On-Base Perception

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54.2% of the time, home field advantage works every time

Mariano Rivera, #42, of the New York Yankees

Mariano Rivera, #42, of the New York Yankees holds the trophy as he celebrates with Derek Jeter, #2, Jorge Posada, #20, and other teammates after their 7-3 win against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium. (Nov. 4, 2009) (Credit: Getty Images)

This time it counts, right?

Much emphasis (marketing emphasis, mostly) has been placed on the All-Star game determining the home field advantage in the World Series. Just as much talk in the past week has circled around who would get the No. 1 seed in both the National and American League playoffs and have home field advantage throughout the Division and Championship Series.

Slightly less discussion has involved the format of the postseason this year, but that's coming now. The higher seed starts on the road for two games, then comes home for three.

You may wonder about that and the perceived reward given to the lesser team by starting the series in their home ballpark.

Key word there: "perceived."

The home field advantage in baseball playoffs is not a big deal. Since the wild card began in 1995, there have been 17 postseasons. Collectively, the home team has won 54.2 percent of the games.

If this were a presidential poll, pundits would say that eight-point difference (54 vs. 46) is huge. But this is baseball, and that's not a significant enough difference to focus much of your concern on regarding your team's postseason success. Worry more about your pitching.

Newsday looked at every series from 1995-2011 (the wild card era) and discovered these numbers.

Home team record by series

ALDS: 67-69 (.493)

NLDS: 69-57 (.548)

ALCS: 54-45 (.545)

NLCS: 52-45 (.536)

World Series: 56-36 (.609)

The only series with a sub-.500 record is the ALDS (sorry, Yankees fans). That may be good enough to get a playoff berth in the NBA, but it's not winning many World Series.


In four of the 17 postseasons looked at here, it was better for teams to be in their road uniforms across all playoffs series.

2010: Home teams were 13-19 across the entire postseason

2003: 16-22

1998: 14-16

1996: 14-18

The only season with a 0 plus-minus was 1997. (Thanks, Edgar Renteria.)

Statistical outliers

The only time the home team lost every game of a series was the 2010 ALDS between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. (Texas won the series, 3-2).

In the 119 postseason series played from 1995-2011, only four times has the home team won every game. They are: the 2011 NLDS (Milwaukee vs. Arizona), the 2004 NLCS (St. Louis vs. Houston), the 2001 World Series (Yankees vs. Arizona) and the 1995 ALDS (Yankees vs. Seattle)

The 2011 postseason saw a plus-minus of +10 for the home team, the biggest difference during this span. Home teams were 24-14 (.632).

One-win series

Of the 34 AL Division Series from 1995-2011, 11 of them saw the home team win just one game in the series. Same for the NLDS.

Of the 17 AL Championship Series,  the home team won just one game twice. Again, same for the NLCS.

In the World Series, that has only happened once -- Yankees vs. Atlanta in 1996 (thanks, Jimmy Leyritz).

2012 home field advantages

ALDS: Oakland, Yankees

NLDS: Washington, Cincinnati

ALCS: TBD (Oakland is No. 1 seed, though)

NLCS: TBD (Washington in No. 1 seed)

World Series: National League. (Way to go, Melky!)

Tags: playoffs , yankees , washington nationals , newsday , oakland a's , texas rangers , wild card , stats , melky cabrera , jim leyritz

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