Home Field Advantage in MLB


I hope Schwartz and Barsky didn’t forget to somehow correct for the huge advantage home-field teams get by going up to bat last, which the column neglected to deal with. Otherwise, a mere 53% winning edge would suggest a negative HFA.
dave blake

I seem to remember that in the “classic” days of ice hockey, rinks varied greatly by size and construction. The home team might have derived a marked advantage, having more of an instinct for puck bounces, etc. Since then, though, the league has standardized everything. Of course, before 1968(?), the league was only 6 teams (roughly), which could lead to statistical anomalies.

Detroit presumably still has somewhat of a HFA, as players from elsewhere are not used to skating over dead octopi. :smiley:

And bear in mind, baseball fields are not all the same size and shape. Some stadiums are cozy and compact, others are cavernous. Some have domes, while others are located in places where the weather can make a big difference.

Hence, team executives can and do stock their rosters with players who are best able to take advantage of the home stadium’s dimensions. The Yankees built Yankee Stadium with a short right field to give Babe Ruth an advantage (it didn’t REALLY work, of course- the babe actually hit more homers on the road than in the Bronx), and have historically signed lots of left-handed power hitters.

But a lineup that’s well suited to Yankee Stadium may not be ideally suited to play at Busch Stadium or Kaufman Stadium.

I have to speak up for my namesake. HFA would not be affected by “lasties” due to the fact that both teams get 27 outs. Granted, the home team knows how many runs are needed in the bottom of the ninth, but you statement suggests that the visiting team would believe late in the game x runs will win the game. Most teams try to score whatever they can or use strategy to get a holdable lead.

Sgt Schwartz

No. Batting last is one of the reasons for the HFA. Correcting for it would make the entire exercise meaningless, like leaving doubles out of batting average.

It is odd, though, that Cecil didn’t mention it in his column. He just concentrated on less tangible things like crowd noise.

Also, in hockey, the home team has the advantage of the last change, which means it is much easier for the home coach to get the line matchups he wants. That is a clear advantage.

I fail to understand why having the last at bat is in anyway an advantage in terms of winning the game. At the end, each team had the exact same number of outs to score more runs. There would be a very minimal advantage to knowing that you only have to play for 1 or 2 runs in an inning from a strategy and tactics standpoint; I doubt it would amount to that much of an advantage over time.

In the old Boston Garden the rink had sections where the subfloor actually came up to (and through) the surface of the ice, especially late in the game after a lot of use. The Bruins (back when they actually won games :frowning: ) would drive opponents to where the wood came through and their skates would stop. The puck would also die there.

The Celtics had the parquet floor that had dead zones. Balls would die if dribbled there and they’re force opponents there as well (Again, back when the Celtics won games :frowning: ) There was also no AC and place got really hot during the playoffs. They used that to their advantage as well.

They both went away with the Fleet Center/BankNorth Garden.

I think Dave’s point is that “batting last” is in theory seperable from “playing on your home field.” If, as you say, “batting last” is an advantage, then the “home field advantage” in baseball might have nothing at all to do with playing in a familiar stadium with a supportive crowd, but might be due only to the home team batting last.

Here’s another possible factor not mentioned in the column. When I asked a friend about HFA years ago, he claimed that it’s widely recognized that in the NBA the referees strongly favor the home team. I can’t say whether that’s true, but I note that the article says that the NBA has higher HFA than anything else in one study.

Oh, I meant to join the chorus of people asking why batting last would be a “huge advantage”. I can see a small advantage in having information about how the other team did. The other thing that occurs to me is greater flexibility in putting in a good hitter for the pitcher. This wouldn’t apply with a DH rule in effect.

Another point: in interleague play (e.g. the World Series), the home field advantage includes playing under Designated Hitter conditions (i.e. with vs. without) that the other team isn’t used to.

Now wait a second. Four or five years ago a study made the rounds showing that teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs did worse at home than they did on the road – they cracked under pressure.

Damned if I can remember who did the study, or where my copy of it went though…

Couple of things.

Cecil, while writing an interesting article, ignored the premise of the original question.

No mention of the HFA statistics mentions whether the games played were in the regular or post season. Presumably, in pro sports at least, there is a real attempt at parody in the regular season but clear advantages given in the post season. Cecil neglected this point.

Second, Cecil left the analysis of HFA to pro sports but mentioned, in passing, college football having a home winning percentage that was higher than in the NFL (59% to 55%). As mentioned above, the pros make an attempt at regular season parity (easier in sports where more games are played). In college sports this is far from the case. College football powerhouses typically play more home than away games. Teams will have the same number of home and away games in conference (or at least every other year with an odd number of conference games) but the big boys will have a non conference schedule that is home heavy. Part of this is financial—more money is to be made playing in the big stadium (and the little guys happily take the enhanced paycheck), but a big part is being able to bring in a ‘cupcake’ for what nearly always amounts in an easy win. This scheduling practice would tend to inflate home field advantage statistics.

The batting last thing cuts both ways: the defense also knows what it must do to prevent a loss (or tie leading to extra innings), hence they do things like having the outfield play in with a runner on 3rd and less than two out.

I think we might be getting a chance to see how much crowd noise affects performance in the unique case of the 2007 Red Sox. Everywhere they go (except Yankee Stadium, natch) hordes of Red Sox fans come out to cheer their team, often making more noise than the home team fans. As a possible consequence the Red Sox, who traditionally have had a large home field advantage in Fenway, currently have the best road record in the majors. Yes they are a very good team to begin with and it is still a small sample size, but I’d thought I’d throw that one out there.

While this may be true (and might make for more entertaining games), I assume you meant parity.

I would like to know if the practical aspects of crowd noise really make a difference in football. That is, the offense having trouble hearing on the line.

I always figured that baseball offered the most concrete home field advantage, because of the last licks and the different dimensions from one field to another. But I see a lot of people questioning the advantage of batting last. I always figured that the advantage (hardly a huge advantage, perhaps a slight one) would be most valuable in a close game eight innings or so old. If the away team has a man on third with none out in a tied game, his scoring puts the home team in a do-or-die situation when they bat. But a similar situation in the last half of the inning is lethal. Something as innocuous as a wild pitch will end the game, as can a fly ball to any outfielder.

I think it’s the sudden-death aspect of batting last in these situations that gives a certain advantage.

Which makes me wonder how are teams designated to bat in international tournaments? Perhaps there are those who would prefer batting first, too, for some other advantage.

Also, in American football, crowd noise becomes a very substantial factor when the opposing quarterback is trying to yell out plays.

As for soccer, I’ve heard it said that away teams play for a tie and home teams play for the win (which is interestingly similar to the aims of chess players with white and black, although in chess there is a very obvious advantage to white who has the first move). I figure this would heavily factor into home vs. away records in that sport, since it’s programmed into how teams play. (Not that an away team winning would try to help the other team tie the score.)

I’d think that lasties would work the other way 'round - if the home team is winning after 8.5 innings, then they get to bat only eight innings, and that has to lower their win ratio. :wink:

It may depend on how well players do under pressure. In a tie game going to the bottom of the 9th or in extra innings the visiting team knows that any mistakes could cost the game - the home players can be more relaxed.

Example of last at-bat paying off from 6/23 (Mets 1, Athletics 0, only run of the game scoring in the bottom of the 9th).