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August 18, 2009 1:01 pm

Ahead in the Count: Home-Field Advantages, Part Two

31

Matt Swartz

Are any particular teams deriving an outsized home-field advantage?

Last week, we began our look into home-field advantage by looking at what home teams actually do better than road teams. It has been well documented throughout baseball history that the home team wins about 54 percent of ballgames, and last week we determined that the home team was better at pretty much everything. They struck out less, walked more, hit more home runs, got more hits on balls in play, made fewer errors, converted more double-play opportunities, stretched more extra-base hits into triples, hit more line drives, and they recorded more complete-game shutouts. The home team was able to take an advantage in nearly every aspect of the game. This week, we will carry that discussion of what home-field advantage helps into who it actually helps the most.

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August 11, 2009 2:39 pm

Ahead in the Count: Home-Field Advantages, Part One

66

Matt Swartz

An initial look at the extent of the home-field advantage in terms of its incidence on in-game results.

In every sport and at every level, the home team wins more games than the visiting team. While this is true in baseball, it's less the case than in other sports. Throughout baseball history, the home team has won approximately 54 percent of the games played. Nearly every aspect of the game has changed drastically over the last century, but home-field advantage has barely changed at all. Consider the home-field advantage in each decade since 1901:

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June 29, 2008 12:00 am

Lies, Damned Lies: Home-Field Advantages

0

Nate Silver

Which teams enjoy outsized advantages from playing at home?

Home-field advantage is making a little bit of a comeback this year, with the home team thus far having won 56.2 percent of major league baseball games. This is actually down a few ticks from where it was several weeks ago; at the beginning of June, home teams had won almost 58 percent of their games. Nevertheless, this is quite high by the standards of recent history. Prior to World War II (when travel was more burdensome and road trips much longer), home-field advantage was more profound in baseball, but since then it has been exceptionally stable, with the home team winning about 54 percent of games each season. So, is there something systematic that is causing the home-field numbers to increase this year? Or has it just been some kind of statistical fluke?

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August 16, 2004 12:00 am

How Parks Affect Baserunning

0

James Click

Baseball teams show a consistent home-field advantage each season, with homer teams playing about .540 ball. Is that edge due to home teams doing a better job of taking the extra base thanks to familiarity with their environment? James Click breaks it down.

The source of this advantage is unknown. It's been suggested that local knowledge, how to hit or pitch better in a team's more familiar home park, is the key. Perhaps some of the home team's advantage lies in knowing the nuances of their particular ballpark, but applied in a different area. It's possible that home teams may be better baserunners, knowing better than their opponents which balls will allow them to take the extra base.

Before getting into whether or not a baserunning advantage is the result of a particular park, it's important to first establish that parks do affect the baserunning in a consistent manner from year to year. To determine if park factors for baserunning do exist, I'll look at three typical baserunning situations where the runner is faced with the choice to take the extra base or not: a runner on first during a single, a runner on first during a double, and a runner on second during a single. There are three possible outcomes to each baserunning event: the runner can take the base he's supposed to, the runner can take the extra base or the runner can be thrown out.

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Major League Baseball's recent decision to base home-field advantage in the World Series on the outcome of the All-Star Game runs contrary to the way Commissioner Bud Selig normally operates. Spurred by last year's All-Star debacle in Milwaukee, the entire process - from concept to approval - took only six months, and failed to employ even one sub-committee of analysts to explore the issue. More typical of Selig's decision-making process is his announcement of the newly-formed special task force for "The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century."

Major League Baseball's recent decision to base home-field advantage in the World Series on the outcome of the All-Star Game runs contrary to the way Commissioner Bud Selig normally operates. Spurred by last year's All-Star debacle in Milwaukee, the entire process - from concept to approval - took only six months, and failed to employ even one sub-committee of analysts to explore the issue. More typical of Selig's decision-making process is his announcement of the newly-formed special task force for "The Commissioner's Initiative: Major League Baseball in the 21st Century."

