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Playing the splits: Road Warriors and Road Worriers

By Al Melchior | Data Analyst

Wade Miley's overall stats obscure his usefulness to Fantasy owners when he hits the road. (USATSI)
Wade Miley's overall stats obscure his usefulness to Fantasy owners when he hits the road. (USATSI)

A couple of weeks ago, I highlighted a few hitters who could have been worth sitting either at home or on the road due to their lopsided splits. Of course, Fantasy owners can play the streaming game based on home/road splits with pitchers, too, and I've selected a few hurlers who lend themselves nicely to this strategy.

Not surprisingly, the pitchers on the "road warriors" list below are all risky when pitching in their home parks, which happen to favor hitters, while those on the "road worriers" list benefit greatly from the friendly dimensions of their home venues.

Road Warriors

Marco Estrada, Brewers: Estrada has been giving up dingers in home and road games alike this season, but his two most recent road starts have been at Wrigley Field and Great American Ball Park, where he yielded two home runs in each contest. As he visits a greater variety of road venues, he should see something closer to the 2.09 road ERA he posted last year. With a career 3.99 ERA at Miller Park, Estrada is not a must-start in home games, even though he can still be counted on for a low WHIP. In most road starts, though, Estrada needs to be in your rotation.

Wade Miley, Diamondbacks: Though Miley's 4.94 ERA makes him look unfit for Fantasy, his 1.26 WHIP suggests that he could be a respectable option if only he would allow fewer homers. Just three of the 10 home runs the lefty has allowed have been away from Chase Field this season, helping him to a 3.00 road ERA. That pattern falls in line with Miley's career splits (4.15 home ERA, 3.33 road ERA), so he clearly has been penalized by having a home park that is a little too amenable to home runs and doubles. As bad as Miley's stats are, he's not a bad play in a two-start week with good venues.

Mike Leake, Reds: Strangely, all six homers allowed by Leake this season have come on the road, but that has not been the case at all over his career. Through last season, 55 of the 89 home runs given up by Leake came in Cincinnati, and even with this year's road power explosion, he owns a 3.42 career road ERA. He has never finished a season with a home ERA lower than 3.92, so Leake remains a risky play at GABP.

Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies: Get ready to put on your "shocked face," as you learn that Chacin's career ERA at Coors Field is more than a run higher than his career road ERA. And that mark in away games is a downright impressive 2.90, as Chacin has not only limited home runs to just 0.65 per nine innings, but he has also struck out 7.4 batters per nine innings. That latter ratio is nearly a full strikeout per nine innings higher than his home mark.

Road Worriers

Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn, Cardinals: Busch Stadium is one of the majors' better pitcher's parks, and both Miller and Lynn have received a boost from their home splits. Neither is much of a ground ball pitcher, and both have career ERAs and HR/9 ratios that are much higher in road starts. In fact, both have career road ERAs over 4.00. Neither can be trusted in good hitter's parks, and that will hold true for Miller, even if he works out the control issues that have plagued him this season.

Phil Hughes, Twins: Hughes' 3.68 home ERA this season is not especially impressive, but a .246/.271/.345 opponents' slash line at Target Field shows the possibilities that lie ahead, if he can just improve on an abysmal 62 percent home strand rate (per FanGraphs.com). We already know from Hughes' 4.82 career ERA in the "new" Yankee Stadium that he does not fare well in hitter's parks.

John Lackey, Red Sox: Fenway Park is tough place to hit home runs, especially for left-handed batters, and Lackey has taken advantage of that. Of the 88 lefties he has faced at Fenway this season, none has homered, and only two left the yard all of last season. In Lackey's 2013 comeback campaign, he posted a 2.47 home ERA, as opposed to a 4.48 mark on the road. Though his 4.3 K-to-BB ratio has the look of a must-start pitcher, Lackey is too shaky to trust on the road, unless he has a favorable matchup or venue.

Robbie Erlin, Padres: Though PETCO Park isn't as pitcher-friendly as it once was, Erlin is still getting a big assist from it. The new dimensions introduced last season have mainly benefitted lefties, but Erlin has neutralized them, allowing a .200/.227/.297 slash line against left-handed hitters at home. In his two-year career, Erlin has a 2.50 home ERA, but a 6.65 ERA on the road. He's clearly not an option on road trips, but Erlin can be used even as a one-start pitcher when at home.

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