When Brandon McCarthy gave up six runs Friday, Sept. 30 against the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ fate was set. All hopes were dashed on catching the Washington Nationals for home-field advantage in the NLDS. Now the Dodgers have to travel across the country to play game one and two in Nationals.
Losing home-field advantage is such a big deal right? Because the Dodgers lost home-field, they have a significant disadvantage against the Nats, right? Wrong. Here’s why.
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In the NBA, the team who has home court has a significant advantage. All-time, in more than 3,500 NBA playoff games, the home team has won 66 percent of the time in the playoffs. So out of every three games, the home team wins two of them. The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers both had home court throughout the playoffs and both made the Finals. In fact, since 2013, at least one No. 1 seed in either the Western or Eastern Conference made the NBA Finals. In the NFL, teams that have home field advantage win more than 60 percent of the time.
On the other hand, home field in baseball doesn’t mean nearly as much. Fox Sports’ Rob Neyer estimates that home teams in baseball win just 55% of the time in the playoffs. If this statistic was drawn out for an entire season, this means that home field affects roughly one out of eight postseason games. There is an advantage of being the top seed however, because the Wild Card team’s rotation is jumbled because they have to use their best pitcher in the Wild Card’s single-elimination game. Home teams also have serious advantage in the World Series, but that is because of MLB’s decision to make the All-Star Game matter.
Having an advantage in one out of every eight postseason games isn’t daunting by any stretch. These statistics prove true to recent history as well. Last year, the Kansas City Royals were the best team in the American League and won it all. That same year, the Mets represented the NL and were the third ranked team in its bracket. The Cardinals won 100 games last year, finished as the one seed, but lost in the NLDS.
In 2014, both the Royals and San Francisco Giants were Wild Card teams. 2013 gives way to the Red Sox and Cardinals, who were the best in their respective leagues. In 2012, the Detroit Tigers and the Giants were both the No. 3 seeds. In the 2011 playoffs, the Cardinals were the Wild Card team and the Texas Rangers were the two seed. In 2010, the Giants were the two seed and the Rangers were the three seed. I’ll stop there.
The Dodgers also had some trouble starting off at home in recent years. 2015 and 2014 consisted of the Dodgers playing catch up after blowing game one and not making it. The Dodgers only playoff series win was when they didn’t have home field advantage (against the Atlanta Braves in 2013). It may be kind of refreshing to root for the Dodgers to steal game one or two and fly back to Dodger Stadium with some momentum. I like the idea of veterans Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill grind on the road and have rookies Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias (if necessary) feed off the Dodger Stadium crowd and rally towels.
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I am not advocating that home-field advantage is worthless. It definitely has its advantages, especially in a winner-take-all scenario. But history shows that obtaining home field in baseball doesn’t suggest success like home field/court does in the NBA and NFL. It feels like more of a mixed bag. Maybe the Dodgers not gaining home field adds a chip on their shoulder that wasn’t there last year or the year before. The Dodgers can be one of the many teams that do not have home field but make the World Series anyway. Anything is possible.