Home Field Advantage: A Baseball Thing

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Photo courtesy of Ryan M. Sullivan

Throughout the past three decades, if not more, the sense was that being home in a sports game gave you an advantage, no matter the extent. Whether one is a novice fan, or a lifelong fan, the argument has always been there – fans want their team to play at home. With places like Seattle and Green Bay in the NFL, Winnipeg or Tampa Bay in the NHL, there is a distinct difference in those buildings compared to the rest. So what about baseball? Statistically, you will be hard pressed to find a distinct improvement in play at home compared to the improvement in play in either of those other sports. However, despite the clear statistical evidence, there is a home field advantage in baseball after all.

Photo taken by Franklin Heinzmann

 

According to an article written by Joe Posnanski on Sportsworld.NBCSports.com, “From the end of World War II to 1980, there were 18 Game 7s played in the World Series. Of those 18, believe it or not, 13 were won by the road team. Between 1952-58 alone, the Yankees twice won World Series Game 7 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, while the Dodgers once won it at Yankee Stadium. The Milwaukee Braves also won a Game 7 at Yankee Stadium while the Yankees won a Game 7 in Milwaukee. Later, the Red Sox lost World Series Game 7s at Fenway Park in 1967 and 1975. Baltimore twice lost Game 7s at Memorial Stadium to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So, home-field advantage — at least in decisive games — seemed to mean almost nothing.”

This statistic is powerful, especially considering the stadiums which were lost at. However, there has been a change since 1980. That year and since, there have been 11 Game 7’s and of those 11, eight of those times the home team won. So why the change all of a sudden? Well, for starters, baseballs have been improved as well as the condition in which they are kept.

As for stadiums, they’ve also been modified so that there is a distinct advantage one way or another, just in design. Coors Field. It was constructed in 1992 and opened in 1995. The field is the highest elevation in all of baseball and is arguably one of the coldest areas too. The elevation places a factor alone, allowing baseballs to fly more freely and travel further compared to baseballs at a lower elevation. The dimensions of the outfield also allow it to be a more hitter friendly park. Other parks that have distinct advantages include: Yankee Stadium with the short right field and loud fans or AT & T Park with the deep outfield and oddly shaped walls, among few others. In contrast you have stadiums without the clear advantages such as Progressive Field or Nationals Park or even Guaranteed Rate Field. One last stat to let sink in your mind is that from 2010 to 2014, according to research done by Jack Jones of Betfirm, the MLB league winning percentage at home 6,523-5,624 (.537) compared to the away record of 5,624-6,523 (.463). This is significant because it reaffirms that not playoffs aren’t the only time home field advantage makes a difference.

The difficult part in this argument is what does this look like in local terms? Well, Niagara University has just renovated John P. Bobo Field and installed a new turf field. Though the record may not show any advantage here, also due to the schedule (lack of time spent playing there), if they were to play more at home, the wind off the Niagara Gorge and denser, colder air would create a difficult game for fielders. The field has a symmetrical shape which really takes away from any distinct advantages. So hypothetically, there is still an advantage to Niagara’s field, but the lack of use compared to a field in Florida, there is more grey area due to the region. Keep an eye out though this MLB season, and Niagara Baseball/Softball season to see how home field advantage plays out. But, in the end, home field advantage really does play a factor.

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