October 17, 2017 [LINK / comment]
Home sweet home field advantage
The 2017 MLB postseason thus far has been marked by the strongest home field advantage since I began keeping track in 2002. In the divisional series, only six of the 19 games were won by the visiting team, and none (0) of the AL & NL Championship Series games have been. (Interestingly, however, the visiting team won the final game of all four divisional series: "there was no joy" in Washington, Cleveland, Phoenix, or Boston. Only in the Cubs-Nationals series did the visiting team win multiple games: 3 out of 5.) So, I went through my Postseason scores page, and tabulated the number of games won by the home team and visiting team for the Divisional series, the League Championship series, and the World Series for each year from 2002 up through 2017, including the Wild Card games since 2012, and then computing the home team winning percentages:
|Year||Postseason games won by home team|
Data for 2017 include the ALCS Games 1-4 and NLCS Games 1 & 2 only.
World Series: 4 scenarios
This matters more than usual this year because of the change in the way that home field advantage for the World Series is determined. Whereas from 2003 until 2016, the league that won the All Star Game got the initial home field advantage in the World Series, beginning in 2017, home field advantage in the World Series goes to the team with the higher regular season winning percentage. The following table shows how the four possible World Series matchups would be affected by the new rules:
|NL team||AL team||HFA |
The American League won the All-Star Game, 2-1, and thus would have had home field advantage for the World Series under the old rules.
ALCS: Yankees even the series
Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS in Houston were razor-thin pitchers' duels, with the exact same score: Astros 2, Yankees 1. Game 2 differed from Game 1 in that the score was tied for most of the game, with the deciding run coming in the bottom of the ninth inning on a wild play at the plate in which Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez couldn't handle the relay throw from right field even though he had plenty of time to tag Jose Altuve out. D'oh!
In contrast, Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS in New York were higher scoring. On Monday the Yankees scored three runs in the second inning thanks to a home run by Todd Frazier, and they added five more runs two innings later. With C.C. Sabathia on the mound, the Astros were in a virtually hopeless position. Not until the ninth inning did they get on the board, and the final score was 8-1. In Game 4 late this afternoon, neither team scored until the sixth inning, when Houston broke it open with a bases-loaded double by Yuli Gurriel. They added a run an inning later, and seemed to be in position to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Yankees. But Aaron Judge had other ideas, launching the Yankees' big comeback with a monster home run to center field in the bottom of the seventh, followed by another run, and then four more in the eighth inning. A loss like that can be very disheartening to an up-and-coming team like the Astros, and the pressure will be on their #1 ace pitcher Dallas Keuchel tomorrow when he goes against Masahiro Tanaka.
NLCS: Dodgers take 2-0 series lead
When Clayton Kershaw took the mound in Game 1 in Los Angeles on Saturday, at first there didn't seem to be much doubt that the Dodgers would prevail. But the Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, momentarily shocking the home crowd. But the Dodgers tied the game 2-2 in the fifth inning, getting Kershaw off the hook, and took a 3-2 lead one inning later on a solo homer by a guy name Chris Taylor. The Dodgers added two more runs in the seventh inning, and won it, 5-2.
The Cubs also took the initial lead in Game 2 with a solo homer in the fifth inning , but the Dodgers came right back to tie it in the bottom of the inning. The home team won the game in spectacular fashion on a three-run walk-off home run by Justin Turner. Dodgers 4, Cubs 1.
Back at Wrigley Field for Game 3 this evening, the Cubs once again took an early 1-0 lead thanks to a home run by Kyle Schwarber, but as of the eighth inning, the Dodgers are ahead 6-1. That puts them in position to become the first visiting team to win an NLCS (or ALCS) game this year!