The MLB Playoffs Home Field Advantage Debate… Proof Is In the Stats

October 11, 2010

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?

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The 2010 MLB Second Half Team to Watch Debate… A Ray of Sunshine in the AL East

July 15, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

Four months ago I started my own personal Carl Crawford watch.

The Tampa Bay Rays were entering the 2010 campaign with a great deal of pressure. Because this is a contract year for Crawford, and if the Rays were unable to find any magic during the first half of the season (something I did not expect to happen), then the left fielder would have become the main attraction in a Ray fire sale.

What a difference four months can make.

Instead of being in a position to sell at the upcoming trade deadline the Rays have played some outstanding ball through the first half of the season. The team sits only two games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East, and currently holds a three game lead for the AL Wild Card over the other division rival, the Boston Red Sox.

Now, with the trade deadline fast approaching, the Rays could become one of the aggressive teams looking to buy in the hopes of getting a missing piece that will help them maintain momentum into the postseason.

The core of the roster is as solid as any in the Majors today. For his part, Crawford is making sure his value remains high, whether he stays in Tampa after this season or moves on to greener (pun intended) pastures. Through the first half of the season he is batting .321 and is among the league’s leaders in stolen bases (31) and triples (6). His performance was enough to earn him a starting nod on the American League All-Star roster, and he did not make that trek alone.

In addition to Crawford, the Rays boast two other All-Stars in third baseman Evan Longoria and pitcher David Price.

Longoria made his third career All-Star appearance on Tuesday, thanks to a .300 batting average combined with an on-base percentage of .381 and a slugging percentage of .513. As for Price, he boasts the third most wins in the American League, as he is the proud owner of a 12-4 record through the first half of 2010. Price is also one of only nine starting pitchers in the league with an ERA below 2.50.

As the tread deadline looms ever closer, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has made the commitment to his teams and his fans that he will do everything in his power to ensure that his team will be playing October baseball, even promising that “money won’t be an object.”

And as ESPN.com writer Jerry Crasnick points out, even if the Rays fail to land a blockbuster trade deal, the team still has some amazing young prospects waiting in the wings… the type that could be called up and make an immediate contribution.

Conditions are perfect for a very exciting second half from the Tampa Bay Rays. The combination of first half success and All-Star talent, along with the indication that the team will be among the most aggressive teams at the trade deadline, makes for some very entertaining baseball during its closing months.

The Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Series in 2008, but lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. Will 2010 be the year to finish the job? Rest assured that no other team will try harder than the Rays to make it back to the Fall Classic. In a division that has been dominated by the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, it is the Rays who are contributing the most exciting baseball of the season.

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The 2010 MLB Manager On The Hot Seat Debate – A Foreboding Sense of Despa’RAY’tion

March 3, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Ahhh, Spring is just around the corner. For most people, the changing of the seasons is a time to enjoy warmer weather, perhaps get a little spring cleaning done, and for baseball fans it signifies the approaching start to a new season, complete with all the hope, excitement, and expectation of a new unknown. The tables have all been reset, and EVERYONE is still in the hunt for an October invitation.

Well, at least in theory.

While the prospect of a new season may bring hope and promise to some organizations, there are others who are still reeling from the carryover baggage of a less-than-spectacular close to 2009. For those organizations, the records may be new but the problems are not. And although some of the questions from last year may have been answered, we still have yet to determine if those answers are satisfactory.

As the managers from THOSE organizations enter spring training, they bring with them a heavy load of expectation, heightened with a sense of desperation, because they may fear (whether founded or unfounded) that their window of opportunity is quickly drawing to a close.

One such manager with the weight of the baseball world on his shoulders is Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon.

Before we get into Maddon’s list of worries for 2010, I must give him his due. When he took over the reins in Tampa, he was inheriting a 100-loss team. During the time since his arrival, he has since led the Rays to a World Series appearance in 2008, and the last two seasons mark the first ever winning seasons in franchise history. In fact, before 2008 the Rays had finished DEAD LAST in the American League East Division 9 out of 10 years, with 2004 being they only year they didn’t finish in the basement (they finished in FOURTH place out of five teams that year).

There can be no denying that Maddon has brought improvement with him to the Tampa Bay organization.

The problem for Tampa Bay, though, is that they have arguably one of the toughest regular season draws in the entire Major Leagues, as they are ANNUALLY forced to keep pace with the two most dominant teams of the last fifteen years, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. In the twelve years since Tampa Bay’s inaugural season in 1998, Yankees and Red Sox have combined for EIGHT different American League Championships, SIX of which led to World Series Championships.

That domination is not surprising, since the Yankees and Red Sox own two of the five highest payrolls in the baseball, and it definitely puts the Rays at a disadvantage as they come in with the sixth LOWEST payroll in the league.

For a team like Tampa Bay, the ability to maintain consistent success is virtually impossible. Last year, for example, they followed up their 2008 World Series appearance with an impressive 84 wins to their credit. 84 wins would have had them in a VERY close race for the postseason had they been playing in the Central Division (where 86 wins was all it took for the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers), but in the East, they were left 19 games BEHIND the Yankees, and 9 games BEHIND the Red Sox.

Compounding the early season pressure for Maddon this year is the impending departure of the Rays’ brightest star, Left Fielder Carl Crawford, who is in the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay. Although Crawford has stated a desire to stay in Tampa Bay, there is little hope that they will be able to cough up the dough necessary to keep him around. The recent decision by both Crawford and the Rays to cease any further contract discussion until the end of the season serves only as greater indication of that likely separation.

