Let’s just label the National League East the Oddball Division this season. No team other team than Atlanta has won that division since 1991, which makes it odd to begin with. The Braves’ 14-year division streak is in jeopardy, with Atlanta playing poorly. The only time the Braves were unlikely to win the division title was 1994, when they trailed Montreal in August. However, the strike came that season, and no division champ was crowned, so they got a reprieve.
The Mets have a strong team that looks like it’s ready to unseat the Braves, although the Phillies have turned it on of late. The Mets have won twice as many games as they’ve lost — both at home AND on the road — which is phenomenal. The Phillies also have an impressive road record, but what’s been strange is that they are a .500 team at home. Naturally, if the Phillies want to be a contender they will have to improve at home. This was not a problem last season, as Philadelphia was 46-35 at home, 42-39 on the road.
But it gets even more bizarre. Washington and Florida have been horrendous at home. The Nationals started 9-12 on the road, but like a politician under fire from constituents, they can’t wait to get out of Washington, with a 3-10 home record! The fire sale Marlins are 3-13 at home. So if few cared about them in South Florida when they were winning, nobody cares now.
Like last year, the Houston Astros are a team of extremes, playing great at home but awful on the road. In 2005, Houston was 53-28 at home, 36-45 on the road. This season, Houston started 14-4 at home, 5-11 on the road. Milwaukee, too, is like that: 46-35 at home, 35-46 last season. This year: 11-6 at home, 6-11 on the road.
Many teams are far more comfortable at home for a variety of reasons. One is that organizations can build their team around the configurations of the park. The Mariners, A’s, and the Mets play in large parks with expansive outfields, so when they’ve had good teams, speedy outfielders who can cover ground were staples of the line-up.
San Diego has a relatively new park, one that is great for pitchers but very tough on hitters. Several offensive players have complained about the park, too. Of course, you don’t hear pitchers complaining! Notice that the Padres are 9-12 at home, but 9-4 on the road!
The American League West is as unusual as the NL East. The top two teams are Oakland and Texas, and both have LOSING home records, but winning road marks. Oakland is 7-10 at home, but 10-6 on the road, while Texas is 9-12 at home, but 9-5 on the road. None of which makes any sense, as both teams had winning home marks a year ago, so that is more likely just an anomaly.
Finally, each year there are teams that are very strong at home but significantly worse on the road. Back in 2005, Tampa Bay won the award for the most extreme, with a respectable 40-41 home record but 27-54 on the road. This year Pittsburgh and Kansas City are in that same mode. Pittsburgh is 7-8 at home, but a miserable 3-17 on the road! And as bad as the Royals are (and they are), Kansas City is a surprising 8-8 at home, but just 2-14 on the road! Good luck, as always…Al McMordie.