Home Field Advantage

Dome, Sweet, Dome

I’m something of a hockey fan. I watch a little when I get the chance and I’ve really enjoyed this year’s Stanley Cup. So far the home team has won each game. That makes for a real “home field advantage” (or ice in this case). I’ve watched a lot of sports over the years and I’ve noticed that the so-call “home field advantage” is kind of an uneven thing. It seems to me that it holds for hockey pretty well, less well for both football and basketball, and is something of a joke in baseball. I’ve always found  that a little strange. Baseball, after all, is the only one that doesn’t have a standardized playing surface. In every hockey match the ice is the same length and width. Same in football and basketball. But in baseball outfields differ greatly. So you’d  think that would give a team used to the outfield an advantage, wouldn’t you? And that doesn’t even begin to address the idea of a domed stadium versus open-air parks.

I decided to test this just a little, without trying to determine why. I went back to 1961 with the first expansion since 1901 and began looking at who won games at home and away in the World Series. Because the pre-World Series playoffs didn’t begin until 1969, I concentrated strictly on the Series. I also determined I wasn’t going to take the time to go through every team. So I picked five teams that played about the same number of World Series’ in the period: the Giants, Mets, Red Sox, Reds, and Twins. Here are the results.

Giants: The Giants appeared in four World Series (1962 and ’89, and 2002 and 2011) winning one (2011). They played 11 games at home, twelve on the road. Their record was 5-6 at home and 5-7 on the road. No advantage either way for them, they do equally poorly at home and away. And to be fair, there are two parks involved as the Giants home field.

Mets: The Mets appeared in three World Series (1969, 1973, 1986) winning two (’69 and ’86). They played 10 games at home, nine on the road. Their record was 7-3 at home and 4-5 on the road. A definite advantage for the Mets to play at home, but  one game under .500 is not a bad record on the road.

Red Sox: The Red Sox appeared in five World Series (1967, ’75, and ’86, and 2004, ’07) winning two (2004 and 2007). They played 15 games at home, 14 on the road. Their record was 9-6 at home and 8-6 on the road. Both are winning records, but are almost exactly alike. There seems to be no advantage for Boston to play either location.

Reds: The Reds appeared in six World Series (1962, ’70, 72, ’75, ’76, and ’90) winning half (1975, ’76,’ and ’90). They played 15 games at home, 16 on the road. Their record was 7-8 at home and 10-6 on the road. Cincinnati actually benefitted by playing on the road. Like the Giants, the Reds’ World Series games occur in two different parks.

Twins: OK, you knew there would be a kicker didn’t you? This is it. The Twins make three World Series (1967, ’87, ’91) winning two (1987 and 1991). They played 12 games at home and nine away. Their record is an  astonishing 11-1 at home and 0-9 on the road. Tell me the Metrodome didn’t make a difference? And again, there are two parks involved. BTW the lone home loss was game 7 of 1965 when they lost a three-hit shutout to Sandy Koufax. Things like that happen.

The Twins number is so outlandish, I decided to check something else. Between 1901 and 1960 the Twins were the Washington Senators, who just happened to also make it to three World Series’ (1924, ’25, and ’33), winning one (1924). They played 10 games at home, nine on the road, with different results. They were 6-4 at home and 2-7 on the road. For anyone curious, the only Senators/Twins pitchers to win a World Series game on the road were George Mogridge (who?) and Walter Johnson. Bet you had the second one figured.

Now this is  only a partial sample and I’m willing to admit that a fuller look might yield different results. But it seems that “home field” isn’t all that big a deal in the World Series (unless you’re the Twins). So maybe making “home field” reliant on the All Star Game isn’t such a big deal either.

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4 Responses to “Home Field Advantage”

  1. Sportsphd Says:

    Looks like your Stanley Cup point from the first paragraph has held through Game 6.

  2. The Baseball Idiot Says:

    Kansas City – 2 World Series

    5-2 home
    1-5 away

    Oddly, the parks they played in on the road were almost carbon copies as their home field.

  3. hotshot bald cop Says:

    Fascinating views on that!

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