Friday, August 2, 2013

On the Road Again

After a very successful home-stand, Atlanta hits the road today for a six game road trip with stops in Philadelphia and Washington D.C.  It's a chance to bury the Phillies and Nationals a little more.  As if a 11.5 game lead wasn't enough.

However, are the Braves snake-bit on the road?  Is this a problem or an odd in-season anomaly?

Atlanta got off to a good start away from Turner Field, winning seven straight with sweeps of the Marlins and Nationals.  That nice run would quickly end with three straight loses to the Pirates and a sweep at the hands of the Tigers to end an abysmal 3-7 road trip.  Their next road trip, another ten-game odyssey, took them to Cincinnati, San Francisco, and Arizona.  They were slightly better, winning four games.  In early June, a seven game trip across the country to Los Angeles and San Diego yielded just two victories.  When they took 2-of-3 from the Marlins July 8-10, it was their first series victory on the road in over a month.  In their last road trip, a seven game swing after the All-Star Break that took them to Chicago and New York, the Braves won three and lost Tim Hudson.

So, the question remains...are the Braves especially bad on the road?  Well, first, they carry a positive run differential.  Barely.  Just five runs difference.

Beyond that, there are clear differences between the numbers away from Turner Field and at home, including a 60-point difference in OPS.  The pitching numbers are just as significant.  They carry a home ERA of 2.68 with a 1.09 WHIP while they post a 3.94 ERA on the road and a 1.32 WHIP.  When you compare the Braves to the National League, clearly teams hit better on the road, but not nearly as extreme league-wise as the Braves.  Same thing for the pitching.

So, what's the problem?  Are the Braves just not capable of performing on the road?

Here's where we start to run away from the numbers and start guessing. My gut says that the Braves don't really play worse because they are away from Turner Field, at least not more than any other team.  There is no reason to immediately believe the Braves got hot because they were at home versus being away.  Atlanta holds five home-win streaks of four games in a row or more.  Whereas outside of their seven game win streak on the road to open the season, they haven't won more than two in a row since.

Teams struggle throughout the season.  It seems unlikely you would leave your struggles on the road and once you get home, start clicking again.  Nor does it seem reasonable that once the team leaves home, those struggles they left away from Atlanta would be re-started.  For that matter, only once this season was a win streak generated at home halted as soon as the Braves went on a road trip.  Often win streaks started at home remain active for a game or two elsewhere.

For whatever reason, the Braves have struggled on the road.  Maybe it was bad match-ups, a few bad games, whatever...the sample size is fairly small so quarky things can have a monster affect on the overall numbers.  The only way to end this focus on the road struggles is to take the current seven-game win streak on the road and take four of the next six.  Bury the Phillies and Nationals.  Teach Bryce Harper that this shit is over.  By the end of the year, the road record won't be sterling, but it definitely can be a lot better.

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