Do We Need More Home Field Advantage In MLB?

Yesterday, I was perusing Rob Neyer’s blog, and he did a post about a part of the new book Scorecasting. In the interview Rob linked to, Jon Wertheim discusses part of his findings on home field advantage, and how he believes they are mostly related to the subconscious desire of referees and umpires to avoid getting booed. Now, I don’t know if he’s right or wrong, but thinking about the ramifications if it were true led me down a thought path that I found interesting.

Unequal officiating is inherently not fair, and on the surface is a problem we would like to see resolved. But would any of us actually enjoy baseball – or any sport, really – more if there were no home field advantage?

I went to a lot of games in Seattle when I was a kid – mostly baseball, but also some basketball and a few football games. I remember having a distinctly different level of excitement about attending a Sonics game, both because the team was good and because the home team in basketball is a huge favorite, meaning I was far more likely to go home happy. The higher prices kept NBA games from being a family staple, but if that had not been a factor, I could have easily become infatuated with hoops instead of baseball.

What is the benefit in having more equality for the road team? While some fans certainly go for the experience, many go for the chance to see their team win, and leave disappointed when that doesn’t end up as the final result. If we were able to identify and alleviate any officiating biases that caused the home team to win more regularly, wouldn’t we just be degrading the enjoyment of the product for most of the people in attendance?

Going even further, I’m now wondering if professional sports leagues shouldn’t be actively encouraging home field advantages. Uneven officiating is perhaps the worst path to this result, as it’s simply infuriating to watch your team lose to an incorrect call, but beyond that we don’t really seem all that invested in leveling the playing field for the road team. We celebrate home field winning streaks and rowdy atmospheres that create intimidation for the visitors, and I’ve never heard anyone suggest that home field advantage limits their interest in watching their team play while they’re on the road.

Historically, Major League Baseball has something like a 54/46 edge in favor of the home team. It’s significant, but not enough to tilt the expectations of the average fan all that much. Would the product be better if it was a 60/40 split? What about 70/30? There’s certainly a point of diminishing returns where additional home field advantage would lead to a decrease in interest, as the event still has to give off the air of competitiveness – the result needs to be in question to some degree for anyone to care about the game to begin with. But, the more I think about this, the more I’d imagine that point of decreasing return is probably well above where Major League Baseball currently stands.

If I’m a parent with a child or two who desperately want to see their favorite team win, I’m more likely to take them to a game where home field advantage is a pretty sizable factor. Kids in places like Pittsburgh and Kansas City get to see their team lose too often on television – at least we could give them some hope when they actually go in person.

So, to you umpires who may be subconsciously favoring the home team and creating home field advantage, I say kudos, and keep up the good work.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

75 Responses to “Do We Need More Home Field Advantage In MLB?”

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  1. siggian says:

    As a fan, you can get that 60/40 or 70/30 split by just going to games where your team plays the Royals or the Pirates. As a bonus, for some teams, those are the cheaper games too.

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  2. Erik says:

    How about stealing an idea from hockey: home team gets the last “change,” allowing them to get the pitcher-batter matchup they want.

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  3. Ellis says:

    I 100% agree. Some people may totally chastise you for this post – it’s not an empirical argument with statistics or probabilities – but it acknowledges the realities of the game (i.e., people bring their kids to games to have a good time).

    It’s always a good thing when a site like FanGraphs can step back and talk about a more romantic/real-life aspect of the game we all love.

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    • AK707 says:

      Thats what NotGraphs is for.

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    • Jason B says:


      Chill, man. If a non-stats post happens to find its way onto FanGraphs occasionally, I think the world won’t spin off its axis.

      (And if it does, why am I at work on such a beautiful Friday afternoon.)

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  4. phoenix2042 says:

    i think homefield advantage also has to do somewhat with knowing the field. Stadiums are not uniform dimensions, so knowing how to play the green monster or the turf in tropicana can help out the home team. Also things like being aware of the pot holes in the infield or how much room an outfielder has to the wall is huge for making a tough play. Idk how much difference knowing your field makes, but ive seen enough infielders get eaten up by the unexpected bounce of turf and enough LFers overrun a ball off the green monster to know that it can be worth maybe an out or two a game.

