Can Vidal Nuno pitch in the Bronx?

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If you had only seen Vidal Nuno pitch on the road, you might think he was the next Yankee ace. Nuno has a 1.86 ERA in five road games this season (2.08 career road ERA), holding opponents to a .575 OPS in those outings. It’s a different story for Nuno in the Bronx, though, where he has a 7.94 ERA in six games this season (and 6.51 career ERA at home).

4_29_Nuno_tk4eg03n_eu2ipskpHis huge home/road splits don’t appear to be a function of pitching against bad teams on the road and good teams at home.

Two of the three teams he’s started against on the road this season are in the top five in runs scored in the majors (White Sox, Angels); four of the five teams he’s started against at home are ranked in the bottom half in runs scored (Mets, Twins, Pirates, Rays).

He has one start at home and on the road against the Angels and the results were predictable: three runs allowed in 4⅓ innings at home and one run in 6⅓ innings on the road.

His strikeout and walk rates are both better on the road, indicating that there is some fundamental difference between his performance at home versus on the road. However, there does seem to be a bit of luck involved.

His flyball rate is identical regardless of location (43 percent) yet he has allowed nine homers in 28⅓ innings at home while he has yet to allow a homer in 19⅓ innings on the road this season.

Yet it’s not entirely true that he’s been been a victim of the short porch at the new Yankee Stadium. Just two of the nine homers he’s allowed were classified as “just enough” by the ESPN Home Run Tracker, and all five that were hit to right field went at least 369 feet.

Batters are making alot more solid contact against him at home and the balls are travelling noticeably farther. His rate of at-bats ending in a hard-hit ball is twice as high in the Bronx compared to other ballparks this season, and his average flyball distance is nearly 40 feet longer at home than on the road.

Nuno does slightly change his pitch selection when he pitches at home, throwing more off-speed pitches (34 percent vs 26 percent) and that might not be a good choice for him. Overall, batters are hitting .344 and reaching base in nearly 40 percent of plate appearances ending in a curve, slider or changeup from Nuno this season.

Perhaps the biggest difference in his home-road splits this season comes with runners in scoring position. Opponents are just 1-for-14 (.083) with RISP against Nuno on the road and 8-for-29 (.364) at home.

The poise Nuno has shown when pitching from the stretch in an unfriendly stadium might be a positive sign of his ability to succeed as a major-league pitcher. But until he can pitch as effectively at home compared to on the road, especially in limiting hard-hit balls and bearing down in tough at-bats, he’ll never last as starter in pinstripes.

Former ESPN researcher; forever baseball and Yankees fan. Now living in northern Vermont and the color of the front door of our house is Yankee blue. Also write about college football and basketball and the NFL. Bleed Huskies blue (that's UConn, of course).