First Pitch: Looking at the Home/Road Splits for the 2019 Altoona Curve Pitchers

Over the last four days, we have looked at the home/road splits for the hitters on the four full-season affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Altoona Curve split interested me because it showed a heavy split favoring their home park, despite the fact that it’s not particularly known as a park that favors hitters. The numbers show it favored hitters in 2019, so this morning I wanted to see if the Altoona pitchers were putting up better results on the road than at home.

The Curve had 12 pitchers who threw at least 40 innings during the 2019 season. That’s the cutoff I’m going to use, because anything less would give you too small of a sample size. Here are the players organized by the most innings first, working our way down.

Sean Brady – Brady left the Pirates via free agency after the season. He didn’t have a noticeable split home/away, though the numbers were better at home. His ERA was 3.58 at home, 3.73 on the road. His WHIP was 1.17 at home, 1.32 on the road.

Pedro Vasquez – Vasquez had a strong season in 2019 and his numbers were basically the same at home and on the road. In 60.2 innings at home, he had a 2.67 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, with a .234 BAA. In 62.1 road innings, he had a 2.74 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP, with a .232 BAA. That’s one more earned run on the road in 1.2 more innings, though he allowed 23 runs in both situations.

Domingo Robles – Robles had a HUGE home/road split, to the point he was one of the best pitchers in the league at home and one of the worst on the road. His home stats show a 2.10 ERA in 60 innings, with a .249 BAA and a 1.13 WHIP. His road stats show a 6.70 ERA, a .313 BAA and a 1.53 WHIP in 43 innings. You’d say that it’s a big difference in innings, but he made nine starts at home, nine starts on the road. I don’t even know how to explain this, especially when we were looking to see if the pitchers suffered any due to the home park.

James Marvel – Marvel had a better ERA on the road, but a much better WHIP at home due to some crazy walk totals. I’ll note here that the difference in his home ERA (2.85) and road (2.29) was three runs and Marvel had an awful defensive play cost him three runs (all earned), which I remember because it ended a shutout streak and was just cringeworthy to watch (short version: outfielder misplayed a routine fly ball so bad it hit him in the middle of the back). If those runs were unearned like they should have been, there wouldn’t be an ERA difference here. However, the walk totals are hard to explain. His walk rate was 4x higher on the road, which led to an 0.90 WHIP at home, 1.58 on the road. With the ERA difference only there due to poor official scoring, there was no disadvantage to pitching at home.

Beau Sulser – Sulser is the first person here who legitimately had more trouble at home, though he pitched well in both situations. His home numbers were: 47.2 innings, 3.21 ERA, .281 BAA and a 1.31 WHIP. Road numbers: 48.1 innings, 2.23 ERA, .200 BAA and a 1.18 WHIP. Like Marvel, he had a much higher walk rate on the road.

Cam Vieaux – Vieaux pitched much better at home, though his road numbers were still fine. He had a 1.43 ERA in 44 innings, with a .197 BAA and a 1.02 WHIP at home. On the road he had a 3.31 ERA in 32.2 innings, with a .205 BAA and a 1.16 WHIP.

Yeudy Garcia – Garcia was released after the season. He had a rough season, with a 6.10 ERA in 62 innings. However, the numbers were much better at home. He had a 3.52 ERA, .245 BAA and a 1.43 WHIP at home, 8.62 ERA, 2.11 WHIP and .366 BAA on the road. He’s basically in the same category as Robles here, where we are looking for a split favoring the road and we get a huge split in the other direction.

Angel German – German left the Pirates via free agency this winter. He is another with the crazy splits favoring home games. His home stats in 24 innings showed a 2.63 ERA, .155 BAA and an 0.96 WHIP. On the road in 28 innings, he had a 5.79 ERA, .206 BAA and 1.46 WHIP.

Matt Eckelman – Eckelman also liked pitching at home more than the road. He had a 2.76 ERA, .217 BAA and a 1.26 WHIP at home. On the road he had a 4.19 ERA, .274 BAA and a 1.60 WHIP.

Blake Cederlind – Cederlind is the second player who pitched better on the road, but he still pitched well at home. His BAA and WHIP were actually better at home, so it wasn’t a big difference. Home: 2.33 ERA, .176 BAA, 0.93 WHIP. Road: 1.37 ERA, .202 ERA, 1.10 WHIP.

Scooter Hightower – Hightower retired mid-season, but he put in 43.1 innings first. He was another guy who liked home a lot better, though he didn’t pitch well in either situation. He had a 4.19 ERA at home, with a .260 BAA and a 1.34 WHIP. Road numbers were 7.50 ERA, .327 BAA, and 1.54 WHIP.

Cody Bolton – Another huge road split favoring home, despite a very similar WHIP/BAA rate. Bolton had a 2.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and a .245 BAA in Altoona. On the road it was a 7.62 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP and a .250 BAA. The difference was six homers on the road, zero at home.

