The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Whatever Happened to Home-Field Advantage?

The idea that home-field advantage is of special value in providing a given baseball team a competitive edge is an old one, and may once upon a time have been largely true (though I haven’t done enough historical research to actually verify this.)  While it may have been generally true in the past, it doesn’t seem to be the case so far this season.  Nearly half of all Major League teams actually have fewer wins than losses at home, with only a few teams enjoying a truly decisive edge on their home turf.

Home Field Advantage (album)

Home Field Advantage (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a list of teams from worst to best at home based on win-loss percentage.  Granted, some of the teams with sub-.500 home records are just bad teams to begin with, but there are clearly some surprises on this list.  (Games are through Friday night, June 6, 2014):

1)  Arizona – 9-23  (yet somehow 17-14 on the road)

2)  Philadelphia – 12-19

3)  Dodgers – 13-19  (but 19-11 on the road)

4)  Mets – 13-17  (Since Citi Field opened, the Mets are 204-229 at home)

5)  Houston – 14-18

6)  Yankees – 13-16

6)  Tampa Bay – 13-16

8)  San Diego – 15-18

9)  Baltimore – 11-13

10) Cincinnati – 13-15

11)  Kansas City – 14-16

11) Minnesota – 14-16

13) Boston – 15-17

14) Seattle – 14-15

15) Texas – 15-15

16) Detroit – 15-14  (But 17-11 on the road)

17) Cubs – 14-13

18) Cardinals – 16-14

19) Angels – 16-13

20) White Sox – 17-14

21) Atlanta – 18-14

22) Pittsburgh – 17-13

23) Washington – 19-15

24) Oakland – 17-12   (Nice, but they’re an even better 21-11 on the road)

25)  Colorado – 16-11 (But just 12-21 on the road)

26)  Milwaukee – 19-13

26)  Toronto – 19-13  (slightly better on the road at 19-11)

28)  Cleveland – 21-11 (Only 9-20 on the road, so clearly, home-field advantage is important to them)

29)  Miami – 22-11 (10-18 on the road)

30)  San Francisco – 20-9  (as well as a respectable 20-12 on the road)

As you can see, there appear to be few teams who benefit decisively from home-field advantage.  As good as even Oakland and Toronto are at home, they are even better on the road, and the Giants are only slightly better at home than they are on the road.

Perhaps, then, making home-field advantage for the World Series contingent on which league wins the All-Star Game   is an overrated concern.  After all, even last year’s World Champion Boston Red Sox won just two of their four victories at home.  And in 2012, the Giants swept the Tigers, winning two first in San Francisco, then winning Games Three and Four in Detroit.  The way the Giants played, they might have won four straight even if all four had been played in Detroit.

I suppose it’s often psychologically comforting to be able to enjoy the comforts and familiarity of home, but it appears that when it comes to actually winning baseball games, being at home may be largely irrelevant.




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12 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Home-Field Advantage?

  1. Hi Bill,
    Another well-researched piece. Have you considered sending your blog link to MLB organizations? I wouldn’t be surprised if some front office exec would interested in seeing more of your work. Nice work.
    Rich Kenney

    • Rich, Great to hear from you, man.
      I’m guessing there are a thousand baseball bloggers who all have the same idea. But it is very kind of you to say so. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to follow and read several other fine bloggers as well (on baseball as well as other topics), and they provide inspiration for me to continue my blog.
      But if I get a few moments, I might just try your suggestion.
      Take care, Rich

  2. Again, let me echo the others who have said how much your work is missed; I was beginning to think I was gonna see your face on the side of my milk carton some morning.

    I think a lot of the change is due to advances in statistical analysis. I think a lot of teams tried to build for their home parks without understanding what they were building with, keeping around mediocre guys who looked good in their home parks and then being exposed as mediocrities on the road–I think Steve’s example of the Astros is a good one; a pitcher’s numbers could look awful good in the dome, but pitching outside could show some cracks in the foundation. Likewsie, the Red Sox, who play in a park that can give some odd shape to players’ numbers, were a .660-plus team at home in the 50’s and a sub-.500 team on the road. I think the greater understanding of the numbers has tended to flatten out the home/road differential.

    • Hi W.K. Milk carton? I’d rather have my picture on the side of a beer bottle. Or better yet, I’d rather just be enjoying a bottle of beer.
      Interesting points you raise about how modern statistical analysis probably plays a role in all this. One would hope, though, that whatever statistical analysis the Mets front office are using might one day help them build a team that could actually win a few more home games.
      Thanks, man

  3. That last ups is always huge, no?. One thing that’s interesting to me is how good or great the Astros have been at home 6th highest wining percentage-.550 since 1945. I always dig the astros. Great topic. Glad you’re back Bill!

    • Hey Steve, You’re right, the ‘Stros always have done a fine job tailoring their lineup to their home-field. I was a Jose Cruz fan back in the ’70’s, and a big-time Jeff Bagwell fan later on.
      Thanks for your kindness,

  4. Arne on said:

    This could be a one-year fluke in the making; you’d have to look at past years to see if it’s a developing trend. It makes sense that home-field advantage is greatest in sports where fans and their noise can do the most to disrupt the away team: I’m thinking football and basketball, but not hockey and baseball.

    • It also makes you wonder if teams even bother to consider if the types of players they draft and trade for are suitable for the environment in which they are going to play most of their games.
      Good point about the noise factor. Not at all like football and basketball.
      Thanks, man

  5. Allan G. Smorra on said:

    I like your topic, Bill. Considering the how fast some owners switch towns/ball parks these days, I think that home-field advantage benefits the team accountants more than the players.

    It’s good to hear from you again. Keep’em coming.

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