The Cubs have embarked on their longest road trip since an 11-game trek from June 23 to July 3 that sent the team through Miami, Cincinnati and New York. Their nine-game journey began Friday in Denver in a very hitter-friendly ball park and will go through a pair of pitcher-friendly fields in San Diego and Los Angeles, and it will be interesting to see how shortstop Addison Russell performs.
So far, it’s been an extremely productive trip for the 22-year-old, who has hit four homers in the span of four games, and has a .333/.389/1.133 line in the 18 plate appearances since departing for Colorado.
But that level of success on the road hasn’t always been the case for Russell, which makes for an interesting contrast to what he’s done the last four days. [Brett: In full disclosure, Luis worked out this piece before this road trip started, and I had no idea Russell was rocking these kinds of splits. The publication schedule was such that we couldn’t get this up until today, but I actually think what he’s done the last four games make the splits prior to those games all the more interesting and eye-popping.]
To be sure, Russell’s offensive game has grown in 2016. Entering the weekend series against the Rockies, Russell had cut his strikeout rate by 4.8 percentage points, while moving his walk rate nearly two percentage points from 8.0% to 9.9%. He also saw improvements in his batting average, slugging percentage and isolated power. Using baseball-reference’s adjusted batting splits, Russell is on a per 162-game pace in which he would surpass the 20 home run and 100 RBI benchmarks.
Russell’s offensive game is far from a finished product, but it is evident the next step in his offensive evolution is taking that prowess on the road. Here is a look at Russell’s home-road splits from 2016, and for both 2015-16, with the 2016 stats prior to the road trip beginning on Friday:
|2016 Home (238)||.275||.349||.502||.851||.227||.358||122||.329|
|2016 Road (218)||.214||.317||.305||.621||.091||.279||69||.269|
|Career Home (485)||.266||.334||.472||.806||.206||.344||115||.325|
|Career Road (494)||.222||.304||.325||.629||.103||.279||71||.300|
The road number could be a plausible concern, considering it’s not solely a 2016 thing; Russell’s 2015 road slash line was .228/.295/.340/.635 with a .279 wOBA and 73 wRC+. Then again, these are still fairly small samples for a maturing player. Furthermore, Kris Bryant had odd home-road splits as a rookie, but owns a 167 wRC+ on the road in 2016 that has helped bring his career mark to 126. Things can change that quickly for a young player who is simultaneously growing and trying to figure it out.
Eventually, one would like to see Russell’s road numbers look closer to what he has done at Wrigley Field as he starts to come into his own as a 22-year-old everyday shortstop.
This trip could be the start of that process: in just these last four road games, the slash line from the table has increased from .214/.317/.305 (69 wRC+) all the way to .223/.322/.366 (84 wRC+). Quite a leap from half of a single road trip!
With time, I suspect these dramatic splits will fade, as they have this year for Bryant.
Obligatory close on Russell: he’s hitting .249/.335/.436 (103 wRC+) at age 22, while playing brilliant defense at shortstop, and has already been worth 3.3 WAR.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.