One of the issues the new task force will supposedly investigate is whether or not to expand the playoffs. It's not a particularly new idea - Selig himself quietly broached the subject last October. Although the specifics haven't been laid out for public consumption, it is widely assumed that four teams would be added to the post-season mix, raising the number of participants from eight to 12.

If approved, the accelerated pace at which MLB is adding playoff teams will continue. For 66 seasons (1903 through 1968), both leagues were division-less and the pennant winners advanced directly to the World Series. In 1969, professional baseball celebrated its 100th birthday by adding four expansion franchises. Each league was split into two divisions, with the four divisional winners playing into October. A quarter century later - perhaps encouraged by his Brewers' participation in MLB's unplanned eight-team bash in 1981 - Selig further subdivided the leagues into three divisions and presented baseball fans with the Wild Card. Just nine seasons after expanding the playoffs to include eight teams, and less than a year after deferring industry contraction, he is now considering a 12-team post-season format.

Those who want to include more teams in the post-season share a widespread belief that fans stop turning out at the ballpark when their local heroes aren't involved in a playoff race. Many organizations favor the notion of letting more teams into the playoffs for that reason alone. However, is their perception accurate?

Studying the effects of a single action on attendance is challenging simply because so many factors can influence a team's attendance: marketing, position in the community, performance, the comings and goings of players, popularity of the sport, and new playing facilities, to name a few. Furthermore, using previous MLB attendance data doesn't seem appropriate in this case, since by expanding the playoffs to 12 teams, baseball would be entering new territory for the sport. Though a significant number of fans despise the Wild Card, since its inception Wild Card teams have a 94-68 regular season record on average. Were the playoffs to expand further though, some of the beneficiaries would be little more than .500 ball clubs. The attendance effects of such mediocre teams consistently reaching the post-season won't show up in baseball's existing historical record.

To try and analyze the issue, I decided to see what happened to attendance in the National Basketball Association when it expanded its playoffs by four teams (from 12 to 16) prior to the 1983-84 season. In addition to adding the same number of playoff teams as baseball might, NBA attendance figures from that time have the added benefit of not being tainted by work stoppages or brief surges caused by a wave of newly extorted arenas. As a result, those effects don't have to be accounted for in the analysis. Though consumer choices and behavior have changed substantially in the past 20 years, we should still get some indication as to what MLB can expect from its fans if and when it chooses to allow more teams into its post-season dance.

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Last week, Major League Baseball's owners unanimously approved Commissioner Bud Selig's proposal to give the league that wins the All-Star Game home field advantage in the World Series.

Last week, Major League Baseball's owners unanimously approved Commissioner Bud Selig's proposal to give the league that wins the All-Star Game home field advantage in the World Series. In the official release announcing the vote, Selig proclaimed, "This change is designed to re-energize and give greater meaning to the All-Star Game."

This wasn't a problem before 1997. Until then, the All-Star Game had plenty of meaning. It was the only time before the World Series when AL and NL players competed against one another. However, in yet another Selig-era obsession with the short-term "fix," the owners not only wore out the novelty of interleague play in short order, but took the bloom off their own midsummer showcase by scheduling all those interleague games within three weeks of the All-Star Game. MLB's antitrust exemption might protect the league from a lot of things, but it doesn't protect it from the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The move will surely be applauded by Fox, which has TV rights to the next three All-Star Games. And MLB's current proposal could improve the quality of the game, especially if players from contending teams appreciate the impact of a win.

Still, the move has been met with considerable skepticism from the players. As NL player representative Tom Glavine told the New York Times: "It's an exhibition game. That's how it's approached. What other games do we play where we have the starting pitchers wearing microphones? If you want to do that, it's going to be hard for players to have the mentality that this is a win-at-all-cost game." As the MLBPA must approve the proposed change before it takes effect, Glavine's comments suggest that the issue is far from resolved.

Home field advantage in the World Series has never been more important. Consider:

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