New parks: home-field advantage?

Mike Harmon
Yahoo! Sports

Two new stadiums entered the senior circuit fray this season in San Diego (Petco Park) and Philadelphia (Citizens Bank Park). All offseason, pundits speculated about the types of parks these would be. Would these newly erected shrines to the great American pastime be homer havens or pitchers' paradises?

From looking at the splits through the first month, both the Padres and Phillies have been consistently bad at home. I remember when the United Center opened up in Chicago and shooting percentages tanked -- a monkey wrench for Jordan, Pippen and the gang.

What happened? Maybe it was unfamiliarity with the new angles, lights or backdrop. It doesn't matter. They righted the ship by hitting the practice court and taking jump shot after jump shot. Perhaps that's the answer; getting back in the batting cages for an extra round.

Let's take a closer look at what has transpired, starting in San Diego, where the Padres are turning the heads of the baseball world with a 20-14 record.

They've put up a robust 12-6 home mark, taking advantage of early season visits by the aforementioned Expos (last in the Major Leagues in runs scored) and the New York Mets (fifth to last).

But when you look at San Diego's stats, there's no single offensive category to spark the moment of clarity. The Padres are hitting .251 at home, pounding out a measly 10 home runs and 69 runs over 18 games. Contrast that to their road totals, where the Padres -- scratch your eyes now -- are hitting a whopping .295 with 80 runs scored in 16 contests. Their road home run total is still low at 10.

A quick glimpse at the pitching staff yields a home ERA of 3.97, over a half run higher on average than the road total of 3.34.

Let's investigate the contrast of home and road totals for selected members of the Padres.

Brian Giles
Home: Giles has saved most of his power displays for Petco, hitting four of his six homers for the home crowd. Fantasy owners are pulling away from the ejector button for the time being, hoping he's beginning to put it together.

Road: He's driven in as many runs on the road as at home (10) and his batting average is identical. Apart from home runs, the lone difference in his stats to date is his two stolen bases on the road. The team batting average difference noted above will lend itself well to increased activity on the basepaths.

Mark Loretta
Home: His .265 average at home isn't staggering, but the 21 total RBI out of a guy likely picked up to replace an injured Jerry Hairston Jr. or Ray Durham is nothing to shake a stick at.

Road: Loretta has been dominant on the road, hitting at a .377 clip and driving in 12 runs. He's served as a catalyst for the team and a perfect No. 2 hitter to set up Brian Giles and the heart of the order.

Brian Lawrence
Home: Lawrence turned in a dominant performance on Wednesday night against Cincinnati to drop his home ERA to 6.02. His WHIP of 1.79 makes me cry, harkening back to the days of lower gas prices in the Bay Area. But I digress. That WHIP and ERA will relegate him to duty in leagues using only wins as a category.

Road: Away from Petco , his ERA falls to half of his home total (3.00). The WHIP comes down only to 1.62. Yes, that's a .17 difference, but still miles from a Randy Johnson or Carlos Zambrano. He needs to watch teammate David Wells work the plate.

Ismael Valdes
Home: Valdes adds value to three categories for your squad at Petco. His ERA of 3.43 is respectable, the sub-1.00 WHIP is solid and you have to think that the bats of Phil Nevin, Ryan Klesko and Giles will wake up to yield more wins.

Road: Away from home, the ERA inflates and the WHIP spirals out of control (currently 1.76). Usually walks account for the majority of the rise, but Valdes gets hit. His WHIP for his career is actually .22 higher. Home cooking gets Valdes into your rotation. When the Padres are on the road, he's riding the pines.

Let's move on to the Philadelphia Phillies under the watchful eye of the tempestuous Larry Bowa. Fans were calling for the manager's head in the second week of April after a 1-5 road trip to start the season, including losing two out of three to Pittsburgh.

Like the Padres, the Phillies are a "Jekyll and Hyde" monster between home and road performance. Their .270 team batting average on the road ties them for the fifth-best mark in the National League. At Citizens Bank Park, they're hitting a feeble .232. But at least they're pounding out homers for the hometown fans (26 at home versus 13 on the road).

The pitching staff, bolstered by a healthy Eric Milton and the acquisition of slingin' Billy Wagner, leads the NL in ERA and trails only Houston in team WHIP. (The Phillies are fourth at home and second on the road in the National League in both categories).

Here's a quick breakdown of the key players in Philadelphia.

Jim Thome
Home:Thome is hitting a heavy .340 at home this season with seven moon balls in the first six weeks of the season. The only problem is that he's only got nine RBIs to show for it.

Road:The usually slow-starting Thome is hitting .309 on the road. His power production is lower (three bombs) and the RBI total matches his home output. He's scored half as many runs on the road as at home. Mike Lieberthal and company are wasting ample RBIs opportunities.

Watch for more news on Thome's injured thumb. Shawn Wooten replaced him in the lineup and will pick up some playing time. He is not a fantasy option, but you'd be well-served by checking the waiver wire for available first basemen for Thome's inevitable trip to the DL.

Pat Burrell
Home: The boo birds in Philly must have a huge psychological impact on Burrell's game. He's hit all five of his HRs at home, but is hitting a mediocre .271. David Bell needs to be more consistent behind him so he will see better pitches to hit.

Road: He's driven in 12 runs on the road, but has yet to leave the yard. The fact that his batting average stands 60 points higher on the road than at home is somewhat disturbing. It's Bell's fault. He's hitting 30 points higher on the road, too.

Bobby Abreu
Home: Abreu currently hovers just above the Mendoza line at home, with five home runs and 11 RBIs. He has yet to attempt a stolen base on home soil.

Road: Like Burrell, Abreu is hitting 60 points higher on the road. Both pale in comparison to teammate Jimmy Rollins' 100 point gap. In Abreu's case, his power production is more consistently distributed. He's also stolen two bases away from Philly.

Brett Myers
Home: Myers has been pounded in two home starts against Florida and St. Louis. His ERA stands out at an inflated 7.71. A small consolation is the almost one strikeout per inning he rings up.

Road: A strong seven-inning outing in Arizona helped to deflate Myers' road numbers. It was his first trip out of the sixth inning this season. The 3.45 road ERA is competitive, but you'll find better selections than the 1.60 WHIP he offers.

Vicente Padilla
Home: He's been battered around at home, compiling a large 5.29 ERA with a WHIP of 1.59. That's not going to get you into an active position of a fantasy lineup. However

Road: Padilla enjoys success away from Philadelphia, churning out a 2.50 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP. He'll get a chance to pitch in another pitcher's park on Thursday afternoon against San Francisco. (One hint: walk Pedro Feliz and Barry Bonds and dominate everyone else.)

Eric Milton
Home: Milton, like teammate Kevin Millwood, seems to have settled in nicely at Citizens Bank Park. His ERA of 3.50 is solid and he's striking out a hitter per inning.

Road: He's struggled on the road thus far, surrendering nine earned runs in 15 innings pitched with a bloated WHIP of 1.73. With his next start scheduled for Colorado, I'd let him skip this turn in my fantasy rotation and sync up with him again at home against Los Angeles.

Certainly a month of games can't tell you everything about a new facility. I'll check back on the status of this situation after the All-Star Break. In the interim, let's get these guys back in the cages!

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