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November 14, 2013

BP Unfiltered

Rereading Nate Silver: 7. Day Men, Fighter Of The Night Men

by Sam Miller


In which Nate tackles a subject close to home.

Are the Cubs at a Daytime Disadvantage?
March 5, 2003

Abstract: After another round of Cubs personnel complaining that their unusual schedule puts them at a competitive disadvantage, Nate examines whether the home team generally plays worse in day games than in night games, particularly when, in a scenario almost exclusive to the Cubs, the day game follows an away game the previous day. By breaking down day/night performances, and looking for other ways a team might be affected by an unusual schedule, he can draw many conclusions, some of them related to the Cubs and some simply interesting:

  • Night games don’t provide a home team any extra advantage compared to day games
  • A home team that played the previous day’s game at night on the road has half the home field advantage it normally has.
  • Home team’s advantage is even greater than usual after an off-day, especially if they are playing the post-off-day game at night.
  • The Cubs had been exactly as good in day games as in night games.
  • The Cubs had been better in home day games after home night games, suggesting the irregular schedule hasn’t hurt them.
  • The Cubs play much worse late in the season than expected, perhaps a sign that odd-schedule fatigue accumulates. (By comparison, the White Sox--same city, same weather, different schedule--very much don’t.)

Key quote:

Thus, we are left in the uncomfortable position of not being able to validate the day game curse, but not being any more able to reject it out of hand. With that in mind, it's important to remember that the effect, if it exists, is minimal. ...

I won't be breaking any ground by suggesting that the real issue at hand isn't wins or losses or Baker's disdain for alarm clocks, but money. It's not clear that the abundance of day games has had a detrimental effect at the box office--the Cubs would sell out a June series against the Cardinals even if the games were played at three in the morning, provided Mayor Daley could be persuaded to grant them an exemption to the city's booze curfew. But a larger slate of night games would make the Cubs' television rights more valuable, and allow them to cater to a higher-revenue demographic.

Follow-up: Rather than replicate the entire inquiry--which involved thousands of games and fairly convincingly found nothing--I want to look at the late-season collapses, as positive findings are more likely to get published and therefore merit extra scrutiny. Nate’s findings, specifically:

  • Cubs, since 1972: .482 through August, .441 after
  • Sox, in same time: .493 through August, .530 after

In the 11 years since:

  • Cubs: .476 through August, .516 after
  • Sox: .512 through August, .478 after

Opposites! Freaky Friday! Etc.

Tack Silver’s time period with the 11 years since and it cuts the September effect in half: The Cubs now have a .481 winning percentage through August and .460 after. That’s a smaller effect but, of course, a bigger sample, so it’s entirely possible that this is a real effect that really affects. If you were using this to bet against the Cubs over the past 11 Septembers, though, you’d have lost a few bucks on the hypothesis.

Acknowledgement of the existence of sex: “So far as I am concerned, there is only one thing worth waking up early for, and I tend to fall right back asleep after that is said and done.”

Tables: 16
Graphs: 0
Equations: 0

On the Nate Silver Must-Read Scale: 2

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

1 comment has been left for this article.

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