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Home Is Where You Hang Your Head

The first two months of 2010 Red Sox baseball have been full of surprises. When David Ortiz opened the season 0-7 and had a disastrous April, few imagined that he'd hit 10 homers in May and have a .354 / .409 / .747 line for the month. Fewer still would have expected the undisputed #2 starter be Clay Buchholz, or that Josh Beckett would hit the DL like a brick, or John Lackey would be so mediocre. But the biggest surprise might be the Sox unimpressive record inside the once-friendly confines of Fenway Park.

The Red Sox are 16-13 at home (.551), versus 13-10 on the road (.565). The numbers are pretty close, which is rather shocking given recent history. The Sox typically are significantly better at home than on enemy turf. In 2009, their winning percentage on the road was .481, but at home it was .691 (56-25). In '08, the numbers were... um... .481 on the road, and .691 at home. In '07, the Sox were .556 away and .630 at home. There's clear trend with previous squads towards much better success at home than the road. [Read on for an investigation of why the Sox aren't doing so well at home.]

What explains this? Well, the offense as a whole is a little better on the road, but only in sluggling, otherwise the numbers are identical:

HOME Batting .265 / .342 / .435
ROAD Batting .267 / .342 / .457

As you can see, there's only an extra .22 points of slugging on the road to differentiate the two lines. That's a good number more extra base hits.

However, the difference in pitching has been even more pronounced. ERA at home (before today's game) is 4.71, versus a respectable 4.24 on the road. Yet on the road, Sox pitchers are allowing an additional .34 points of slugging to opposing batters, although BA and OBP are very close. Strikeout rate and walks per strikeout are also close. Given that opposing batters were slugging better on the road, you'd expect Sox pitching to be a little worse on the road than it is at home, not significantly better. BABIP isn't substantially different.

Looking deeper at our pitchers, some have pronounced Home-Road splits. Keep in mind that the season is still young, so don't read too much into these figures.
Lester (not counting Sunday's game) Home 3.32 ERA / Road 2.88 ERA
Buchholz Home 3.38 ERA / Road 1.78
Lackey Home 5.52 ERA / Road 4.42
Beckett Home 7.88 ERA / Road 6.65 (8 games)
Wakefield Home 6.91 / Road 4.32 (7 starts, 11 appearances)
Matsuzaka Home 4.76 / Road 6.75

With the exception of Dice-K, each of our starters has been worse at Fenway, some substantially (looking at your Wake). And how does the pen fare?

Papelbon Home 2.25 Road 3.60
Bard Home 2.03 Road 2.13
Delcarmen Home 2.51 Road 0.93
Okajima Home 4.66 Road 6.43
Ramirez Home 4.63 Road 7.56

Here the trend is reversed. While our starters have largely been worse or horrible at home, the relievers, MDC excepted, have been much better in Fenway than on the road.

What predictive value does this have for the rest of the season? Probably not much. A single series can make a difference in the numbers. Before the Rays series, our record at home was even was worse. And only two months of numbers won't accurately predict the rest of the season, for the team, or any individual player.

That said, the underperformance at home is worrisome. If it continues or grows worse, we could have the first Red Sox team in decades that isn't built for Fenway. Without a lot of wins at home, and the intense division competition, we would need to play very well on the road to reach the postseason.