Road Warriors

Published: 9/21/2021
 Updated: 9/21/2021

Author: Amy Cooper

When Willy Adames was traded from the Rays to the Brewers, he was hitting .197 with a .625 OPS in 132 at-bats. Since the trade on May 21, he’s hit .293 with a .919 OPS in 297 at-bats. As a Brewer, he has clogged 17 home runs, tied for the 6th most in baseball during that time period. He has 50 RBIs, tied for 10th during that time period. Looking at Adames’ career splits, he struggled mightily while playing at the Trop. This made me wonder if there are other Rays players who might similarly break out if they leave the Rays.

For his career, Willy Adames is a .217 career hitter at Tropicana Field, with a .616 OPS. During his rookie season of 2018, he hit .284 at home (169 at-bats) and .269 away (119 at-bats.). In 2019, the discrepancy between Adames’ at home and on the road performances became more noticeable. He hit .204 on the road that year in 260 at-bats, while traveling he hit .303 with 15 long balls in 271 at-bats. This trend continues into 2020, when Adames hit .330 on the road and .165 at home. This season in 68 at-bats on the road for the Rays, Adames hit .235 while in 64 at-bats at home he hit .156.

I looked at the Rays’ teams since 2018, Adames’ debut year. I took the ten players with the most at-bats for each season and compared their batting averages and slugging percentages at home to their batting averages and slugging percentage on the road. The better statistics are in bold.

2018

PlayerTotal At-BatsBA at homeSLG% at homeBA on the RoadSLG% on the Road
Matt Duffy503.325.395.266.354
CJ Cron501.235.426.269.550
Joey Wendle487.256.372.335.485
Mallex Smith480.347.471.244.340
Carlos Gomez360.192.320.223.351
Kevin Kiermaier332.230.414.203.323
Jake Bauers323.235.425.160.333
Wilson Ramos293.321.504.278.475
Willy Adames288.284.432.269.370
Daniel Robertson282.200.432.283.399
In 2018, the Rays as a whole hit for a .260 BA at home and a .257 BA away. This resulted in a .002 increase at home over the cumulative BA. They had a .405 SLG at home and .408 SLG away. That’s a .002 better SLG% on the road than overall.

In 2018 the Rays performed extremely similarly on the road as they did at home. The player who did the best at home compared to overall was Mallex Smith, who hit .347 at home and .296 cumulatively. The player who did the best on the road compared to overall was Joey Wendle who hit .335 on the road and .300 overall. Smith had the highest home SLG% (at .471) when compared to .406 overall. CJ Cron slugged at a .57 rate higher away from home than he did collectively. Of the top ten players, six had better BAs at home than on the road and 7 had better SLG% in the Trop than in opponents’ home parks. The Rays homered 69 times at home and 81 times on the road. Both were 25th in the game.

2019
PlayerTotal At-BatsBA at HomeSLG at HomeBA on the RoadSLG on the Road
Tommy Pham567.271.447.276.452
Willy Adames531.204.304.303.528
Austin Meadows530.296.517.285.601
Avisail Garcia489.296.535.270.403
Kevin Kiermaier447.231.396.225.401
Ji-Man Choi410.239.399.284.523
Travisd’Arnaud327.259.443.266.473
Yandy Diaz307.297.532.235.416
Brandon Lowe296.258.477.283.552
Mike Zunino266.188.352.145.275
In 2019, the Rays hit .249 at home and .258 on the road. Their BA at home was .005 points less at home than their total BA,of .254. They slugged .420 at home, .11 below their cumulative SLG of .431.

Yandy Diaz hit .298 at the Trop, .31 points higher than he did altogether. This was the first year that Willy Adames had a large difference in home and away splits. He hit .50 points lower at home than in total. Since he had the second most at bats on the team, his splits skew the data. Avisail Garcia slugged .535 at home, compared to .464 total, a .71 point difference. Adames slugged .110 higher away from the Trop than his combined SLG%. Of the top ten players in at bats, five hit for a higher BA at home but only three hit for a better SLG% at home. After Adames, the next hitter who did better on the road than overall was Ji-Man Choi, who hit .284 on the road, compared to .261 combined, a difference of .23 points, less than half of the difference Adames posted. The Rays homered 99 times at home (22nd in baseball) and 118 times away (13th).

