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Some wrestling fans may remember Michael "Hawk" Hegstrand and Joseph "Animal" Laurinatis, better known as the Road Warriors. In baseball, there's a tendency for most players to perform better at home, pitchers in particular. However, on rare occasion, you'll find a select group of players (in this case, starting pitchers) who have found the key to pitching on the road. These "road warriors" are statistical outliers, but knowing that they exhibit certain tendencies is one way to maximize their Fantasy value and help owners battle toward baseball immortality.
Tommy Hanson, SP, ATL: There's little chance that Hanson is unowned in your fantasy league, but that fact is more or less irrelevant. What is relevant is Hanson's apparent distaste for pitching at home, or that's what the numbers seem to indicate. In three home starts (yes, a small sample size), Hanson is just 1-1 with a 4.68 ERA and he's surrendered 19 hits in just 16.2 innings pitched. On the road, Hanson is an altogether different (see: better) pitcher. In six road starts, Hanson is 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA and looks a lot more like the Cy Young-caliber pitcher he's been in the past. Part of this trend could be coincidence, but another factor to consider is the nature of hitting in the ATL, where batters tend to thrive, especially in the power department. Is this license to bench Hanson at home? Perhaps not, but savvy fantasy owners would be wise to monitor this trend.
Jordan Zimmermann, SP, WAS: With a career hampered by injuries, Zimmermann is the kind of pitcher that seems to exhibit "ace" potential, provided he can stay healthy. The other caveat to Zimmermann's success seems to be pitching on the road. As long as he's outside of Washington, he's been as close to a true No. 1 starter as there is in the game. As a road warrior, Zimmermann is 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. Oh, he's still a quality pitcher at home, but the current tendencies seem to support the notion of Zimmermann evolving into a "must-start" on the road, especially against weaker competition, not that fantasy owners will find much in the way of tomato cans in the NL East.
Carlos Zambrano, SP, MIA: As the Marlins rebranded under the Miami moniker, and with the new ballpark opening, fantasy owners wondered how the new park would play. Giancarlo Stanton's scoreboard-fracturing home runs notwithstanding, Miami's home park seems to be every bit as pitcher-friendly as the park it replaced. Well, don't tell that to Zambrano, who is enjoying a renaissance season of sorts. At home, Zambrano has been good, pitching to a 2.37 ERA, but on the road he's been, well, great. In five starts away from Miami, Zambrano is 2-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 0.81 WHIP (second best in all of baseball). Even better, Zambrano has a K:BB of nearly 3-to-1 on the road, where he's struggled to generate Ks at home. This seems an odd coincidence, however, as the ability to strike out hitters shouldn't be ballpark dependent.
Jake Arrieta, SP, BAL: Arrieta is as glaring an example as you'll find when it comes to home/road splits. At home, he's been downright terrible, with a 1-1 record and 6.44 ERA. While Oriole Park has leaned slightly toward hitters over its 20-year history, it doesn't explain how dramatically it seems to have affected Arrieta. That being said, he's been an entirely different pitcher away from Baltimore. In four road starts, Arrieta is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA and most impressive of all, 30 strikeouts against just five walks. He's far from a fantasy ace, but Arrieta has been an enormous part of the Orioles' early success. If he can find a way to achieve success at home, there's no telling how valuable a player Arrieta could become. In a pitching rich market, there's still time to act and acquire this undervalued, rising star.
Brandon Morrow, SP, TOR: Morrow is in the midst of quite a nice season, with a 5-2 record and 2.63 ERA. However, the right hander seems to struggle just a bit at hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, pitching to a 4.63 ERA in his five home starts. On the road, however, Morrow has been downright stellar. In 28.2 innings pitched away from Toronto, Morrow has pitched to a 3-0 record with a miniscule 0.63 ERA. Those looking for positive indicators need look no further than Morrow's road dominance for a clear indication of his Fantasy fortunes having taken a huge step forward. At age 27, it's looking more and more like Morrow may be rounding into form as one of the AL East's best overall starters, with his statistical output finally keeping pace with his "stuff".
NOTE: All stats as of 05-22-2012