Gross: Home-field advantage does not exist in the postseason

From Jeffrey Gross at The Hardball Times on November 7, 2014:

Plenty has been written about “home-field advantage” in baseball. Historically speaking, the home team wins approximately 54 percent of the time. Recently, The Washington Post posited that “home-field advantage” in the playoffs was worth one extra win. The value of home-field advantage, however, when applied to the postseason, is grossly overstated, and the application of the “home-field advantage” argument usually is flawed.

In a vacuum this assertion might be correct, assuming athletes are not merely, cold, calculated, metal machines with no hearts or souls, built solely upon repetitions and probabilities. However, in the real world there are issues even beyond this assumption. Even if you:

  • throw out the issue of sample sizes and assume the effect of home-field advantage is equally distributable,
  • assume team match-ups are equal even though the postseason is structured so teams with better records play teams with worse records
  • allow for the presumption that the effect of home-field advantage is largely mental and transferable, rather than being based on team play that is tailored to home ballpark factors

the structure of the postseason schedule and likelihood of the advantage ever coming into play for the team that “gets” home-field advantage in the postseason largely negate its utility to that team.

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Originally published: November 7, 2014. Last Updated: November 7, 2014.