Looking At The Rays Poor Home Performance

ST PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 06: Pregame ceremonies are held prior to the start of the home opener game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field on April 6, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The word "home" generally has a positive connotation attached to it. People enjoy coming home. They feel safe, happy, relaxed. So far this season, Rays hitters have felt just the opposite inside the Tropicana Field


From 2008-2010 the Trop provided the Rays with one of the best home field advantages in baseball, winning 158 games there over that period. This year? The team is 9-10 at home, averaging a whopping 2.8 runs a game. Compare that with their 11-5 road record in which they’re averaging 6.0 runs a game. What has been going on that has caused this severe of a drop off? The short answer? Bad luck and small sample sizes. The long answer? The Trop seems to be turning into PetCo.


The Rays home BABIP is .267, down from .316 in road games. Taking a look at player’s splits shows us a majority of the every day players actually have higher BABIPs at home than on the road. Though, the trio of John Jaso (.265 hBABIP), Reid Brignac (.286 hBABIP), and Kelly Shoppach (.273 hBABIP) have unimpressive home BABIPs that are weighing down the sample. The three regulars who may want to burn down the Trop are Johnny Damon, B.J. Upton, and Ben Zobrist.



















BABIP can fluctuate wildly from year to year, so a 19 game sample isn’t indicative of anything other than poor luck. For example, Rays pitchers have a .281 BABIP against at home, but just .238 on the road. Despite having a much higher BABIP, opposing hitters have an OPS of just .633 at the Trop, compared to .728 on the road. Things will eventually even out.

After having a .317 home BABIP in 2008 and 2009, that number dipped to .286 last season. That drop coincided with Tropicana Field’s sudden transformation into the best pitcher’s park in baseball. Here are ESPN’s Park Factors* from 2008-2011 and where the Trop ranked in terms of difficulty to score:

Those unfamiliar with Park Factors, a rate higher than 1.000 favors the hitter. Below 1.000 favors the pitcher.





























It’s obviously early into 2011, but the Trop is picking up where it left off last season. It never gets mentioned with the likes of SafeCo Field and PetCo Park when great pitching parks are discussed. The Rays pitchers had a BABIP against of .270 last season, 19 points lower than on the road and 15 points lower than it was in 2009. Something had to of changed. Your ballpark doesn’t go from fairly neutral to the best pitcher’s park in baseball by accident.

I’m not going to start any conspiracy theories, but it’s known that teams have tried to find any edge they could in their home parks. From leaving the infield grass a little high to slow down ground balls, to adjusting the air vents inside the Metrodome depending on which team is at bat, teams will always try to get that edge.

Not that I think anything like that is going on at the Trop, but for a team that prides itself on pitching and defense, as well as getting every advantage it can over its opponents, would you put it past them? Maybe air conditioning is the new extra 2%.

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