The Rays find themselves in a situation similar to what they faced in the ALCS. Having lost Game 1 at home, there's a need to take the second game, lest they fall behind 2-0 before going on the road for three games. It's not exactly the same this time, however; for one, they were expected to lose to the Phillies'
The gap between being tied at one and being down 2-0 is massive, though. Teams that are 1-1 win the Series half the time and lose half the time. However, losing the first two games puts you not just behind the eight-ball, but the entire rack: BP's
So if the Phillies needed to win last night's game, with their ace on the mound, the Rays need a win tonight to keep from falling into the abyss. Fortunately for them, they send their best starter in 2008,
When you look into that split, though, what you find is that Shields is pitching about the same at home as he is on the road. The numbers in the table above are for Shields' career, and reflect the times he gets each result as a percentage of batters faced.
There's a small degradation in Shields' performance on the road, one that is consistent with the established idea that players do perform slightly better at home. Shields strikes out a few extra hitters at home and allows fewer home runs. The gap in his rate stats, however, doesn't warrant an ERA gap of more than a run and a half per nine innings. No, Shields' ERA is higher on the road not because he's pitched less effectively, but because of everyone's favorite gremlin, his
Shields isn't a much better pitcher at home. He has the home-field advantage everyone else does, but has gotten less support from his defense, over what is still a fairly small sample, on the road. The biggest gap in his numbers, by far, is that BABIP. Look at 2008:
The home-run rate is much worse on the road -- doubled, basically -- but Shields is once again on the wrong side of variance when it comes to his BABIP. The difference comes to about one hit per start, which is enough to send your ERA skyrocketing. If Shields had only the higher home-run rate and an even BABIP split, we wouldn't be talking about his big home/road split, because it wouldn't exist. Shields' big ERA gap doesn't exist because he's a much better pitcher at home; it exists because of a statistical fluke.
This is important. Rays manager