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    • B N says:

      I think it’s the uneven stadiums, but I think it’s also that teams can build their teams around their stadiums. If you’re the Rays, you build your team to have a FAST outfield to cover all that distance. If you’re a team like the Yankees or Jays, that’s really not particularly important. Thus, the Rays can have a home field advantage based on their speed- while a team like the Jays would be better suited to sign guys who can hit balls over the fence rather than jump over it. And similarly, the Yankees benefit from signing guys who can hit the short porch- while the Padres should really ignore such people entirely.

      As such, you would expect teams to optimize for their home park, giving them an advantage there. And unless teams are particularly bad at doing so, I would expect that would account for half of home field advantage.

      Between this and the knowledge aspect noted by Phoenix, I’d think that should lead to significant differences- even before umps come into play.

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      • hk says:

        The author (of the book, not Dave) claims that none of those things that phoenix or you mention impact home field advantage. His claim is that the advantage has remained at the same level throughout the years in all sports at all levels, regardless of the changes in factors like travel, unique stadiums in baseball, etc.

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    I want umpires to make the correct call no matter what. Making an inerrant call to avoid being boo’d is cowardly. It’s human nature, certainly. But, that doesn’t make it “right”.

    I want the team that plays the best game to win.

    Other sports have various levels of “advantage” because other sports are more emotion-driven. Baseball is pretty much a laid back game, with lots of pauses. It’s also harder to maintain momentum since your best player is the center of the action only once every 2-3 innings, instead of (possibly) every play.

    Baseball Stadiums are also way behind the times. When I go to games in StL, it’s like watching a game in 1950. That’s not an insult. IMO, that’s the feeling they were going for. In Miller Park, it’s just the opposite. LCDS lights, blaring music, etc. I recall when Turnbow was big, he entered the game to Metallica’s “Fuel”, with flames circling the stadium on the LCD screens. It was flat-out the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at a baseball stadium. Wrigley Field is Wrigley Field and the Cell is The Cell.

    But, in the end, basketball and football are jump up and down sports. Baseball is a clapping sport.

    Even jokingly, I do not want umps to get praise for making bad calls to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of their responsibility. I don’t want to botching calls so moms and their boys are ensured a good time at the time.

    Frankly, I’m having trouble with just the half-hearted suggestion. I thought we were past the “everyone must feel good about everything, even if it’s fake” part of society.

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    • pitnick says:

      When I watch the intro to Sunday Night Football, I feel like I’m part of a different species than those who might enjoy it. What you describe about Miller Park sounds awful to me. The day every stadium adopts that atmosphere is the day I stop going to live games.

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      • AK707 says:

        We got it good out in SF, the AT&T seems to combine the best of both worlds – can’t get any more old school/quirky than our park, but with full wi-fi coverage!

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I’m not sure I would enjoy that type of atmosphere all the time (Okay, I would … I’m 37, and I still listen to MegaDeth and Suicidal Tendencies … loudly on the way to/from work). I have pretty much grown up at Busch, Wrigley, and Kaufman stadiums. 3 traditionally old-fashioned ballpark environments. Heck, StL still uses the organ … which just kills me. Organs work in hockey, they are lullaby’s in baseball.

        The thing with Turnbow and Miller Park was a 1st for me, so that’s why it so awesome. I had never been to a stadium before that had LCD screens circling the whole stadium. When Turnbow came in, and the flames went up, it was if one was standing in the eye of a Cyclone of Fire. Something that makes Turnbow seem like a God is impressive.

        I go to hockey and basketball games at the United Center often enough, and the atmosphere there is very different. You go to a baseball game and you “watch the game”. You go to a basketball game and you “get into the game”. At a hockey event in Chicago, you basically yell at everything, starting with cheering loudly during the National Anthem.

        We used to live in KC, and go to Chiefs games. At Arrowhead, on 3rd downs, the place is so loud that you cannot hear yourself scream. There were times where I would stop yelling just to see if I was still making noise or just had my mouth open … sometimes you cannot tell.

        Baseball is so far removed from that, that it’s a different world. I’m a baseball lifer … but baseball is not the most exciting spectator sport. Watching a baseball game is most interesting when watching it as an “advanced scout” trying to see who is doing what and how well they do it, trying to figure out what the pitcher-catcher are up to and what’s coming next.

        I love the sport, but in regards to going to watch a live event, I’d choose the other 3 sports first. The exception might be football, but just because it’s so high quality television viewing.

