Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.
Does home field advantage matter in the MLB playoffs? The Rays and Rangers would argue “absolutely not.” The Giants and Braves would argue “probably not.” But I’d like to use more than anecdotal evidence to make my argument that home field advantage does not really matter in the MLB playoffs.
Sports like football and basketball appears to give the fans a significant amount of influence on the outcome. Many of us have seen occasions in a football or basketball game where noise generated by the fans in attendance directly affected play on the field or the court. In football, crowd noise can affect anything from the ability of the offense to hear the quarterback’s audible to the ability of the defense to communicate. In basketball, the crowd noise can often be quite personal due to the proximity of the fans to the court. Many players are affected by hearing all sorts of unspeakable things yelled in their ears at close proximity and high volume. If somebody was shrieking in your ear, would your thought processes – let alone your jump shot – be totally normal?
Baseball, however, doesn’t seem to be as directly influenced by crowd noise. Well beyond the anecdotal evidence of the first several MLB playoff games, baseball does not have well-defined times in the game where nearly everyone in the crowd knows, “If I cheer now it could have a direct impact on the game.”
Sure, when the opposing team is down to its last strike the fans of the home team are screaming their head off. But, in reality, what impact does that have? Does the cheering make it difficult for the home team pitcher to focus on the pitch he needs to throw to get the hitter out? Does it impact the hitter at the plate? Does it impact both the pitcher and batter to some extent? It’s difficult to tell. I’m sure it gives the home team players warm fuzzies to hear fans screaming their head off, but does it really help? I wasn’t sure, but while I was researching this article I was thinking, “Eouldn’t it be great if someone did a study on this so that I could present empirical evidence that home field advantage in baseball doesn’t matter?”
As it turns out, my prayers were answered.
I found a blog post on improvementguru.com that cited writings by Dr. Ray Stefani of California State University. Dr. Stefani’s work expressed home field advantage as a percentage arrived at by subtracting home losses from home wins and dividing that number by total games. Based on that calculation, Major League Baseball finished dead last. Basically, according to Dr. Stefani’s research, there is no sport where home field advantage matters less than Major League Baseball. I recommend a visit to improvementguru.com to read the complete post – it’s interesting.
Basically, I am not sure I can provide a more compelling argument than Dr. Stefani’s statistical analysis. I can tell you that the Twins lost their first two at home, that the Giants split their home games, that the Rays lost their two home games, and that the Rangers lost their two home games. While that may be compelling to some, it is just a snapshot of a few days of baseball. For a game in love with statistics and history, isn’t it fitting that a historical, statistical analysis shows that it doesn’t really matter where a MLB playoff game is played?