Friday, September 17, 2010

Back to Reality on Home Field Advantage

There is a lot of talk about Home Field Advantage (with CAPITAL letters), and what the Twins should or should not sacrifice to get it. Let’s put this quickly in perspective.

Last night I tweeted that while Home Field Advantage would be nice, I doubt it’s that important. After all, the Twins lost 2 of 3 vs the Yankees at home earlier this year, and they lost 3 of 4 against Tampa Bay at home, too. And immediately, the stats guys want to talk about small sample size, because after all, that Twins are 48-23 at home.

But that’s the thing about small sample size – it’s in the eye of the beholder. If I’m talking to a Yankee fan, that 48-23 record is also a small sample size. Historically, home teams win about 55% of games vs. 45% that visiting teams win. So by playing at home, a team wins about 10% more.

Not that it matters much. The Twins aren’t too far off of that number right now. They have won 68% of their games at home and 53% of their games on the road. So they’re about 15% better at home. I’ll let you conclude which of those numbers – 10% or 15% – you trust more based on small sample size.

Note that isn’t a 10-15% increase in EVERY game. It’s a 10-15% increase in ONE game. That’s all the more advantage a home team ever gets – they never play more than one extra game at home during a series. Also, it’s not for the entire playoffs. It’s only for the ALCS (the 2nd round). The Twins have basically clinched home field advantage for the 1st round, and the World Series schedule was determined by the All-Star Game (which the NL won).

So the question is, would resting the position players and juggling the rotation increase the Twins chances of advancing in the playoffs more than having a 10%-15% advantage in Game 7 of the ALCS? (If, of course, you get there.)

Frankly, I can’t believe it’s even a debate. Home field advantage (lower case letters) might be fun to beat one’s chest about, but it’s not a particularly significant factor, and might be none at all.


Nihilist in Golf Pants said...

You forget the fact that the home team gets the first 2 games of the series in their stadium. If you gain a 10-15% advantage in those two games, it might be the difference between leading 2-0 and tied 1-1. When you are up 2-0, there is significantly more pressure on a team going home. They are put in a must win situation in game 3, which leads to extra pressure and possible changes in strategy such as starting a pitcher on short rest later in the series.

I'd agree that you set up the pitching rotation to succeed in the playoffs. But as for giving Mauer or a position player extra rest, I'd tell them to suck it up.

haasertime said...

Can't we do both?

Because realistically, I don't think anyone would want or expect Gardy to go pedal-to-the metal toward the finish line.

But homefield advantage might be worth more than 15%. Especially given the sad history, I have to think that the mental difference between heading to Yankee Stadium and Target Field would be big.

As for why fans care so much about one extra home game in the ALCS, I think we're just looking for any sign that This Time Will Be Different.

whydidnt said...

After watching the Twins home success in both the 1987 and 1991 World Series, I think I'll root for the home field advantage. Anyone that denies home field didn't play a role in those two championships is kidding themselves.

jesse said...

Yeah, I'll take that extra % in games one and two. It's not the be-all, end-all, but yes, it is a big deal.

JimCrikket said...

I think I heard or read last night that the home team has won exactly half of the AL playoffs in the wild card era. (But then it was late and I may have imagined it.)

As I indicated in our blog post last night, I think having home field would be great, but having your key players healthy and rested when the playoffs start is more important.

With Tampa Bay and New York both having tougher remaining schedules than the Twins, this should not have to be an "either or" choice. Rest your guys a bit while you continue trying to win games and let the schedule take care of getting home field.

Anonymous said...

Rest is overrated. Give them too much rest and they lose their mojo. I can see giving one or two starters a night off now and then since the Twins have some decent bench players, but otherwise I say keep the pedal down.

USAFChief said...

I think Home Field Advantage (with caps) would be huge for the Twins, and I hope they make a smart, reasoned attempt to keep this thing (The ROLL they're on) going, and gain HFA. Give the everyday players a day off or two, one at a time, once or twice over the next couple weeks. Don't overwork any useful pitchers. But keep the peddle to the metal, keep everyone sharp, and keep this 'we can't lose' feeling going.

Dr. Truth said...

I cant believe there's a debate whether field advantage in the ALCS vs. the Yankees would be an advantage. You think this team has the balls to dig out of a 2-0 Yankee Stadium hole? Good luck with that buddy.

In fact I say home field is the ONLY chance the Twins have vs. the Yankees.

Whether or not the Twins should keep pressing in order to get home field is a different topic. But to pretend home field isn't an advantage is just ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

JimCrikket, you were close: the AL home team has gone 45-39 in ALDS and ALCS series. Moreover, home teams have gone 9-10 in series that went down to the last game. Here's my source:

JonR said...

Doesn't the team with the best record in the AL get to pick which LDS schedule they want? Does that have any value?

walter hanson said...

Here are some reasons why homefield matters.

In the Tampa Bay series at Tampa Bay we lost the first two games and we're trying to give away games three and four. Do we want to play Tampa Bay for games one and two in Tampa?

We swept Texas at home this year. Down in Texas we lost three out of four games. Do we want to have to play games one and two down in Texas.

The Yankees. Keep in mind one of those games that we lost played resumed on a game that had five innings played. We had to take out Baker who had thrown five great innings. Still last year we had gone in to Yankee stadium and lost both games. We were under great pressure to try to win game three. That helped cause us to lose. I rather have the first two games at home because that means we're considered to be the better team and not the Yankees. Every edge helps.

Not to mention homefield means you also have game six. The last at bat makes for more pressure on road managers. Joe Torre for years threw Rivera for two innings and in some cases the second inning cost them critical wins like the 2001 world series and the 2004 playoff series to Boston.

Walter Hanson
Minneapolis, MN

Anonymous said...

Keep the petal to the meddle cuz we all want to see that ceremony at Target Field next season where they give out the rings to the winner of Home Field Advantage.

Wagalong said...

When breaking up how teams fare at home historically, are you including their regular season home/away splits in your model? Could teams that do well at home during the regular season playing teams that fare poorly on the road during the regular season gain a greater advantage when playing an extra playoff game at home?