        I can’t bring myself to watch a tv baseball game. Live is the only way I can watch it. If not I’m likely to fall asleep. IMO, baseball main problem with spectatorship is that the best players are not involved all that much. Manning is going to throw the ball 35 times. LeBron is going to take 20 shots. Albert is going to bat 4 times.

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      • JoeC says:

        Okay, CircleChange. You don’t like watching baseball very much. Good for you. Now kindly let the rest of us enjoy the show! :)

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        The point was baseball is not conducive to home field advantage, when that home field advantage is often “crowd noise” or “emotion”.

        I went overboard with the examples. But, the main point remains the same.

        The home field advantage in baseball is “last at bat”.

        In other words, baseball is too different from the other sports to compare “home field advantage”. Everything else is just discussion fluff.

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      • JoeC says:

        I’m not sure what your point is exactly. Maybe I’m just being dense. Are you saying that home field advantage in baseball is strictly a function of having the last at-bat? Are you saying that crowd noise doesn’t have any affect in baseball? That seems like a bit of a stretch.

        It’s likely that the home field advantage that baseball does have is a mileu of factors that can’t easily be broken down into its component parts. Good luck on trying though!

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    • Jeff says:

      REALLY??? You don’t even watch baseball on TV????? yet you post comments on every single fucking article on this site, like you watch and know everything about the game…

      Wow, how can you NOT watch baseball on tv and be this into statistical analysis…

      It is people like you Circle, that give stat-heads a bad name in the mainstream media…

      you are on here spouting opinion after opinion based on stats, BUT YOU DONT EVEN WATCH THE FUCKING GAMES!!!!!

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      • CircleChange11 says:


        I watch Baseball Tonight just to get the highlights of each game. I read about 3 sabermetric websites to keep up on what’s going on, and I look at stats continually.

        Most nights from April through September, I’m coaching a team somewhere, whether it’s the high school, junior high, 10U travel team, and T-Ball..

        I don’t have time time to invest 3 hours in TV viewing each night (3 kids). Even if I did, I find it boring. I do however LOVE to watch games at the stadium and usually catch about 5-10 games a year.

        Are you guys saying that you watch a baseball game a night, and that’s how you keep up with every team?

        I know baseball, I know what stats to look at and how to interpret them.

        I did not watch a single Texas Rangers regular season game last year. It’s amazing that I could have known that Josh Hamilton was the MVP. I must have special powers.

        IMO, if you think about it, most people don’t watch all the games of the players and teams they comment on. Yet, we’re able to have accurate and reasonable discussions on player seasons that we did not view on tv, game-by-game. Amazing, isn’t it?

        I can understand how one could jump to the conclusion that a person not watching games nightly on TV but comments a lot, must be talking out of their butt. But, that’s hardly the case for many of us … unless I am one of the few that does not watch 13-16 games per night on TV.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Your post got me thinking …

        Most of our discussion here involve such topics as BABIP, wOBA, WAR, FIP v. ERA, and things of that nature. I’m curious as to what more could be understood of these by watching a lot games on TV. My feeling is “not much”, at least how I watch the games.

        When I do catch games (more like innings of games), I watch specific thing based on position.

        [1] The action of their front leg, and their glide srategy toward the plate (timing).
        [2] How long their front shoulder stays closed.
        [3] How they set up hitters, sequencing.
        [4] How they use their changeup to same-handed batters. I’m always impressed how some guy use a tailing changeup to opposite-handed batters, but one that drops to same handed batters. In this regard, Strasburg is way ahead of the learning curve.

        [1] The timing mechanism of their front leg.
        [2] Whether they hide their hands (front shoulder closed).
        [3] If their hands travel toward the body or away from it at the start of their swing (immediatly following hip rotation).
        [4] How they control the tilt of their upper body to handle outside corner pitches. I’ve always been amazed at how Delgado could do this and pull (with success) outside corner pitches.

        Matt Holliday is one guy I always like to watch, especially following a Pujols at bat. These 2 guys couldn;t be more different. Pujols has about a 6-inch stride, utilizing a toe roll. Essentially he just rotates his front knee toward his body to initiate the swing process. Holliday uses a big leg kick. You can Matt swing late on an 88mpg fastball, and then hammer a 94mph fastball, all in the same game. It’s uncanny.


        By far my favorite thing to watch.
        [1] How do they handle low offspeed pitches. Do they reach out and catch it before it breakes out of the zone.
        [2] How do they handle outside corner 2-seamers, do they keep their glove back and let it travel closer to the zone before they grab it?
        For some reason I like to watch their ticks, glove patting, ahnd wiping, timing of setup, etc.

