Mains: The 2019 Cubs and home-field advantage

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on August 27, 2019:

Home-field advantage is a persistent issue in sports. In the book Scorecasting, authors Tobias Moscowitz and L. Jon Wertheim calculated home winning percentages for the major American sports leagues.


There are obvious advantages to playing at home. You’re playing in front of supportive fans. (Does not necessarily apply to Philadelphia.) You know your home pitch/court/ice/field and how it works. And as Zack Greinke said:

You’re comfortable at home. You wake up in your bed. You don’t have to go anywhere to get your breakfast and coffee. Sometimes, in the hotels they have bad coffee or something, so you have to go do other stuff.

Moscowitz and Wertheim found another advantage: Referees. They are human, and like most of us, they instinctively avoid criticism. Making a call against the home team invites opprobrium. Making one in favor of the home team engenders praise. They’re not doing this consciously, the authors maintain, but part of their brain knows that a ball/strike call, or a penalty, or a foul, will elicit reactions from the crowds. Moscowitz and Wertheim even found that small fields, where the fans are closer to field, yield a greater home-field advantage.

Baseball ranked last even though home teams have a theoretical advantage lacking in other sports: The home field itself. Fields are regulation-sized in the other sports. Only in baseball do the dimensions vary by venue. This allows teams to build their teams to take advantage of their ballparks’ eccentricities.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 27, 2019. Last Updated: August 27, 2019.