The All-Star Game will never be taken seriously because of a flaw in its design, but it's time to stop trying to fix it.
Every year around this time, we get deluged with people arguing that 1) The All-Star Game has all sorts of problems and needs to be fixed and, hoo boy, I happen to have the prescription to fix everything right here, or 2) The All-Star Game is awful/past its prime/straight up smelly and should be junked.
I’m not here to argue any of that. Instead I’m here to say this: It’s time to stop trying to fix the All-Star Game. Not because a better All-Star Game isn’t desirable, but because it isn’t achievable.
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Home teams are winning their games at an increased rate over the last few years, but is it a trend that's likely to continue?
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how home teams had improved their performance in the last three years. After winning about 54 percent of games consistently for the last 60 years, home teams have won 55.5 percent of games in the last three seasons. Although it is just a 1.5 percent increase, there has not been a three-year period with home team winning percentage this high in 60 years, so there may be a noticeable reason for the shift.
Why are home teams winning more now than in previous eras?
When I wrote my five-partseriesonhome-fieldadvantage in 2009, I noticed that it had been steady at about 54 percent for over half a century. It was 53.9 percent in the 1950s, 54.0 percent in the ‘60s, 53.8 percent in the ‘70s, 54.1 percent in the ’80s, 53.5 percent in the ‘90s, and 54.2 percent in the 2000s. However, in the last three years, we have seen home teams win 55.5 percent of the 7,288 games played, a very statistically significant difference. Does this suggest that a large change has actually taken place, or is it just a coincidence? If a change has taken place, what is causing it?
Should the Yankees and Rays pull out all the stops in order to win the division and potentially gain home-field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS?
Over the next four nights, the battle for the American League East will rage in the Bronx, as the Yankees host the Rays for the teams’ final head-to-head confrontations of the regular season. Scant daylight separates the two clubs in the standings, as the Rays enter the (Evil) Empire State trailing the division-leading Bombers by just a half-game, and tied in the loss column. That may sound like a pressure-packed scenario, but at this point in the season, it’s safe to say that each team has become accustomed to hearing the other’s footsteps:
How much of an edge do the Phillies have by playing three "home" games against the Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park?
On September 26, 2007, the Cleveland Indians won a “home game” against the Seattle Mariners at the Mariners’ home ballpark, Safeco Field. The original game along with a three-game series had been snowed out in April that season. Two of the games were made up during the season in Cleveland on mutual off days. However, without a third mutual day off, the teams simply made up the game as part of a regularly scheduled series in Seattle. While other games had been up in the opponent's home ballpark, Major League Baseball decreed that the Indians would be the home team in this game. Thus, for the first time since 1913, a team batted first in its own park.
Wrapping up the review of home-field advantages to see if there's anything extra we might be missing.
This is the fifth and final article in this series on home-field advantage. The first four parts of this series have revealed many things. In the first article of this series, we studied what home teams are able to do more frequently than road teams; we learned that they pretty much do everything better, hitting more home runs, reaching base more frequently on balls in play, walking more often, striking out less often, stealing more bases, making fewer errors, and recording more complete-game shutouts. In the second article, we learned that nearly all home teams enjoy relatively similar home-field advantages over time, with the exception of the Rockies, and that the vast majority of year-to-year fluctuations in teams' home-field advantages are random fluctuation. The third time around demonstrated the important role of distance and familiarity in determining home-field advantage, and noted that home-field advantage was much larger in interdivision games than intradivision games, and was especially large in interleague games. We discovered something quirky in the fourth article of this series, that not only was the first game of the series not any more likely to exhibit home-field advantage, but the penultimate game was. More peculiarly, it was statistically significant, indicating that it is not all that likely to be merely noise. I received many e-mails and comments suggesting reasons that this peculiar effect may be real, or expressing skepticism that it is more than merely noise. This indicates that there is probably more to be learned about home-field advantage, and more that is not immediately obvious.
Is there a surprise to be found in terms of the in-series pattern of home-field advantage?
In the first three articles of this series, we have studied what home-field advantage affects, who it affects most, and where it shows up most. We have found that home-field advantage affects nearly every aspect of a team's performance, including pitching, defense, baserunning, and offense. We found that the Rockies are the only team that has statistically significant home-field advantage, and that most other teams are bound to win about eight percent more games at home than on the road in the long-run. We also found that home-field advantage was larger in interleague games than intraleague games, larger in interdivision games than in intradivision games, and even within divisions, it was larger the further apart the teams played. This suggested that travel might be playing a significant effect in home-field advantage. Further evidence of this came from the fact that interleague games within teams in equivalent divisions (e.g. East vs. East) had smaller home-field advantages than interleague games where longer travel distances were involved.
Drilling down even more deeply into the subject to find out where, why, and how.
In trying to understand home-field advantage, we have asked what home-field advantage actually makes a team do better, and we have asked who has the biggest home-field advantage. The first article of this series answered the question of what home-field advantage actually makes you do better-everything, as home teams do better on walks, strikeouts, balls in play, and errors. They are better at pitching, hitting, baserunning, and defense, and all aspects of their games seem to improve. The second article of this series showed that most teams have pretty much the same size home-field advantage, with the exception of the Rockies. Even though natural luck can make a team look like they are particularly good or bad at home, the 29 non-Rockies teams are pretty much right around eight percent home-field advantage, plus or minus a little statistical noise.
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.
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:
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?