        I would be interested in watching more baseball if they used an overhead camera for fielding. I’d love to see aerial shots of break on the path, path taken, and ground covered. We don’t see that … so important information we could see on TV, we don;t get to.

        If I had MLB Network, I’d watch all of Halladay’s starts, as well as, King and Wainwright. Halladay is damn near perfection. I’d watch Lee, but he just doesn;t do anything brilliant. I watch him pitch and I sit there thinking “how didn;t they hit that?” I would love to read Lee’s account of what he changed in the minors to become what he is now.

        I would also love to watch Verlander. I cannot understand how he is not the most dominant pitcher in the AL. He has everything. Dominant fastball, amazing breaking ball, good movment on everything, and pretty good mechanics. I can’t figure out how anyone hits him.

        I’m curious as to what everyone else watches when they watch a game. It seems to me to really gleen meaning from the events, you’d almost need a base-state calculator or WPA conversion table to fully appreciate what a 1-out walk with a man on 2nd means, and whether it was a “good” or “bad” event depending on batter and on-deck batter, etc.

        Most everythig seems to be “routine”, where the informatin you really need to see/know is absent from the telecast.

        When I watch games in person, I pretty much watch th shortstops non stop. I’m amazed at how they start out in shallow LF, charge everything, field it in such a way that their momentum is moving toward the base they are throwing to … all the while making it look easy. I also like to watch whether they field the ball and bring it directly toward ear level, or if the funnel it toward their belt, and things of that nature.

        So, I guess I’m asking, “What am I missing by not watching full games, or 100+ games per year?” (in regards to FG discussions)

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  6. Interestingly, though, the worst teams in the league often have the biggest home-field advantages already. The Pirates went 17-64 on the road last year, but 40-41 at home.

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    • Erik says:

      Initially an unintuitive observation, but I think it makes sense if you think of moving along a Gaussian-like win probability distribution.

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  7. neuter_your_dogma says:

    I would think an umpire like Joe West would gleefully wallow in the jeers of home fans.

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  8. aweb says:

    The umpire/ref gets bias also happend due to fans making noise when something happens that may not have been noticed otherwise. This happens constantly in football, hockey, and basketball, since things actually happen away from the ball/puck. Baseball is unique in that absolutely nothing of consequence that an ump could call (short of elaborate sign-stealing schemes) is happening away from the ball. Home plate umpires don’t have to be screamed to watch a back-door curveball (although they might be swayed on a call of one subconsiously) or a fair/foul call. They might miss a call, but it’s not because they weren’t watching. Baseball is a lot more like tennis than the other big team sports from a ref/umpire point of view.

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  9. MTUCache says:

    You’d think that homefield in baseball would be one of the biggest advantages… having the last at-bat is a HUGE advantage just in itself, on top of the familiarity with the park, the ability to build your team around your parks strengths/weaknesses, and having your groundskeeper maintain an environment that is advantageous to your team.

    Frankly I’m surprised by that 54/46 split. I’d put the umpires’ bias at the distant end of any list of advantages the home team gets.

    But, when it comes down to it, baseball just isn’t a sport where crowd noise can make a large effect on the game. There is no “tenth man” in a sport where the pace is pretty leisurely and almost no audible communication is necessary.

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    • B N says:

      Or in the case of the Metrodome, when the Twins used to have them turn on the AC when other team went up to bat? Good trick, that one.

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      • Bryz says:

        That was one guy working independently, and they eventually did studies and found turning on the AC didn’t significantly affect a baseball’s flight path in the Dome.

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  10. KS says:

    Sorry, Dave, I don’t buy any of it. Not your assumption about the cause of home field advantage, nor your assumption that most fans only attend games with the expectation that they’ll be happy only if the home team wins, and certainly not your conclusion that increasing HFA would be good for the fans and the game.

    Of course, nearly every fan wants the home team to win, and they’re happy when it does. And they’re disappointed when when their team loses. But certainly every fan understands, explicitly or implicitly, that one of the core principles of sporting competition is the notion that the outcome is unknown until the contest is played. It’s that uncertainty that, to a large degree, makes the competition fun and exciting. Take that away, and much of the enjoyment of going to the game would be taken away.

    (I know you didn’t say that the home team should ALWAYS be pre-ordained to win, but that idea underlies your argument.)

