First Pitch: A Look at the Hitting Splits for the Indianapolis Indians

We have spent the last three days looking at the hitting splits for the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Bradenton Marauders and the Altoona Curve. We move up to Triple-A today for the Indianapolis Indians.

Offense was up dramatically in the International League, as they started using livelier baseballs in 2019. Indianapolis has never been a park that favored home run hitters, so their players tend to put higher slugging numbers up on the road. It’s a great park for line drive hitters who use the whole field, as the deep outfield gaps give the outfielders a ton of room to cover.

I looked at the top 14 batters here based on plate appearances, though I’ll note that the last four on the list all had somewhat small sample sizes. Here they are listed from the most at-bats on down. I’ll also note that there are a handful of players here no longer in the system. That’s fine for this exercise, because we are looking at the home/road splits. I still made note of the players who left in the recap below.

Will Craig – Craig was nearly the same at home and on the road, with a .742 home OPS and .775 away. He had a 41 point difference in the batting average, but smaller splits in both slugging and OBP.

Ke’Bryan Hayes – Hayes did much better on the road, despite almost exactly the same BB/SO ratios. He had an .830 away OPS, compared to .671 in Indianapolis.

Kevin Kramer – Kramer didn’t have much of a split. He did better on the road, where he hit seven homers, compared to three at home. He was .768 away, .732 at home, with almost all of the difference coming from slugging.

Jason Martin – Martin was basically the same player home and away in every category. He had a .723 home OPS, .737 road.

Jake Elmore – Elmore hit well all season and it didn’t matter where he was playing. He had an .832 home OPS, .852 on the road.

Cole Tucker – Tucker continues the pattern that everyone above except Ke’Bryan Hayes followed. Tucker hit more homers on the road, got on base a little better at home, where he had a .769 OPS, compared to .747 away.

Trayvon Robinson – Robinson left via free agency after the season. He did much better away from home, posting a .900 road OPS and a .783 home OPS.

Christian Kelley – Kelley had an awful season at the plate, but did better at home while playing 40 games in each situation. He had a .593 home OPS, .476 on the road.

Eric Wood – Wood left via free agency after the season. Wood is a first here for the four affiliates. He was .732 at home, .732 on the road. He actually had decent sized splits, with a better OBP at home and better slugging on the road, but in the end they worked out even.

Pablo Reyes – Reyes had a huge split that favored road games, yet 99% (literally) came from slugging. He had a .780 OPS at home, .960 on the road, where he hit eight of his ten homers.

JB Shuck – Shuck was pitching more than hitting late in the year. He was let go after the season. He did better at home with an .859 OPS, compared to .711 on the road.

Steven Baron – Baron served as a backup catcher with the Pirates in September, but he was let go after the season. He had a very poor season at the plate, and was awful at home with a .421 OPS. On the road he was much better, though still not good at .588.

Hunter Owen – Owen tore up Double-A in 2019, then struggled in Indianapolis, though it was worse when he was away from Indianapolis. His .659 home OPS was much better than the .586 road mark. He had a .167 road average.

Nick Franklin – Franklin was let go mid-season, after playing 44 games for the Indians. He also struggled at the plate in a great year for offense. Franklin had a big split though, with a .473 mark at home and .695 on the road.

You have six players here who did nearly the same in either situation. Three favored home games, five favored road games. Four of those big differences came from the bottom four players and all had small sample sizes. Two were better at home, two on the road, so you could say their results cancel each other out. The road splits have a slight advantage, but the 14 players as a group show that the home stadium basically played neutral compared to the road results.





By John Dreker

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date,

Evan Meek, pitcher for the 2008-12 Pirates. He joined the Pirates in the winter of 2007 as a Rule 5 pick. In five seasons in Pittsburgh, he pitched 153 games, going 7-7, 3.22 with four saves. The Pirates let him go via free agency after the 2012 season and his only other big league experience was an 0-4, 5.79 record in 23 appearances and 23.1 innings for the 2014 Baltimore Orioles. Meek was an All-Star during the 2010 season when he posted a 2.14 ERA in 80 innings over 70 appearances. All three of those numbers were career bests.

Josh Phelps, first baseman for the 2007 Pirates. He was one of those rare Rule 5 draft picks that already had big league experience before he was picked, and plenty of it. Phelps had over 350 games in at the majors and six seasons of big league experience, when the Orioles signed him as a minor league free agent on November 10, 2006. Less than a month later, the Yankees selected him in the Rule 5 draft and he would hit .263 in 36 games in New York through the end of June. He was put on waivers, where the Pirates picked him up. Playing mostly off the bench, in 58 games he hit .351 with five homers and 19 RBIs for the Pirates. He was even used as a catcher when Ryan Doumit went down with an injury, getting two starts at the position, which were his first big league starts behind the plate in six years. Despite his versatility and his strong hitting, the Pirates dropped him from the roster in November of 2007 when they picked up Jimmy Barthmaier off waivers. Phelps played just 19 more Major League games, all with the 2008 Cardinals. He was active in pro ball until 2011.