If the Rays reach a point before the trade deadline where they do not believe they have a REAL shot at the playoffs, there is a good chance that they will try to trade Crawford away in a fire sale, hoping to get some kind of value for him. The alternative of seeing him walk away at the end of the year with absolutely nothing to show for it will not be acceptable to the organization. And let’s be honest – As Carl Crawford goes, so go the hopes of the entire Tampa Bay Rays organization.

What does that all mean for Maddon? In a nutshell, he likely faces one of two options this season -

A) Miraculously manage the virtually impossible task of remaining competitive with both the New York Yankees AND the Boston Red Sox (you know, MINOR expectations).

-OR-

B) Watch the Rays’ best player walk away, along with any hopes for REAL success – Not only this year, but for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know about you, but I call that pressure!

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The Team Retiring A Jersey Debate – Overpaying or Securing the Future?

November 5, 2009

Read the debate intro, Sports Geek’s argument, and Bleacher Fan’s argument.



I think we can all agree that retiring a player’s jersey is the ultimate compliment a team can give to a retired player. I stated in the intro, and Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan both reiterated in their arguments that retiring a jersey is quite the honor and is not to be taken lightly.

As Bleacher Fan wrote, retiring a jersey is a team matter. It is not a league matter. Tim Hardaway having his jersey retired by the Miami Heat had not a thing to do with the NBA and everything to do with the Heat organization. While with the Heat Hardaway, along with Alonzo Mourning (who also has his jersey retired with the Heat) led the team to four consecutive division titles. As Sports Geek pointed, the Heat won zero NBA championships.

I am awarding this victory to Bleacher Fan because, quite simply, I feel like the argument is stronger. Bleacher Fan gives an analogy comparing the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees to a Honda Civic and a Rolls Royce. I feel this is a perfect comparison. For a team like Tampa Bay last season was a magical run and the team may want to honor some of those players from that team since it was the organization’s first taste of success. Meanwhile, the Yankees have obviously “been there and done that.”

On the same note, Terrell Davis was a dominant rusher in the NFL who helped the Broncos win two Super Bowls in the late 1990s. Yes, it is true he only played four full seasons in Denver, but those were hugely successful seasons. If the Denver organization sees fit to honor Davis, then that is its prerogative. The Broncos do not need any guidelines whatsoever.

Sports Geek brings up the tragic case of Nick Adenhart. Obviously, this was a terrible ordeal and to its credit, the Angels organization chose an appropriate way to honor him. But, it was the organization’s call. The honoring a jersey, once again in this case, had nothing to do with MLB or any set form of guidelines. The Angels made this decision, and that is commendable. With no publicized guidelines there is not any protocol to follow, so there was no need for any “exception to the rule.”

The bottom line is that it should be up to each individual franchise to decide how to handle the retirement of a jersey/number. If an organization wants to wait one year, that is fine. If it wants to retire a number the last day a player is active, then that is the organization’s call. Retiring a jersey too late or too early does not diminish the honor one bit. It is an honor, no matter when it is done.

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The John Daly Fan Debate – John Daly is the Ultimate Underdog

June 15, 2009



Time and time again, America roots for the underdog in athletic competition. For baseball, maybe it was the Tampa Bay Rays last year. For college basketball, maybe it was George Mason making a deep run in the 2006 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Maybe it was rooting for Boise State to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl in college football. Maybe it’s whoever is playing the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys, perhaps the two wealthiest teams in all of sports. In golf, America roots for John Daly.

In some ways, John Daly is just another regular John Doe. Yes, I know! John Doe doesn’t always have a checkered past littered with alcoholism, gambling additions, and ex-wives. But, many of us may have a friend who has tackled the same issues that Daly has, right? And we root for that friend to succeed, right? John Daly is no different.

John Daly burst onto the scene in 1991, going from zero to hero and winning the 1991 PGA Championship – one of golf’s four majors (as we all know). He was the ninth alternate to get into the tournament (as Sports Geek pointed out in his intro). He won that tournament without playing as much as a single round at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana, who played host for the PGA Championship that year. Remember that little mini-mullet he had?

He wasn’t then, and isn’t now, a regular country club golfer. Close your eyes and picture a golfer… it’s tough to bring an image of John Daly to mind – admit it! I’ll admit it. I don’t! But, so what! Isn’t that what makes him likable?

It doesn’t matter that for the better part of his golf career he has been this cursing, overweight, beer-drinking, cigarette smoking, golfer. He comes across as a likable guy. He has that likability factor going for him that Simon Cowell likes to talk about on American Idol. Outside of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, he is still arguably one of the top draws in golf – which is amazing considering he hasn’t won a PGA tournament in almost five and a half years. If Woods, Mickelson, and Daly were battling it out on the back nine on Sunday, Daly would have just as much crowd support as Woods and Mickelson. He’s David and everyone else is Goliath. He’s the ultimate underdog. That’s why America roots for him.

Last weekend, Daly played in his first tournament in over 6 months at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee. He finished tied for 59th place, with a four round score of one over par. Not great, but it’s a start. Hopefully, it’s the start of many more things to come!

To answer the debate question from Sport Geek, yes, America should root for John Daly. Every sport needs someone to take on the underdog role, and John Daly fits it perfectly!

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s opinion.


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