    I’m pretty certain that like most things in life, HFA is a complex matter with many variables and factors that are difficult if not impossible to pinpoint and measure. It can’t be boiled down to one seemingly simple answer.

    And that’s just fine by me. Keeps the games interesting, which is what it’s all about.

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    • JoeC says:

      I don’t think there’s any doubt that attendance increases as a team’s win total goes up. However, I don’t think it’s proven that attendance increases as a team’s HOME record gets better. For example, I think a team’s attendance would likely increase the same amount irregardless if a team won more games on the road or at home.

      People want to see a winner, period.

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    • Salt-N-Pepitone Loc says:

      “I’m pretty certain that like most things in life, HFA is a complex matter with many variables and factors that are difficult if not impossible to pinpoint and measure. It can’t be boiled down to one seemingly simple answer.”

      You should read the article “What’s Really Behind Home Field Advantage?” by the afore mentioned Jon Wertheim that ran in Sports Illustrated a couple weeks back. Spoiler: he pinpoints and measures the factors of home field advantage and boils it down to one simple answer and does it with all kinds of stats and graphs and science and case studies and whatnot. Good read.

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  11. adohaj says:

    Or we could just chain lead weights on the road players…we would get the same outcome right?

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  12. MichaelD says:

    There is a pretty extensive literature in sports economics that attendance is maximized when the home team’s winning percentage is somewhere around 60-70%. Fans want to see their team win, but they also like uncertainty.

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    • AJS says:

      But that’s when the home team’s winning percentage is 60 to 70% overall (as opposed to only in the home ballpark), right?

      Would fans be more likely to turn out to watch a .500 team that won 60% at home and 40% on the road, as opposed to one that won 50% in both places? Maybe, but I’m not convinced.

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    • todmod says:

      This also overlooks the fact that for good teams, when the win expectancy is extremely high, it’s because the other team stinks and doesn’t have good players.

      If you could guarantee victory over a team with good players, I’m pretty sure that would still bring fans in.

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  13. Ousy says:

    Your argument is based on a ton of assumptions. And I find it difficult to support most of those assumptions.

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  14. matt w says:

    In relation to that interview, there’s one nice thing about being a Pittsburgh fan: The Pirates will win the world series before people stop whining about the officiating in Super Bowl XL.

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  15. Standard_Deviance says:

    The reasons for home field advantage listed above by commenters are all good ones, but there’s also what I guess you could call the comfort factor of being at home.

    By ‘comfort factor’ I don’t just mean familiarity with the playing field’s idiosyncrasies. I mean that when you play a homestand you’re likely to feel more comfortable as a person: you’re living in your own house (with your family, if you have one); you’re familiar with the city; you’re better rested, because you’re not traveling; maybe players go out at night more when on the road, because it’s a time when they can’t be easily monitored by their wives; etc.

    These may not be major factors, and they’d certainly be impossible to quantify, but I’d guess that at least some small amount of away field disadvantage comes about from simple travel fatigue and jet lag, in addition to the factors everyone named above.

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    • AJS says:

      Frankly, given all this, I’m surprised the home-road winning percentage split isn’t higher (like in basketball).

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  16. Matt C says:

    Unfortunately in baseball. I don’t think there is much you could do outside of the ump thing to alter this. In sports like basketball and football the fans can have a direct effect on the game in a couple of ways. First off I think it excites players and they feed off the adrenaline so if they’re a little tired or winded the crowds reaction gives them that extra motivation or second win. It’s almost like the fans reaction will them to make some plays that they otherwise wouldn’t. I know that seems far fetched but judging by what I’ve seen and from what players have said I think there is some validity to it. And since baseball is far less physically demanding then those sports I think things like this make much less of an impact.

    The 2nd reason and most important IMO is the communication factor. How many times do you see opposing football defense get called for false starts in hostile environments because of the communication? It seems likes much more than usual(unfortunately I don’t have the numbers to back it up) And even if they don’t get called for a false start you could see that it usually rattles them and at the very least slows them down or screws up their timing.(This makes it especially worse when the QB is trying to audible at the line of scrimmage) Obviously there’s very little if any verbal communication between players and coaches on the field in baseball so this problem is no issue for them.

    So really outside of building your team for your home park and the players getting to sleep in their own beds I don’t see how home field really is any issue for baseball and I definitely can’t figure out how fans can have a direct impact on the game.

