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Milton Bradley's Home/Road Split
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
June 25, 2008
Sometimes a player's overall numbers for a season can befuddle post-season awards voters into voting for a guy despite the fact that his home/road splits indicate that his performance had a lot more to do with his home park than with his overall abilities.
In 1995, Dante Bichette famously hit 40 homeruns in 139 games. He hit 31 of those at home in Coors Field. His batting average split for that season was a ghastly .377/.300, and his OPS split was shocking at 1.152/.802. His 350 split-gap was other-worldly. While he didn't win the NL MVP, he did finish second.
The following year, Ellis Burks had the year of his life, hitting 40 homeruns, joining the 30/30 club, and setting career highs in most offensive categories. His average split was .390/.291, and his OPS split was 1.171/.903, for a split-gap of 268. Burks didn't win the MVP, but he did finish third.
1978 was Jim Rice’s best season – 46 homeruns, 139 RBI, a .315 batting average, and an AL MVP. His average split that season was .361/.269, and his OPS split was 1.105/.837, which also gave him a split-gap of 268.
Though it was not one of his MVP seasons, Dale Murphy had a hell of a year in 1987 – 44 homeruns 105 RBI, 115 walks. His average split that year was .346/.249, and his OPS split was 1.166/.833 for a split gap of 333. The NL MVP that season, however, was Andre Dawson, whose 49 homeruns and 137 RBI paced the majors. His average split was .332/.246 and his OPS split was 1.041/.768 for a split-gap of 273.
We have also seen MVPs go to such home/road heroes as Fred Lynn 1975 (1060/870), Juan Gonzalez 1996 (1121/924), Terry Pendleton 1991 (938/825), and Dale Murphy 1982 (988/784) and 1983 (1011/859), to name a few.
It is not news that the small ballparks in baseball – Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Atlanta’s old Fulton County Stadium, the Polo Grounds (for some) - have all led to some pretty wild and disparate home/road splits and some ill-deserved post-season hardware. Likewise, while Coors Field and Mile High Stadium before it were actually quite large, Denver has been notorious for inflating the statistics of the Colorado Rockies.
But to all of those notorious home/road splits of the past, we may now need to bid adieu. For it appears that in 2008 we may be witnessing the most notorious home/road split season of all time.
We have long known that the Ballpark in Arlington is a hitter’s park. Witness some of the seasons put up by the likes of Michael Young, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Gary Matthews, Jr., and others. However, I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything quite like this before.
I can admit I was caught off-guard when I checked baseball-reference.com today and noticed that the same name was atop the AL leaderboards in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. This rare quadra-fecta is currently being pulled off by none other than Milton Bradley who, to his credit, was the only guy to get any pop on the ball at Petco Park last year during his brief stay there. And not only is Bradley pacing the league in these four categories, he is doing it by some distance. His .330 average leads Joe Mauer by five points; his .451 OBP leads J.D. Drew by 37 points; his .624 slugging percentage leads Alex Rodriguez by 23 points, and his 1.075 OPS leads A-Rod by 72 points.
If you’re like me, you immediately knew what to make of this – Milton is a talented player whose home games are played in a hitters park, so his numbers are probably aided somewhat by playing at The Ballpark.
But if you are like me, you had no idea.
I hope you are sitting down for this.
Milton Bradley has played in 65 games for the Texas Rangers this season. In 28 home games, he is hitting .390 with a .504 OBP and an .830 slugging percentage. In 37 road games, he is hitting .281 with a .407 OBP and a .455 SLG.
His average split is .390/.281. His OPS split is 1.334/.861 for a split-gap of – I can’t believe I am about to write this – 479!!!
It is simply unbelievable. I have been looking at home/road splits pretty regularly for about three years now, and I simply do not recall a player besting the 400 split-gap mark. It is other-worldly. It is insane. It makes no sense. It doesn’t register with the brain.
His home slugging percentage is only 31 points lower than his road OPS!
But for all those out there who think I am dogging Bradley, I am not. To lead the league in those four categories at once is impressive, I don’t care where you play your home-games. And to those who might think Bradley is worthy of dogging, he is not – a .280 average and .400 OBP are impressive numbers, and despite the disparity between his home numbers and his road numbers, his road numbers are still good.
For comparison’s sake, let’s look at Josh Hamilton this season, about whom a much bigger deal has been made, despite the fact that he trails Bradley in most categories. For the year, Hamilton currently leads the AL in homeruns, RBI, hits, extra-base hits, and total bases. However, he currently sports a home/road average split of .362/.269, and his OPS split is 1.128/.768 for a rather stunning 360!, which would be the subject of this rant if not for Bradley’s On-Krypton-I’m-Normal-But-On-Earth-I-Have-Special-Powers performance. But despite having a more respectable split-gap (and a 360 split-gap could only be considered respectable compared to Bradley), Hamilton’s road numbers are far more pedestrian than Bradley’s; if we are judging players on the comparative impact of their home park, you might favor Hamilton, but in terms of overall performance you have to go with Bradley, especially when you consider the fact that Hamilton has the benefit of Bradley’s bat protecting him in the lineup, while Bradley has no such luxury.
Either way, however, I think the point here is this – while I will be very excited to see Bradley keep up his performance if his split-gap stays in the 450-range and even makes a run at 500, I would be very disappointed to see either Bradley or Hamilton taking away any hardware at the end of the year when there are several players around the American League who have managed to excel both at home and on the road.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.