Baseball Shorts: Adam Dunn’s TTO Triple Crown/Why Can’t the Cubs Do It On the Road?
* Some big news from Adam Dunn, the White Sox's sabermetrically fascinating star (via):
I have a longstanding fascination with Adam Dunn's approach to baseball, something baseball nerds like to refer to as "three true outcomes": a home run, a walk, or a strikeout. But I'd missed that he's approaching a rare feat:
Adam Dunn, you all know, is having a ridiculous season. You may not have known, however, that he has a real shot at winning the TTO triple crown. And not just for the AL. Dunn currently leads all of baseball in home runs, walks, and strikeouts. Has this every been done before? Yes. Does it happen often? No.
Leading all of baseball in those three categories would put him in not just rare company, but good company, along with possibly the greatest hitter in baseball history.
* The Cubs, as you know, are bad this year. But they're only bad on the road. Generally speaking, home-field advantage does exist, though the details are hotly debated:
In 2009, the home team won 54.9 percent of all regular season games, and that general range (53-55 percent) has remained remarkably consistent over the years. Seeing that teams play an equal number of home and road games, and that who hosts a regular season game is not determined by the overall quality of the team (as in the NFL playoffs), then the home team should win at a rate close to 50 percent. But HFA persists. Why?
There are exceptions. The Washington Nationals, who currently have the best record in baseball, are an unusual one: .593 at home, .641 on the road. The Cubs follow the usual pattern of home-field advantage, but they're a pretty good team at home and horrible on the road: .517 at Wrigley, .286 on the road. Only Houston is worse, at .200 on the road .457 at home. Eight percent is a pretty typical difference
Fangraphs has a statistic called wRC+, meant to "quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs." At home this year, the Cubs' offense has the fifth-worst wRC+. On the road, they have the worst. Pitching? They're 17th out of 30 teams in ERA at home, 26th out of 30 on the road. (The Astros are actually in the middle of the pack in pitching and hitting at home, and collapse in both on the road.)
The worst offender is Darwin Barney, with an OPS of .858 at home and .543 on the road. To put that in context, he's somewhere between Joe Mauer and David Freese at home, and... well, actually no one with a qualified number of plate appearances has an OPS that low this year, because players that bad don't stay in the lineup. Justin Smoak of the Mariners has the lowest, at .575; he's hitting .189 this year. Barney's hitting .312 at home, .217 on the road.
Barney is, by some measures, the Cubs' best hitter at home: of all their regulars, he has the highest OPS. On the road, he's their worst hitter. Several others are worse on the road, but nothing like Darwin Barney (who was, oddly enough, much better on the road last year). I've never heard of a home/road platoon, but Barney makes a good case for one this year.
Photograph: Chicago Tribune