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    • Matt C says:

      *opposing football offense I mean

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      • JoeC says:

        I think fans do have an effect on opposing players, especially relievers trying to hold a lead with men on late in the game. As well, fan noise will have a greater affect on those players who are mentally weaker (though I guess this could split both ways, since the opposition is not guaranteed to have more players who are mentally weak).

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        The fans are cheering loudly. That’s it.

        Wouldn’t that affect the hitter as much as the pitcher?

        It’s not like loud fans are interferring with the pitcher getting his signs from the catcher, or signals from the manager or anything of the sort.

        There is no baseball comparison to football “Loud Fans on 3rd Down” or being loud when the opponent is trying to run a hurry up offense.

        Baseball is primarily a slow paced, skill dominated sport. The other sports are much more athlecism focused, which lends itself to being enhanced by adrenaline.

        I think a point could be made that, in baseball, emotion and adrenaline, could be counterproductive … wheras in basketball and football, it helps performance.

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  17. Jeffrey says:

    Having read part of the book (I just got it yesterday), I think many people here are misunderstanding the author’s conclusions about HFA. They aren’t saying that the umpires are actively making calls for the home team. The authors are claiming that there is a psychological bias that means the umpire will subconsciously call close calls in favor of the tens of thousands of screaming fans surrounding him (he “wants” to make them happy). The umpire probably doesn’t even realize he’s doing it.

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    • Jason B says:

      To be fair, I’m not sure that anyone *doesn’t* understand that central thesis. We all recognize its a subconscious thing, they’re not intentionally throwing games and blowing calls.

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  18. baseball in the andes, please (think 2x Coors field) says:

    I feel the psychological standpoint of the players themselves is also worth discussing. On the surface it might seem that the players on the home team hold a motivational advantage over their traveling opponents with their fans & friends in attendance. Who doesn’t want to impress the people who care about you/pay to see you. However, this apparent advantage can easily turn into a disadvantage if the home player lacks the strong mental fortitude to channel this social pressure into controlled physical energy instead of negative thoughts. Fans too often assume that professional athletes can properly channel this pressure almost at will: they are getting paid millions…they better.

    But, obviously, this does not happen all the time. Especially in baseball. In basketball, the players have less time for negative thoughts to settle in and can more easily transfer this audial stimulation (which is much greater in an arena) into constant, natural reactions. Baseball, on the other hand, has so much more time which separates physical actions. It is infinitely more difficult to maintain that channel of constant, controlled physical energy. This is what makes baseball more of a mental game in my opinion. It’s what balances the mental skills of a cliff lee (not that he lacks physical skills) with the physical skills of an alex rodriguez (not that he is milton bradley). It’s also what makes home field advantage less important. Much less social pressure amongst strangers who aren’t paying to see you perform well.

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  19. John says:

    Sounds good, as long as you can tone it down in the playoffs!

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  20. Bryz says:

    First, I agree with Dave that an increase in home field advantage could make the game more enjoyable for fans. I once invited my roommate to a Twins game this past season and we had to decide which game to attend. I wanted to see the Rangers (nearing the end of the season and both the Twins and Rangers were 1st place teams) while he wanted to see the Indians (much better chance for the Twins to win the game). My roommate isn’t the only person to do this, I’ve had other friends also want to see the Twins play bad teams in the hopes of seeing a victory, and even I have consciously thought “Well, do I want to see a game between 2 good teams, or do I want to see a good probability of a win?” when picking out a game to attend.

    Second, I disagree that baseball doesn’t have the same emotions as the other sports. I will admit that it may happen less frequently (we don’t scream every at-bat like every down in football), but if your team is building a rally in the bottom of the 8th, down by a run, you’re going to be screaming and cheering no matter who is batting (yes, even if it’s Drew Butera). No matter how good or bad the hitter is, the crowd is going to cheer in an effort to pump up the batter.

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    • baseball in the andes, please (think 2x Coors field) says:

      The emotions are similar throughout all competitive sport (or, arguably, competitive anything), but the emotions have different effects on the body depending on the competition at hand. Roy Halladay needs to control his emotions for the 10 to 15 seconds it takes in between physical actions (i realize that walking to and from the mound is a physical action, but not an impactful one that his emotions worry about). Dwayne Wade, however, rarely has instances of an idle 10 to 15 seconds (one exception might be during free throws) where he must maintain emotional focus in the absence of physical action.

