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Home Field Advantage Newsbeat

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Pondering a First Inning Mystery

You’ve heard of home field advantage. It’s simply a part of sports, like gravity or Tom Brady being competent and obnoxious. Here’s a dirty little secret, though: A decent chunk of home field advantage is actually first-inning advantage. Here, take a look at how home and away batters performed in the first inning and thereafter from 2010 to ’19:

The first inning has the biggest gap, with only the fifth coming even close. It’s a consistent effect year-to-year, and it’s a big deal: A 22-point edge in wOBA works out to three-quarters of a run per game, which would work out to roughly a .570 winning percentage, significantly higher than the actual edge. If you could bottle that edge and apply it to every inning, baseball would look very different.

This isn’t some novel effect I’ve just discovered. It’s well-established, though I’ve never seen a completely satisfactory explanation for it. Could it be that the home team’s defensive turn in the top of the first warms them up for their turn at bat? Maybe! One counterpoint here: Home DHs have a 20-point wOBA advantage on away DHs in the first inning, then only a six-point advantage thereafter. Maybe it’s not that, then.

A theory that makes more sense to me is that home pitchers have a unique advantage in the first inning. In that inning, and that inning alone, they can exactly predict when they’ll be needed on the mound. Have a perfect warmup routine? You can finish it just before first pitch, then transition directly to the game. Visiting pitchers are at the mercy of the game. Start too late, and you won’t be ready in time for the bottom of the first. Start too early, and an extended turn at the plate might leave you cold.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 18, 2020 at 02:25 PM | 4 comment(s)
  Beats: home field advantage

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Removing Fans Didn’t Remove MLB’s Home-Field Advantage

This season, fans were banned from ballparks, which gave home-field advantage scholars the natural experiment they were waiting for. At first, teams’ home field edge seemed to have dissipated or disappeared with flesh-and-blood fans replaced by cardboard cutouts, which seemed consistent with previous research on basketball and soccer games played in empty stadiums or between teams with the same home facility. On August 17,’s Mike Petriello noted that home teams had won only 50.5 percent of their games, which was lower than any full-season figure.

However, FanGraphs’ Ben Clemens observed days later that while home teams weren’t yet winning at their typical clip, they were still outproducing visiting teams at the plate, which seemed to augur good outcomes ahead. Sure enough, home teams finished the season strong. And now we know the answer to that common question from June: Not only was home-field advantage still in effect, but it was bigger than usual. Historically, MLB home teams have won 54 percent of their games. (Home teams have gone 95,205-80,954 in the regular season since 1920, a .540 winning percentage.) This year, home teams went 500-398, a .557 winning percentage. That’s the highest home winning percentage in a season since 2010. Multiple teams boasted historic home/road splits in the small-sample campaign: The Astros and Twins recorded the two biggest gaps ever between home winning percentage and road winning percentage, and the Yankees showed the greatest gulf between average home and road run differentials.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 30, 2020 at 09:28 AM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: home field advantage

Monday, September 14, 2020

Verducci: Unpacking Seven False Ideas About MLB

Myth No. 3: Keep your fastball down
That became a bromide when velocity was lower and before the sinker fell out of fashion. (The pitch gets hammered because it more closely matches the plane of the modern swing than any other pitch.) It’s definitely not true in today’s game.

Batters hit 56 points higher against low fastballs than they do against high fastballs. The low fastball is a worse pitch for elite throwers such as Max Scherzer (+.262 points), Gerrit Cole (+.236) and Jacob deGrom (+.107).

eams such as the Rays use the data for a general pitching philosophy: get ahead with high fastballs, then finish off the hitter with your best breaking ball down.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 14, 2020 at 03:16 PM | 31 comment(s)
  Beats: home field advantage

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Home Field Advantage Is Dead. Long Live Home Field Advantage

One question looms over everything else when it comes to home field advantage: what percentage of games does the home team win? Over a very long horizon, everything else is just noise. In 2019, for example, home teams won 52.9% of the games they played. In 2018, that number stood at 52.5%. Long-term home field advantage bounces around between 52% and 54%. It’s good to play at home.

How about this year? To look at 2020 data, we need to do a little manual work. So far this year, four teams have played “home” games in opposing stadiums: the Marlins, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Cardinals. The Orioles also played part of a suspended home game in Washington against the Nationals. In all forthcoming analysis, I’ve removed those games from both the home and away datasets used in this article. It’s never exactly clear what home field advantage is measuring — rest, comfort, the crowd, umpiring, or some mixture — so games with nominal home teams playing in away stadiums are best ignored for these purposes.

With that caveat out of the way and those games excluded, home teams have won 50.6% of their games through Monday, August 17. At the broadest possible resolution, home teams are winning a lower percentage of their games this year. Maybe the crowd really is king.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 20, 2020 at 08:13 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: home field advantage



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