Gonzalez Loves Mountains; Headley Hates Beaches

Well, actually I have no idea if Carlos Gonzalez loves the mountains or if Chase Headley hates the beach, but if my home/road splits looked like their’s, I would certainly start to appreciate/blame the topography.

Many have pointed out how dramatic a split young Carlos Gonzalez possess — at home in Colorado, he’s an elite swing sultan; away from where the beer flows like wins, he is a pedestrian, league-average bat-swinger. Yeah, we get it. Everyone knows, right?

Well, the split is perhaps more dramatic than initially anticipated. Looking at players in the last decade (from 2001 through 2011) with a minimum of 500 home and 500 away PAs, we see CarGo has hit a wRC+ 74 points higher at home than away — more than anyone else in the period:

In other words, no one compares to Carlos Gonzalez… Okay, well, actually one guy does.

And it makes a world of difference.

Before the CarGo Era, there was the Matt Holliday Era. Matt Holliday had a wRC+ 66 points higher in the Rockies during his tenure with Colorado. Then, he got traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and continued to mash like he never left Colorado.

What does this mean? Hellifiknow. But it certainly means that being a product of Coors Field doesn’t necessarily make a body a bad player. Perhaps it helped make a young Holliday look better than he really was, and then when he became an even better player, we just didn’t notice. Who knows?

In the meantime, San Diego Padres hitters must be just about sick of the west coast life. Chase Headley and a pair of other Padres have seen their wRC+ absolutely bottom out in PETCO Caverns Park.

Here’s the top 9 and bottom 9 (why 9? Because I’m feeling frisky) home/road split differences for 2001 through 2011 (min. 500 PAs both home and away):

Name Team PA BB% K% HR% wRC+ wRC+ Diff
Carlos Gonzalez COL 1495 8% 21% 4.9% 138 74
Alfonso Soriano TEX 1340 5% 18% 4.8% 107 71
Matt Holliday COL 2968 8% 17% 4.3% 134 66
Luke Scott BAL 1795 11% 20% 4.7% 115 62
Nelson Cruz TEX 2077 8% 22% 5.1% 115 58
Scott Hatteberg CIN 1017 13% 8% 2.3% 111 54
Ian Kinsler TEX 3446 10% 12% 3.6% 119 54
Frank Thomas CHW 1730 16% 18% 5.8% 137 52
Justin Upton ARI 2402 10% 24% 3.8% 119 50
Felipe Lopez WAS 1354 9% 16% 1.0% 78 -33
Dmitri Young DET 1976 7% 19% 4.1% 115 -34
D’Angelo Jimenez CIN 1102 12% 15% 1.7% 98 -35
Miguel Tejada OAK 1418 6% 11% 4.3% 121 -35
Xavier Nady PIT 1050 6% 18% 3.4% 116 -35
Adrian Gonzalez SDP 3425 12% 18% 4.7% 135 -35
Omar Infante DET 1732 6% 18% 1.8% 79 -36
Khalil Greene SDP 2642 7% 20% 3.2% 93 -36
Chase Headley SDP 2114 10% 22% 1.7% 108 -37

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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

23 Responses to “Gonzalez Loves Mountains; Headley Hates Beaches”

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  1. Kyle says:

    Wow A-Gonz had a negative split at home? Would love to see why, considering he was hitting in Fenway…

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    • Resolution says:

      It’s 2001-2011. That’s his PetCo data you’re seeing

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Not only is this 2001-2011, these numbers are split by team, and the Gonzalez numbers on the chart only include his time with San Diego.

      But, Bradley, if your goal is to find guys who just have some innate skill at hitting better home/away, then you shouldn’t split by team, and expand your sample size cutoff to something more significant. If you did that, I’d think Adrian Beltre would lead the pack.

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      • Good thoughts Yirmi.

        Actually, this data is just a byproduct of some other research I’m working on for Fangraphs, so it was more of a “Oh my!” observation than an effort to divine home/away skills.

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  2. Resolution says:

    It’s important to also keep in mind that playing at Coors boosts your home stats while suppressing road stats – look at Matt Holliday’s road numbers during his time with COL and during his time with STL

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    • Anon says:

      Same with the Rangers. Lots of away games in pitcher’s parks.

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    • bender says:

      I’ve heard this posited before but do you have anything substantial to support this?

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      • Brad Johnson says:

        Park factors? I don’t think you have to get any more complicated to at least verify that the theory is likely at least partially correct.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        The Rockies play in a division with three of the more pitcher-friendly parks in baseball.

        It wouldn’t be terribly complicated to come up with a “road park factor” by looking at a given team’s schedule and calculating the average of all of the park factors of the road games.

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  3. steex says:

    “why 9? Because I’m feeling frisky”

    Nice try, Bradley Woodrum – or should I say, HERMAN CAIN!

    I knew it.

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  4. Mac says:

    For more specifically on the Coors effect, I highly recommend this piece from AthleticsNation:

    Interesting bits:
    1) It delves into the other half of the Coors effect – do Colorado players, having acclimated to pitch movement in thin air, struggle in away games because the ball just moves differently.

    2) Tons of analysis on pitch selection and behavior.

    3) Like Woodrum’s piece, mountains are again alluded to.

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    • IvanGrushenko says:

      I highly recommend that article as well. That was Bojan before he joined THT. A teaser:

      “And that’s what I did for the better part of the weekend. As a self proclaimed chief AN researcher and a self appointed head of AN Labs, I looked at every single pitch that was thrown in the Majors this year and tried to make sense of it all.”

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  5. Mac says:

    The name that really jumps out at me from that list is Scott Hatteberg. On the chart his primary team is listed as Cincy, but as the movie Moneyball reminded us, he spent a majority of the 2000’s playing in Oakland (the place where batting average goes to die). And Great American Ballpark only really helps with home runs. So he was only getting maybe a small boost in park advantage with the Reds, and a huge negative effect in Oakland. Way to come through for the home crowd Hattie!

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      The authors’ stats are split up by team. It’s not that Hattegberg’s primary team is Cincy, it’s that the stats listed only include his time with Cincy. His time with Oakland would be listed separately, and presumably wasn’t in the top or bottom 9.

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      • Mac says:

        Okay, thanks Yirmi. I don’t think that was explicitly stated in the article, but it makes sense. I also agree with many of your points in your other reply about analyzing home/away splits. Same player but different park is always a fascinating what-if scenario.

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  6. Josh says:

    Halliday was actually traded to Oakland where he played half a season and hit for no power and was then traded St. Louis mid season.

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  7. Man in White says:

    Guess I didn’t help the Jays out enough to make this list :(

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  8. hbar says:

    irrelevant–or is it…–fact: Headley is from Colorado.

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  9. gnomez says:

    The strange thing about Young was that he spent most of that time in Detroit in the extreme pitchers’ days of Comerica.

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