      Also, the level of crowd noise definitely affects one’s emotions. Playing in an enclosed arena will have a different emotional effect than in an open air ballpark.

      Qualitatively, emotions might be the same, but I’m not buying it from a quantitative perspective.

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  21. steve says:

    i think this article is bogus, we’re talking about professional sports, not the WWE. i don’t want the odds to be fixed. what’s your suggestion anyway? bring in the fences when the home team goes to bat? or is it really just “umpires should cheat to help the home team.” oh. ok.

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    • JoeC says:

      I don’t think the author is advocating any of those things. He’s merely making the point that fans prefer to see wins by the home team and that baseball has the lowest percentage of home team wins of all the major sports. Increasing that percentage may just result in increased attendance.

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  22. The Hit Dog says:

    I understand the point, but to use the NBA as an example of a league whose home/road splits are ideal is pretty comical. Remember, this is a league that has, for many, turned into a joke because of the perceived bias that officials have in favor of the home team. These days you can watch pretty much turn on any NBA game and watch for the stat that they throw up at the end showing that the home team has taken three times as many foul shots as the road team.

    If a change is to be made in baseball, it should be structural (along the lines of the home team having the last ups).

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  23. gdc says:

    There is one additional easy home team advantage idea that might have flown 100 years ago but not in the modern day-virtually unlimited home roster like college football where there might be 60 uniformed road team and 100 uniformed home team players, many of whom never play and are not worth the cost of flying (or busing) to the other school but might get in on a kickoff or in case of injury.
    Back when the cost of bringing the team on trains and putting them up in hotels was significant compared to salaries, the home team would have been able to have the high school coach as an emergency catcher if the #2 catcher was used to pinch hit and then pinch run for by the ballboy/high school sprint champ and then replaced by the bartender who used to be a big league pitcher, and throws a scoreless 12th to let the home team win in the bottom on a pinch hit from their bad-kneed former hitting star who now takes tickets and works security at the ballpark.
    And extra innings wouldn’t mean taking the kids home, it would be waking them up to say “Uncle Joe might get in the game now”. And on a long homestand, there wouldn’t be anyone put on the DL in case they might help in a situation.

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  24. short says:

    What’s interesting to me about the difference in home field advantage among the major professional sports is that baseball has the smallest edge, even though it’s the one that structurally favors the home team the most. The two advantages the home team has in baseball (batting last and being able to build a team for and become familiar with the home park) are not matched by other sports. There are a few cases where a playing surface may differ team-to-team in other sports, but that doesn’t hold for every team. So why doesn’t baseball have the largest home field edge?

    My theory is that it comes down to the impact of the crowd on the home team’s psychology. Exhorting your team to greater effort can make a meaningful differnece in basketball, football or hockey where players’ level of effort and intensity matters. In baseball the answer to “how do we win?” is almost never “swing / throw / catch harder.” And as others have mentioned, the extra pressure may have the opposite effect on players who suffer performance anxiety.

    Otherwise I can’t see why baseball wouldn’t have the biggest home field advantage.

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    • aweb says:

      Hockey home teams get to make last change at all whistles – this is a huge advantage, getting to choose matchups that you want.

      Hitting last is not much of an advantage. It seems that way, but when you break down the win expectancies, home teams are not coming out ahead in tie games once they are done batting by much. It seems like an advantage because people think of the game in terms of chances to score, rather than chances to deny the other team to score.

      Building teams for your home park is difficult to do, and teams are only starting to figure it out, I suspect, with the help of modenr analysis. The Rockies are a great example – a historically bizarre homefield (lessened now), but how to best construct a team there? Fast outfielders, power hitters, hard throwers, soft tossers…I think they’ve started to figure it out, but it’s not obvious what the best answer is. What does a team with no large quirks at home do?

      Home teams also benefit, possibly, from the odd quirk of saving closers for a save – home teams in the ninth know a save is impossible, so they can use their best reliever. Road teams often hold out using them until they get the lead.

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      • David K says:

        “Hitting last is not much of an advantage. It seems that way, but when you break down the win expectancies, home teams are not coming out ahead in tie games once they are done batting by much.”

        Not only that, but when it comes down to a tie game in the 9th, the visiting team supposedly has the advantage of being able to wait to take the lead before employing their closer, while the home team can’t use its closer in his usual capacity — he can never enter a game in a save situation.

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      • David K says:

        Damn, you did bring up this point in your last paragraph. Teaches me to skim a post without completely reading it.

