Leaderboard of the day: team OPS in road games

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MLB.com has rolled out some new stats pages, and it looks like those tantalizing splits they’ve always sort of featured but that only end up working half of the time at best are actually fully operational.

So, using those splits, here’s a leaderboard for today.  I’m looking at each team’s OPS in road games only, and then contrasting that to where the team rank in home games:

1. Cardinals – .792 – 19
2. Yankees – .776 – 4
3. Tigers – .761 – 10
4. Dodgers – .760 – 27
5. Red Sox – .751 – 1
6. Angels – .749 – 25
7. Rays – .741 – 24
8. Mets – .718 – 12
9. Pirates – .709 – 29
10. Cubs – .708 – 15
11. Reds – .707 – 9
12. Royals – .701 – 14
13. Orioles – .699 – 11
14. Blue Jays – .696 – 6
15. White Sox – .694 – 13
16. Padres – .693 – 30
17. Diamondbacks – .693 – 5
18. Rockies – .689 – 8
19. Rangers – .683 – 2
20. Giants – .676 – 26
21. Astros – .673 – 18
22. Phillies – .666 – 20
23. Indians – .663 – 7
24. Braves – .658 – 17
25. Marlins – .656 – 21
26. Brewers – .652 – 3
27. Mariners – .637 – 28
28. Nationals – .633 – 16
29. Twins – .632 – 23
30. Athletics – .615 – 22

So, the Cardinals are first in the majors in road OPS and 19th in home OPS.

There are some other huge disparities here, particularly with those Southern California teams.  The Padres have actually been perfectly average offensively outside of Petco Park, while the Dodgers and Angels have thrived offensively outside of their parks.  It shows up in the records of the Padres and Angels, both of whom have superior marks in road games.  The Dodgers, though, are five games under .500 both at home and on the road.

We can also see here just how overrated the Texas offense as.  The team has 64 homers at home and just 31 on the road.

The Brewers are right there with the Rangers.  They’re actually 29-11 at home this season and 15-27 on the road.  It’s not the fault of the superstars: Ryan Braun is hitting .306 with six homers on the road, while Prince Fielder is at .279 with eight homers.  However, Casey McGehee is hitting .218 with one homer on the road, Corey Hart is at .240 with two homers and Yuniesky Betancourt is at .188 with one homer.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.