You know it’s real. Just how real? Consider this:
In the years 1901 through 2013, major league teams won 54 percent of their home games and lost 46 percent of their road games, for a home/road (H/R) ratio of 1.181. Only one team has lost more than half of its home games: San Diego, with 1,791 wins against 1,793 losses (which rounds to a W-L record of .500). The Padres have nevertheless done better at home than on the road, with an H/R ratio of 1.171.
No team has done better on the road than at home. Two expansion teams — Los Angeles Angels (1961) and New York Mets (1962) — have come closest. But their home records are still significantly better than their road records: H/R ratios of 1.132 and 1.139, respectively.
The Colorado Rockies have the best H/R ratio — 1.381 — mainly because Rockies teams have been tailored to do well at their home park in mile-high Denver. Accordingly, they have done poorly at lower altitudes, where (for example) high fly balls don’t as often become home runs.
The New York Yankees, unsurprisingly, have been the best at home and on the road. Further, the Yankees franchise is the only one with a road record above .500 for the past 113 years.
The importance of playing at home is perhaps best captured by these averages for 1901-2013:
- The mighty Yankees compiled their enviable home record by outscoring opponents by only 0.89 run per game.
- The second- and third-best Giants and Red Sox bested visitors by only 0.49 and 0.46 runs per game, respectively.
- The lopsided Rockies compiled by far the biggest home-minus-road scoring gap: 1.04 runs per game.
- Eleven of the 30 franchises were outscored at home, but only the Padres had a (barely) losing record at home.
- Only 4 of 30 franchises — Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, and Cardinals — outscored opponents on the road as well at home.
- Every franchise had a better average margin of victory at home than on the road.
- Home teams (on average) outscored their opponents by only 0.16 runs.
Home-field advantage is a fragile but very real thing.