Despite a 29-12 start to the season, the Astros rotation still has a question mark or two. One of these were a certain pitcher’s capability of pitching well at home and on the road.
The common thought on Lance McCullers outside the obvious talent has been the extreme home-to-road splits. For example, his 2016 home ERA was 2.40. This is quite good. His 2016 road ERA? A whopping 5.57. This is not, um, good. In McCullers’ defense, though, he only made four starts last year on the road. An arm ailment, if you may recall, prematurely ended his first full season as a member of the Astros.
Since the 2016 statistics come with a caveat then let’s use the 2015 statistics as a more reliable dataset. Oh, look, McCullers made 12 starts on the road that season, which was his debut season. This is a good enough number to delve into. So, in those 12 starts, McCullers posted a 4.60 ERA. Not great, but not downright terrible at the same time. His home ERA in 2015? An incredible 1.84 ERA.
As the numbers above indicated, McCullers doesn’t have the best track record for road performance.
Despite the past numbers, there has appeared to be change in 2017. Or at least in the last few weeks as the Astros right-hander has allowed only one run in his last 19 innings on the road. That’s something good and worth writing about.
This is reflected in his ERA, which is an impressive 3.18 ERA in four starts. His home ERA in 2017? An even better 2.08 ERA. Sure, he isn’t striking out as many batters on the road, 25 SO in 28.1 innings, that he does at home, 35 SO in 26 innings. But he has maintained roughly the same OPS on the road, .636, when compared to his home OPS, .633.
The most important aspect of this welcomed development from McCullers is that the Astros finally have another ace-like starting pitcher to pair with Dallas Keuchel. And while McCullers has always been extremely talented, the doubt has persevered that he couldn’t handle the road starts like he does with starts at Minute Maid Park. This is still a fair assumption as the majority of his past history indicates as much. After all, we are talking about just three starts in the month of May.
If this trend does continue where McCullers pitches well on the road, then the Astros are looking more for real in the American League. Heck, they are already acting like a contender with a 29-12 start to their season. Part of this strong start is in thanks to McCullers pitching well on the road. Let’s hope that this is the real deal for him and the Astros going forward.
**Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference**