Originally posted at my personal site.
As the Cubs get ready to go out on the road this week I want to examine one of the stranger statistical trends I've ever seen. See three years ago Aramis Ramirez forgot how to hit on the road. Looking at his career numbers there isn't much difference. Aramis has a career home OPS of .863 and an .831 road OPS. Not really that big a difference when it covers a 1400 game sample.
Every season of Aramis' career before 2007 Aramis either had better numbers on the road each season, with the exception of 2004 where he had a .900+ OPS both at home and the road.
Starting in 2007 though Aramis stopped being as good a hitter on the road. It doesn't mean he was Aaron Miles like bad, or even replacement level bad, just not as good. In 2007 he had a 1.046 OPS at home. It fell a whopping .266 to .780 on the road. You can look at that and call it a one season wonder, but then it happened again in 2008. The OPS went from 1.040 at home to .752 on the road. It's happening in 2009 again too. His 1.066 OPS at home is brilliant, but his .812 just isn't quite as good. What the heck is going on here?
The first thing that stuck out to me was the difference in BABIP, his home BABIP in each year are .350, .340, and .414. On the road it drops to .279, .269, and .276. That could certainly be one cause, but over the course of the season he only has about a six or seven hit difference either way. That doesn't explain such a large difference.
Perhaps Wrigley is just a really hitter friendly park and Aramis takes crazy advantage of that. The park factors (100 being neutral, anything over being batter friendly, lower means pitcher friendly) show that Wrigley is around 105. That ranks near the top for friendly home parks for hitters, so there could be something to that. Certainly that helps explain the collective team offensive woes on the road, but why is one player have such a disparity, and why is that disparity something that suddenly started in 2007? The park factors didn't drastically change in 2007, and there weren't any major structural changes that would change the wind (New Yankee Stadium, US Cellular removing rows).
The 2005-6 bleacher reconstruction couldn't possibly be the reason. The wall dimensions remained the same across the whole field, and they added rows to the bleachers, but did that really make a difference to hitters or just ballhawks on the street.
The arrival of Lou Pinella and a new hitting coach Gerald Perry is biggest change between 2006 and 2007 that I can think of. It was also the time of his new contract, and when his hustle was under scrutiny from Cubs fans. My non-statistical side would like to say that Ramirez is hustling harder in front of the home fans and trying harder. The statistical side of me says that makes no sense at all. If hitting a baseball was as simple as trying harder everybody would be great at it.
Something strange is going on here, I can't explain it. Can anybody else?