So after seeing that Altoona hitters favored hitting at home as a group, you wouldn’t expect the splits above. The pitchers favored pitching at home as a group, with some huge splits favoring home pitching. Knowing those two things now, you would expect a much better home record. They were 39-32 in Altoona, 30-39 on the road.





By John Dreker

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look back at an interesting pitching match-up on this date from 128 years ago.

Jack Shepard, catcher for the 1953-56 Pirates. He was heavily recruited while in college at Stanford, deciding to sign with the Pirates because he felt GM Branch Rickey had the team going in the right direction. The Pirates brought Shepard right to the majors and got him into two games before sending him to the minor leagues. He went to Denver of the Western League and hit .324 with nine homers in 84 games. He made the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1954 and had a strong rookie season platooning with Toby Atwell behind the plate. In 82 games, Shepard hit .304 with 22 RBIs. The next year he got even more playing time, although his batting was nowhere near as good as his rookie season. He hit .239 in 94 games, with a .639 OPS. When he was sent to the minors in 1953, it was said that he needed to work on his throwing to make himself a strong Major League player. He must’ve taken that to heart, as he threw out 52% of would-be base stealers in 1955. In 1956, Shepard played a career high 100 games, hitting .242 with seven homers and 30 RBIs. He signed his contract to play for the Pirates in February of 1957 but less than a month later he retired from baseball to pursue a career in business. He managed briefly for the Pirates in the minor leagues in 1959.

Frank Miller, pitcher for the 1916-19 Pirates. Despite winning twenty games for four straight seasons in the high levels of the minors, Miller didn’t make his big league debut until age 27 with the Chicago White Sox. On July 12, 1913, the White Sox gave him one start and he pitched poorly, allowing five runs in 1.2 innings. It was then back to the minors for two more full seasons before he returned to the majors again with the 1916 Pirates. In his first season in Pittsburgh, he went 7-10 with a 2.29 ERA in 173 innings, getting twenty starts and ten relief appearances. They next year, the Pirates were awful, winning just 51 games. Miller had a decent 3.13 ERA during a down year for offense, but his record was just 10-19 in 28 starts and ten relief outings. His 1918 season was his best overall. Miller had a 2.38 ERA, with a record of 11-8 in 23 starts. The next year he won a career high 13 games and topped the 200 inning mark for the second time. The Pirates sold him to the Boston Braves in March of 1920, but he didn’t play for them until 1922. It was said he retired due to “family and business pressure”. He won 11 games for the Braves his first year back, then went 0-3 before he was released in 1923, ending his baseball career.

Jimmy Archer, catcher for the 1904 Pirates and then again in 1918. He began his pro baseball career in the low levels of the minors in 1903 and by the following year he established himself as a prospect. That second season, he hit .299 in 74 games despite breaking his collarbone during the season. His calling card was a very strong throwing arm, and in September of 1904 the Pirates gave him a trial in the majors. He played seven games and impressed, but he needed more seasoning, so he was sent to Atlanta of the Southern Association for two years. On September 1, 1906 he was chosen by the Tigers in the Rule 5 draft. Archer played 18 games for the Tigers in 1907, then returned to the minors, where he was again taken in the Rule 5 draft, this time by the Cubs in 1908. He would become a star player for the Cubs, spending nine seasons in Chicago before being released during the 1917 season. The Pirates signed him in 1918, but by age 35, years of catching had worn him down and he was well past his prime. He hit .155 in 24 games before Pittsburgh released him. Archer played briefly for Brooklyn, then for the Reds, before he decided to call it a career. In 847 Major League games, he was a .249 career hitter with 296 RBIs.

May 13,1892

The Pirates took on the Cleveland Spiders on May 13,1892 with Elmer “Mike” Smith on the mound. Smith was just one year away from becoming a star outfielder for the Pirates, but in 1892 he was trying to make a comeback to the majors as a pitcher. He won 34 games as a 19-year-old in 1887, yet by 1890 he was back in the minors for two full seasons. The Pirates lost 6-1 on this day, although it could actually be considered a win, as Smith was hit hard. He would make just 11 more starts before becoming a full-time outfielder and over the next five seasons for the Pirates, he would hit .336 with 152 steals, 558 runs scored and 406 RBIs.

The starter for Cleveland that day was Denton True Young, the papers referred to him as Farmer Young back then but he is more well-known as Cy Young. The Pirates made seven errors during this game. They had two Hall of Famers in their lineup, with Jake Beckley at first base and Connie Mack was Smith’s catcher. Ed Swartwood played right field and batted sixth that day for the Pirates in one of his last Major League games. He was the first batter in franchise history ten years earlier and had returned to the team after an eight-year absence.

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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