        And it’s funny I was thinking the same thing you were regarding the Rockies, and I almost posted the same thing before reading your post. At least I read that part of it!

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    • SOB in TO says:

      Baseball has the minimum HFA. That means other sports create more HFA.
      We can look at each sport and see what is different that affects the road team.
      I think the biggest effect is that road teams for basketball and hockey come in for a day, play, then leave. Baseball teams come in for a few days, and perhaps get comfortable with their surrouindings.
      I’d like to see HFA by game in series. My theory would imply that the first game of a series has more HFA than the second or third games.

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      • Eric R says:

        “My theory would imply that the first game of a series has more HFA than the second or third games.”

        Using some data I have handy [2000-2008], here are the HF winning percent by game in series:

        Game1: 53.6%
        Game2: 54.7%
        Game3: 54.3%

        Maybe there is something in the visiting teams hitting stats by game?
        Game1: .262/.329/.351
        Game2: .261/.329/.350
        Game3: .261/.327/.349

        And while the data is here, here are the by Game batting stats for the home team:
        Game1: .271/.342/.364
        Game2: .270/.341/.362
        Game3: .269/.339/.360

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  25. gorillagogo says:

    “Kids in places like Pittsburgh and Kansas City get to see their team lose too often on television – at least we could give them some hope when they actually go in person.”

    The Pirates home records for 2008-2010 were 39-42, 40-41 and 40-41. Their last place finishes were largely due to their astonishingly bad road records the last few seasons.

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    • matt w says:

      Interesting point — if HFA is due to unconscious umpire bias caused by screaming crowds, why should the Pirates have a huge home/road split when their attendance isn’t great?

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    • Jason B says:

      “Their last place finishes were largely due to their astonishingly bad road records”

      that, plus their inexplicable acquisitions/trades for the likes of Yuni, Guillen, Meche, Kendall, et al.

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      • matt w says:

        That’s the Royals; the original comment was about the Pirates. (And in fact the Royals had a worse home record than the Pirates all three years; in each of 2008 and 2009 their home record was only one game better than their road record.)

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    • short says:

      I sometimes pine for the old Kingdome days of the Mariners when Griffey first came up. The tickets were cheap, the seats were great and they won about half their games at home (it seemed like). Home runs were frequently struck. Safeco is awesome and the team has certainly been better than it was in the early ’90’s (and, more recently, worse). But you could see Griffey, Buhner, Edgar and Randy Johnson for five bucks with great seats.

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  26. Torgen says:

    Related question: If the home team wins 54% of the time, why does the WPA graph start at 50% and reset there between innings?

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  27. Evan3457 says:

    Could not disagree with the premise more.

    Umpires who subconsciously favor the home team need to be weeded out over time. The game should be called dead even, insofar as it is humanly possibly to do.

    I’d rather go to RoboZone™ than to dishonorably attempt to increase attendance through a false call of the game. If this is true (that umpires are subconsciously favoring the home team, and increased home victories increase home attendance), then expect the owners to collectively stick their heads in the sand, thus encouraging it by ignoring it.

    Hmmm, just like steroids. How ethical. But hey, it’s good for the game, right?

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    • cgehring says:

      Hmmm, with all of the contributions of Evan3457 and Raf, why isn’t this site called “”

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  28. John Autin says:

    I am surprised and disappointed that this half-baked idea comes from Dave Cameron. The absurdity of the notion is reflected, I think, in the fact that he didn’t suggest any specific methods of increasing the home-field advantage; any that I have thought of — give them a 1-0 lead to start the game? let them play with 10 fielders? — are ridiculous on their face.

    Dave has put the cart before the horse. Fans have grown accustomed to a home-field advantage because of (at least in part) unconscious bias on the part of the “impartial” arbiters. That bias is a flaw that should be addressed — not a “fan-friendly” aspect of the game that should be institutionalized.

    If you and your family want preordained outcomes, take them to a Hollywood movie. If you want spirited competition, don’t try to legislate home-field advantage.

    My family were Detroit Tigers fans starting in 1969, when I was 5 and we moved to Michigan. Although they were a pretty good team through ’72, they lost each of the first 10 games we attended. Sure, we wanted them to win — but we wanted them to win fairly. And we didn’t stop going to games. Any change in the rules to artificially favor the home team would have made my father “less” likely to take us to games, not more so.

    Ridiculous idea.

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