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At Home on the Road: The Strange Case of Vernon Wells

Vernon Wells had another two hits yesterday (a double and a single) to kick off his and the Jays' road trip.  Wells' home-away splits this season have truly been bizzare:

PA Hits Doubles HR Walks Ks
Home  200 32 11 4 17 25
Away 224 71 15 6 11 26


Average OBP Slugging OPS
Home  0.175 0.241 0.301 0.542
Away 0.333 0.364 0.507 0.871


Wow, those Road numbers actually look really good.  Anyway, many have speculated that Wells' problem is "mental" and have offered up varying explanations ("he doesn't care") impressive only in their ridiculous ("he is a choker") inconsistency ("he is trying too hard").  But at first glance, doesn't it seem like something is up here?  If Vernon is getting booed at home (which he is), isn't it possible that the fans distaste is hurting his play?



It sure looks like it at first.  But look at little deeper.  Wells has a .357 BABIP (he feels a little lucky, punk! - yes, I wrote this whole post just for that pun) on the road and an awful .178 number at home.  Now, disclaimer, I don't have batted ball data for home/road, so that would be interesting to see, but still.  Though there is a difference in isolated power, it's nowhere near as large as the other splits, and is arguably at least partially explained by park effects - his doubles and home run rates are quite similar both at home and away.  And Vernon actually has a better walk rate at home (8.5% to 4.9% on the road) and is striking out less at Skydome too, so it's not as if he has a terribly worse approach at home, which you would expect if fan heckling was getting to him.  And you're not getting anything out of his RBIs either - not much of a significant difference there.


Things aren't always what they seem.  It's easy to assign mental failings to physical outcomes, but more often than not it's wrong.  Don't forget, Wells has historically performed slightly better at home, and was comparable at home and on the road last season, debunking the whole "the pressure of the contract is getting to him" argument.  In this case, despite what the surface numbers would have you believe, it's looking quite possible that the drastic difference in home/road performance for Wells thusfar is a simple case of luck - slightly good luck on the road compared with awfully terrible luck at home - and can't be reasonably expected to continue.  If I had to speculate, I'd guess his performance at home and on the road for the remainder of the season will be comparable.  Anyone want the other side of that non-bet?