Johnny Hetki, pitcher for the 1953-54 Pirates. He began pro ball in 1942, but missed the next two years due to military service. When he returned, Hetki pitched well for Birmingham of the Southern Association, earning a September call-up to the Cincinnati Reds. He went 6-6, 2.99 in 32 games during his first full season in 1946, but really struggled the next two years. He spent most of 1948 and all of 1949 in the minors before coming back up to the majors with the 1950 Reds as a bullpen arm. Hetki then spent most of the 1951-52 seasons pitching for Toronto of the International League, where he won a combined 32 games. He also pitched three games for the 1952 St Louis Browns. The Pirates picked him up in the 1952 Rule 5 draft in December of 1952, paying $10,000 for his rights. Hetki would pitch two full seasons for Pittsburgh out of the bullpen, getting into a total of 112 games with 201.1 innings pitched. He went 7-10, 4.38 with 12 saves. He returned to Toronto in 1955 for two years there before retiring as a player. He passed away last year at 96 years old.

Hank Borowy, pitcher for the 1950 Pirates. He was already in the middle of his ninth season in the majors when the Pirates picked him up off waivers in mid-June 1950 from the Phillies, paying the $10,000 fee for his rights. Borowy had a 104-76 career record at that point, winning in double digits his first five seasons. In 1945 he won 21 games, splitting the year between the Cubs and Yankees. In 1949, he made 28 starts for the Phillies, going 12-12, 4.19, but in the first two months of 1950 he pitched just three times in relief and was being used as a batting practice pitcher. For the Pirates, he was put into the starting rotation and got hit hard in his two starts, including one against the Phillies just ten days after he was acquired. He got one more start and eight relief appearances before the Pirates sold him to the Detroit Tigers for more than they had paid to the Phillies. He would pitch 39 games for the Tigers over the next two years before retiring.

Alex McCarthy, infielder for the 1910-17 Pirates. He was a teammate of Hall of Fame outfielder Max Carey, playing for South Bend of the Central League when both players had their contracts purchased. McCarthy was in his first season of pro ball at the time. Pittsburgh let him play the last three games of the season at shortstop, with Honus Wagner moving over to first base to give the kid a chance to play his normal position. On the final day of the season, he led off the game with a triple, though he also made two errors in the field and didn’t collect another hit. In 1911, he made the team out of Spring Training and was the backup middle infielder, getting into 33 games at shortstop and 11 at second base. The following year, the Pirates moved Dots Miller over to first base and McCarthy became the regular second baseman. He played a career high 111 games that year, hitting .277 with 41 RBIs and 53 runs scored.

In 1913, McCarthy struggled at the plate, so 22-year-old Jim Viox took over the second base job. Viox hit .317 to lead the team, while McCarthy hit .203 in 31 games. The 1914 season was an even tougher one at the plate for McCarthy. He played strong defense in his 36 games at third base but hit just .150 in 173 at-bats. He was with the Pirates until September of 1915, when the team sold him to the Chicago Cubs. He was being used as the backup for all four infield positions for Pittsburgh, though he had played just 21 games all year. He was with the Cubs until July of 1916 when the Pirates reacquired him. He saw plenty of time at shortstop over the end of the season, but hit just .199 in 50 games. After hitting .219 in 49 games the next year, he was traded to a minor league team in Kansas City. McCarthy never returned to the majors. He played another ten seasons of pro ball before retiring. He would go on to manage in the minors after his playing days were over.

Harry Truby, second baseman for the 1896 Pirates. He began playing minor league ball as an 18-year-old in 1888, but didn’t make the majors until seven seasons later with the 1895 Chicago Colts (Cubs). He made his Major League debut in late August that year, playing 33 games at second base with a .336 average and 16 RBIs. Truby began the 1896 season back with the Colts, hitting .257 with 31 RBIs in 29 games. On July 4th, the Pirates purchased his contract from Chicago. He made his debut three days later batting seventh and playing second base. Truby was said to likely be there only until the starting second baseman Louis Bierbauer recovered from a minor injury. He played poorly in his eight games, hitting .156 with five singles, and he made some poor plays in the field. When Bierbauer returned, Truby lost his spot in the lineup and as it turned out, he never played in the majors again. He was sent to Toronto, a team in the Eastern League that the Pirates used as a farm team, where he played out the year.

Truby would be part of a fairly big trade for the Pirates later that year. Pittsburgh gave up Jake Stenzel, the franchise leader with a .360 career average in Pittsburgh, along with three players from Toronto, to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Steve Brodie and third baseman Jim Donnelly. Truby ended up playing another eight seasons in the minors before his playing career ended. He also managed for three seasons between 1899 and 1908.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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