with fans and I fear that it may be so with some players as well.

  5. @GY – I had no doubt that “since 2004″ was a large sample size. Even large sample sizes have statistical skews and some team was bound to be on one side of the curve. However, it may very well be psycological as you seem to be getting at.