1. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros. We often get too carried away with statistics and numbers that delve into minutia, but Keuchel's final home record for 2015 is a pretty amazing achievement: After allowing one run and two hits over seven innings in the Astros' 4-2 win over the Rangers, Keuchel finished 15-0 at home with a 1.46 ERA. The Astros complete their season with a road trip to Seattle and Anaheim, so he's finished at home, barring a tiebreaker game that could be played at Minute Maid. We can analyze why this happened and probably not really arrive at an explanation.
"It's honestly something I never really expected because this is a so-called hitter's park with the dimensions and everything," Keuchel said. "It feels like I am at home here this year. I have steadily improved over the years."
The oddest thing about Keuchel's home/road splits in 2015 is the difference in strikeout rate: 139 in 129 1/3 innings at home versus 74 in 96 2/3 innings on the road. He has allowed only four home runs at home versus 12 on the road. Did Keuchel have the greatest "home" season ever? He did set the mark for most home wins without a loss. Using the Baseball-Reference Play Index, here are some of the best home splits for one season:
Sandy Koufax, 1964 Dodgers: 12-2, 0.95 ERA, 14 GS
Dean Chance, 1964 Angels: 11-3, 1.07 ERA, 17 GS
Same city, different teams, but same ballpark. The Angels shared Dodger Stadium in 1964, and Chance won the Cy Young Award with help from the pitcher-friendly stadium. Koufax won Cy Young Awards pitching there in 1963, 1965 and 1966 (he missed time in 1964 or might have won four in a row).
How much did Koufax benefit from Dodger Stadium? His home ERAs through 1963-1966: 1.38, 0.85, 1.38, 1.52. His road ERAs: 2.31, 2.93, 2.72, 1.96. Dodger Stadium in the 1960s was notorious for its high mound, making it one of the great pitcher's parks of all time. Koufax was awesome, but he may not have been KOUFAX in a different park. Anyway, his 0.85 ERA in 1964 is the best single-season home ERA since 1920 (minimum 162 innings pitched on the season). Chance ranks tied for fourth behind two guys from World War II.
Tied with Chance:
Nolan Ryan, 1972 Angels: 13-8, 1.07 ERA, 22 GS.
Ryan struck out 220 batters in 22 home starts. His road ERA that year was 4.26. The lighting or something must have been a factor at The Big A back then: Ryan held opponents to a .144 average and three home runs at home but a .214 average and 11 home runs on the road. Ryan had some other notable home/road splits in his career because after leaving the Angels, he played for the Astros, another team with a pitcher-friendly home park. His career splits:
Home: 189-136, 2.77 ERA
Road: 135-156, 3.73 ERA
Orel Hershiser, 1985 Dodgers: 11-0, 1.08 ERA, 17 GS.
Another Dodger Stadium performance.
The mark for most wins at home since 1920 is 18, shared by Pete Alexander in 1920 (18-4, 1.11) and Lefty Gomez in 1934 (18-2, 2.07). Steve Carlton had an interesting split in 1977, going 17-3, 2.14 at home and 6-7, 3.37 on the road. Lefty Grove went 17-2 at home in 1930, 17-1 in 1931 and then 16-4 and 16-2. Total for those four seasons at home: 66-9. Of course, he wasn't too shabby on the road either: 42-18. He started only eight more games at home, so some of the discrepancy wins came from his bullpen appearances (Connie Mack used him frequently in relief).
Anyway, what makes Keuchel's achievement so interesting is that Minute Maid isn't a pitcher's park on par with the 1964 Dodger Stadium or 1972 Anaheim Stadium. By the way, when Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA in 1968, his home ERA was all the way up there at 1.41. But he had a 0.81 ERA on the road. Yes, that's the lowest road ERA since 1920. Greg Maddux is next, when he went 13-0 with a 1.12 ERA on the road in 1995.
3. Jonathan Papelbon versus Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. There was a report Saturday in the Washington Post saying manager Matt Williams lost the clubhouse this season. I'm not exactly sure what that means. From Barry Svrgula's story:
So try to quantify the unquantifiable: What impact do a manager and his attitude have on a clubhouse, even an established clubhouse such as Washington’s?
"A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have thought it made any difference," one player said this past week. "But after what we've been through for two years? It's huge. HUGE."
Another player described the situation this way: "It's a terrible environment."
Anyway, Williams didn't get a chance to defend himself against the accusations, and it's certainly more likely the losing ways contributed to the terrible environment more than the terrible environment created the losing ways. Williams is a goner anyway, and his intense style of managing was best seen last year when he tried to play Casey Stengel to Bryce Harper's Mickey Mantle, even removing Harper in one game for not hustling down the baseline. Let's face it: It's hard to manage that way in this day and age, especially when, like Williams, you haven't won anything yet in the dugout.
That gets us to Sunday's incident, which shows Williams has lost the dugout as well as the clubhouse, and why everyone predicts he'll be fired about two seconds after the season ends. After Harper flew out to left field, Papelbon evidently took issue when Harper didn't Pete Rose it out of the batter's box. Harper barked back at Papelbon, then Papelbon went after Harper with his hands around Harper's neck. Papelbon is a relief pitcher and he's been on the team just a few weeks, so it's probably not his place to go after Harper, certainly not in the dugout in view of the cameras.
Then came the really crazy thing: Williams sent Papelbon, who had finished the eighth, back out there for the ninth after the brawl. (Harper was taken out of the game.) As Tyler Kepner wrote in the New York Times, "Then, as if nothing had happened, Matt Williams let Papelbon go back out to pitch. That decision should be the final one he makes as Washington’s manager." Papelbon proceeded to give up five runs as the Phillies scored eight in the inning for a 12-5 victory. Your 2015 Washington Nationals, everyone.
My col: Are Nats chokers? Papelbon & Bryce Harper fight, choke in dugout. Only 23 more & we've got a team picture. https://t.co/5pLvDXDYO3— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) September 28, 2015
"The bullpen's trashed everything else this year, why not fight the NL MVP?" Boz! https://t.co/a6yLepmoyz— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) September 28, 2015
The best part of the Nationals trading for Jonathan Papelbon is that he's still under contract for next year. Good luck with that, guys.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) September 27, 2015
4. Boston Red Sox. Henry Owens and three relievers combined on a five-hit shutout over the Orioles, which followed an 8-0 shutout on Saturday and a 7-0 shutout on Friday. The last time the Red Sox swept a three-game series with three shutouts was 1958 against the Washington Senators. The Orioles had never been shut out in three straight games by the same team. The Red Sox quietly have had a nice little finish to their season: 15-12 in August and 14-10 in September, with a plus-63 run differential. They moved past the Rays into fourth in the American League East and are a just a game behind the Orioles. A little momentum, perhaps, for 2016 ...
5. Mike Morin, Los Angeles Angels. With Huston Street out with a groin pull and Joe Smith out with a sprained ankle, the Angels are scrambling in the pen. Morin pitched a 1-2-3 ninth in a 3-2 win for his first save as the Angels completed a sweep of the Mariners for their fifth straight win. They remained a half-game behind the Astros for the second wild card.