What to make of Brandon Drury’s perfomance on the road

Whenever a player leaves the Colorado Rockies for a new team, the first thing many people do is check his home vs. road splits. The same now happens for former Arizona Diamondbacks when they leave the friendly confines of Chase Field, which perhaps should be called Coors Light Field (maybe not for long, though). If a departing hitter tears it up at home but struggles away from Chase or Coors Field, should we write them off? That’s the question that pertains to the new Yankee, Brandon Drury.

During his tenure in Arizona, Drury feasted on home cooking. His tOPS+* at home is 132, whereas it’s merely 70 on the road. Overall, Drury has been a slightly below average hitter in just over 1,000 major league plate appearances (94 OPS+). Cue the concerns about Drury not being able to hit anywhere except pre-humidor Arizona.

*tOPS+ indicates how well a player hits in a split compared to his own overall performance. For example: if a player has an overall .800 OPS, but a 1.000 OPS at home, his tOPS+ at home is 125.

Looking at tOPS+ is results-based, so we should also compare Drury’s contact quality at home and on the road. In comparing Drury’s actual wOBA to his expected wOBA at home and on the road, it doesn’t look like the newest Yankee was unlucky on the road. It’s evident that he took advantage of the hitter-friendly Chase field, as his xwOBA drops significantly away from home. Unsurprisingly, Drury’s exit velocity took a hit outside of Arizona, too. He averaged about 90 MPH in 2016 and 2017 at home, while dropping to 87.7 MPH in 2016 and 85.6 MPH in 2017 in away ballparks.

Year wOBA xwOBA Difference
2016 0.385 0.349 0.036
2017 0.397 0.325 0.072
Year wOBA xwOBA Difference
2016 0.283 0.301 -0.018
2017 0.279 0.267 0.012

We can’t just stop there and say that Drury is doomed to fail in New York. After all, it’s not like Yankee Stadium is a locale where hitters go to die. Quite the opposite, of course.

TEAM SIDE FB Factor GB Factor LD Factor PU Factor 1b Factor 2b Factor 3b Factor HR Factor Runs Factor
NYA RHB 105 99 95 101 99 95 93 111 104
ARI RHB 99 100 101 91 97 114 119 109 113
Difference RHB 6 -1 -6 10 2 -19 -26 2 -9

The numbers above juxtapose the park factors for right-handed hitters in the Bronx and Arizona in 2017. There’s no question that Chase Field was a better place to hit than Yankee Stadium, but that doesn’t mean Drury is coming to a pitcher’s park. Yankee Stadium’s Runs Factor still points to a hitter-friendly venue, even though it’s not as beneficial to right-handed batters as Arizona.

Aside from 81 games at home, analyzing the roughly 40 road games at division rivals is important too. The hitting environments in the NL West are much different than the AL East. On the left coast, Drury played many of his road games in Colorado, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. We know that Colorado is another hitter haven, but the other three parks favor pitchers. In the AL East, on the other hand, Drury will be playing more games in yards that are much friendlier to offense. Here are the park factors for his former division rivals in 2017:

TEAM SIDE FB Factor GB Factor LD Factor PU Factor 1b Factor 2b Factor 3b Factor HR Factor Runs Factor
COL RHB 100 104 100 94 103 104 127 106 116
LAN RHB 101 101 100 94 99 98 95 97 96
SDN RHB 99 101 97 97 98 95 115 93 95
SFN RHB 99 99 101 106 103 97 102 86 92
Average RHB 100 101 100 98 101 99 110 96 100

And for his new divisional opponents:

TEAM SIDE FB Factor GB Factor LD Factor PU Factor 1b Factor 2b Factor 3b Factor HR Factor Runs Factor
BOS RHB 102 104 100 94 110 101 84 94 102
TOR RHB 100 101 102 98 99 107 85 100 101
BAL RHB 102 99 100 107 98 94 90 111 99
TBA RHB 102 95 98 98 99 92 113 101 97
Average RHB 102 100 100 99 102 99 93 102 100

By runs factor, both divisions are about even on average. However, there’s a lot more balance in the AL East. Unless Drury was playing in Colorado, he was at a big disadvantage away from home. Now, just about all the parks will be neutral environments for righty swingers like Drury.

Across baseball, hitters tend to perform better at home regardless of the team and division they play for. Last year, the league’s home wOBA was .328, while road wOBA was .314. So it’s not like Drury was an anomaly. Sure, his splits stood out more than most, but that shouldn’t come as a total surprise given his home park and the road stadiums where he most commonly played.

Expect Drury to continue to perform favorably at home compared to on the road, but don’t expect the difference to be as drastic as it has been for him historically. Although he’s leaving an extremely hitter-friendly home stadium for not quite as friendly new home digs, he’ll be playing more of his road games in more favorable parks. Drury will miss pre-humidor Arizona and Colorado in particular, but also will be thankful to avoid stadiums like San Francisco’s. Fortunately, Yankee Stadium will still be kind to the team’s newest addition, and rival parks like Fenway and Camden Yards should be inviting as well.

tOPS+ from Baseball-Reference. Statcast data from Baseball Savant. Park Factors from Baseball Prospectus. League wOBA data from Fangraphs.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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