2020
PlayerTotal At-BatsBA at HomeSLG at HomeBA on the RoadSLG on the Road
Brandon Lowe193.253.538.284.569
Willy Adames185.181.325.324.608
Joey Wendle168.294.424.277.446
Yoshi Tsutssugo157.173.347.220.439
Manuel Margot145.238.349.293.354
Kevin Kiermaier138.156.234.270.473
Austin Meadows132.200.343.210.403
Ji-Man Choi122.241.463.221.368
Hunter Renfoe122.161.468.150.317
Yandy Diaz86.304.413.309.368
In the shortened 2020 season, the Rays hit 10 points worse (.228) at the Trop than they did overall. (.238). They slugged .407 at home, compared to .425 overall. It should be noticed that the road games they were playing were all in either American League Parks or National League East Parks and that the away games they had against Toronto were played in Toronto’s Triple A affiliate Buffalo's ballpark.

Ji Man Choi reversed his home/away splits. This time, he hit better at home. His BA at home was .241, 11 points higher than his overall BA. He also slugged .463 at home, .53 points higher than his total SLG%. Adames again posted the biggest home and away splits of any player who ranked in the Rays’ top ten in at bats. His BA on the road (.330) was .70 points higher than overall. His SLG% on the road was .151 points higher on the road than cumulatively. Kevin Kiermaier was next in both of these categories- his BA was .53 points higher on the road than overall and his SLG% was .111 points higher on the road than combined. Kevin Kiermaier has played his entire career for the Rays, 2767 at-bats, and his career splits are pretty even - .248 BA and .397 SLG % in St. Pete and .247 BA, .418 SLG elsewhere. The Rays hit the 19th most home runs in their home park, 33, and hit the 4th most homers on the road, 47.

2021
PlayerTotal At-BatsBA at HomeSLG% at HomeBA on the RoadSLG% on the Road
Austin Meadows425.249.437.226.311
Randy Arozarena419.300.524.249.388
Brandon Lowe413.229.519.241.483
Yandy Diaz353.273.370.234.372
Joey Wendle350.204.305.328.525
Manuel Margot330.278.401.238.399
Kevin Kiermaier268.254.381.232.331
Mike Zunino254.202.553.221.571
Brett Phillips209.203.415.231.429
Ji-Man Choi200.265.431.235.439
This year, the Rays are batting similarly at the Trop and at home. Their BA at the Trop is .238, just one point less than their overall BA, .239. They are slugging .412 at home and .422 overall. Randy Arozarena is hitting .300 at home, compared to .275 overall. He is slugging .524 at home, compared to .456 overall. On the opposite side of the splits is Joey Wendle, who is batting .328 on the road, compared to .269 overall. He’s slugging .525 on the road, compared to .420 overall. Adames had just 132 at-bats for the Rays this year. That puts him 14th on the team, after being 2nd in 2019 and 2020. I believe this is a large part of the reason the team’s offensive numbers have been more equal at home and on the road as they were the two previous seasons. The Rays have hit 76 homers at the Trop, 16th in the game, and 93 away from the Trop, coming in at 3rd most.

The key takeaway from the above findings is that Adames was nearly the only Rays player with such drastic splits. The only Rays player who had more than a .20 better average on the road than overall was Joe Wendle. Adames didn’t only lead Rays players in being so much better on the road, but he actually led all of baseball. Between 2018 and 2021, no player has fared so much better on the road than at home as Adames has. From 2018-2021, Adames has hit .306 on the road, while maintaining a total BA of .262. His road BA is .44 points above his total BA, the largest such difference in the game during this time. It is .12 higher than the next active player, Donovan Solano. Below I list all active players with at least 500 at-bats since 2018 who have hit at least .20 higher on the road than at home.
PlayerTeam(s)Difference from Total to Away
Willy AdamesTB, MIL.44
Donovan SolanoSF.32
Joey WendleTB.29
Hanser AlbertoTEX, BAL, KC.28
Amed RosarioNYM, CLE.28
JP CrawfordPHI, SEA.27
Dominic SmithNYM.26
JT RiddleMIA, PIT, MIN.25
Harrison BaderSTL.24
Bryon BuxtonMIN.24
Charlie CulbersonATL, TEX.23
Adam EngelCHW.22
Mitch HaningerSEA.21
Conversely, there were 56 players who posted home batting averages that were .20 points higher than their overall numbers during that span.

