Can Jake Odorizzi Solve His Road Struggles In 2015?

By Drew Jenkins

Overall, Jake Odorizzi had a successful rookie year. Though his 4.13 ERA was nothing too special, if you take out a rough six game start to the season that lowers all the way to 3.59. Also, Odorizzi’s 9.27 K/9 ranked 9th in the league, and he quickly showed that he had a higher ceiling than we previously thought. That said, a big negative about his year was his struggles on the road. Is that something he can fix moving forward?

Odorizzi was solid at home this year, throwing to a 2.62 and a 102-32 K-BB ratio in 99.2 innings. Away from Tropicana Field, however, Odorizzi’s ERA inflated all the way to 6.32 in 68.1 innings. Additionally, he gave up a .301/.364/.523 when pitching away vs. a .197/.263/.297 at home. Pitchers certainly have fluctuation from year to year with their home and away stats, but a disparity that large has to make you wonder if Odorizzi truly does have a problem with pitching on the road.

Odorizzi did suffer from good luck at home while suffering from bad luck on the road. While pitching at Tropicana Field, he had a .259 BABIP against, but on that soared to .349. This means that as he continues to pitch, it is likely that he gets hit a bit harder at home and that he is a better pitcher on the road as those two numbers get closer to league average.

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But these stats aren’t drastic enough to account for all the disparity in his home and away stats. Odorizzi is a fly ball pitcher, as indicated by his 29.9% ground ball rate and 48.7% fly ball rate. Tropicana Field is known for its ability to keep fly balls from leaving the park, and that accounts for a good deal of Odorizzi’s success at home. In his 99.2 innings at home Odorizzi allowed four home runs, but in 68.1 away he gave up 16. That big of a difference did not happen because of luck or dumb chance, and it indicates that he will likely continue doing better at home than on the road.

Some of it might also have to do with Odorizzi being just 24 years old and a rookie. At home, Odorizzi got to pitch in front of a friendly crowd, but all of a sudden on the road he would be put in environments where there were many thousands of fans rooting against him. This didn’t cause all of his home struggles, but his lack of experience pitching in front of big opposing crowds certainly could have had some effect.

In the future, it is likely that Odorizzi won’t repeat such a poor performance on the road. That said, his skill-set as a fly ball pitcher sees significant benefits at Tropicana Field, and he will likely always be a better pitcher there than on the road. If Jake Odorizzi can find a way to improve his road ERA in 2015, he will be even more of a force to reckon with in the Rays’ rotation.