Since 2018, Bryan Buxton has had a .606 SLG% on the road compared to .524% combined. That is the biggest such difference during that time span, barely ahead of Adames. There are 9 active players whose away SLG% is .50 or higher than their cumulative SLG% during that time. (No offense to Greg Garcia, but I’m only counting players who have played in the bigs in 2021.) They are as follows:
PlayerTeam (s)Difference From Total to Away
Bryon BuxtonMIN.82
Willy AdamesTB, MIL.81
Carson KellySTL, ARI.80
Donovan SolanoSF.58
Austin RomineNYY, DET, CHC.53
Joey WendleTB.53
Paul DeJongSTL.52
Austin HedgesSD, CLE.52
Dominic SmithNYM.52
Compared to the 9 active players who had a SLG% of more than 50 points on the road than total, there are 26 who slugged 50 points higher at home than combined.

The take away for fantasy from this is that Bryon Buxton should be even better if he leaves Minnesota, Dominic Smith should be better if he departs from the Mets, and Joey Wendle would likely benefit from a trade from the Rays.

Understanding how well teams do at home versus on the road has two practical fantasy purposes. In deeper leagues or AL/NL leagues, where most players are rostered, it can help an owner to choose which hitter to put in the starting lineup. In more shallow leagues, it can help owners to pick hitters up from free agency, if they are going on the road or starting a home stand. The Rays do hit slightly worse at home than on the road. This is unusual, as only 6 teams had a worse BA at home than they did on the road. Willy Adames had the third most at bats on the Rays from 2018-2021, so his vast splits definitely affected the data we see.

The chart below shows the 6 teams who hit for a lower BA at home than they did overall, from 2018- 2021.
TeamBA at HomeCombined BADifference
Mets..237.246.009
Mariners.230.238.008
A’s.238.244.006
Padres.236.,241.005
Brewers.239.243.004
Rays.248.250.002
Two teams had no significant difference between their BAs at home and their total BAs. These were the Astros and Dodgers. 18 teams hit slightly better at home and had a difference of less than .10 points. The teams with a batting average at home that was .10 points greater than their overall BA were the Rockies (.32 better at home than overall), Rangers (.13 better at home than overall), Red Sox (.12 better at home than overall) and Royals (.11 better at home than overall).

More teams hit for a lower SLG% at home. There are nine teams who had a worse SLG% at home than on the road. These are shown in the chart below.
TeamSLG% at HomeCombined SLG%Difference
Mets.396.412.16
Mariners.388.403.15
A’s.416.429.13
Cardinals.390.403.13
Marlins.362.370.08
Rays.412.420.08
Padres.400.407.07
Astros.448.450.02
Giants.401.402.01
The Colorado Rockies slugged .499 at home, compared to .433 on the road. The Rockies have by far the largest difference in home slugging to overall slugging (.66 points.) The next team is the Rangers at .24 points.

The story is not as simple as Adames being bad in St. Pete and really good in Milwaukee. Even as a Brewer, Adames has continued to hit better on the road (.352 BA, .617 SLG) than at home (.222 BA, .452 SLG). These splits are aligned with the Brewers’ as a team. The Brewers have hit .219 as a team at home and .248 as a team on the road. They are second to last in the game in BA at home but 5th in hitting on the road. The team’s total batting average on the year is .234. They lead in baseball in the greatest discrepancy between total batting average and batting average on the road, a .14 point difference. They are hitting 15 points less at home than their BA total, also the largest difference in the game. In 2020, they hit almost identical at home (.222) as on the road (.223). Adames has raised his home BA nearly 70 points, which definitely helps his overall line.

In fantasy baseball, it is imperative to be aware of how factors affect a player’s value. This allows you to know when to pounce when you see a player’s value may be increasing. Home and away splits are one such factor. A lot of attention is given to the drastic splits of Rockies hitters doing much better in Denver than overall, but we can maybe predict which players on new teams will improve by looking at home/away splits of all teams and players.

All statistics from www.stathead.com