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How much does home field advantage matter in baseball?

Home » MLB » MLB Home Field Advantage: Does Home Field Matter in Baseball

Most MLB teams fight and scratch for 162 games to earn a playoff spot and perhaps home-field advantage in the postseason, but does MLB home-field advantage actually mean anything?

The MLB Playoffs are explained through the lens of home-field advantage, especially with the new MLB Wild Card format giving some teams a three-game series in their home stadium. However, just how important is MLB home-field advantage?

MLB home field advantage

We were so curious about this question that we found baseball home-field advantage statistics to shed light on this topic.

Whether it’s the regular season or the playoffs, we wanted to learn more about MLB home-field advantage. After doing some research, here is what the baseball home-field advantage statistics told us.

A little higher

Home-field advantage in baseball is real, and it’s also remarkably consistent. The home team wins roughly 54.1% of the time in the big leagues, which is nearly a full percentage point higher when compared to Japan’s Nippon League, where the home team wins 53.3% of the time. Perhaps more telling, MLB teams have always had a slight advantage at home.


Between the first decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, the winning percentage of the home team for each individual decade has been between .533 and .553. 

During that time, the worst decade for home teams was the first decade of the 20th century, although the second-lowest win percentage for home teams was .535, and that came in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, the best time to be a home team was the 1930s when home teams had a winning percentage of .553. But it never climbed higher than that, leveling out at .541 during the 1980s and then .542 during the first decade of the 21st century. In other words, home teams have always had a slight advantage, but nothing too significant.

Everyone’s got a theory

Of course, the important question is why home teams win roughly 54% of the time rather than just 50% of the time. In theory, players from the home team will feel more comfortable in their surroundings and will be more familiar with the stadium.

The long-held belief in all sports is that playing in front of a supportive crowd also provides a boost whereas road teams might be distracted or intimidated in some way by fans. After all, baseball players are human, and even the most statistically-driven sport, there are elements of playing at home that perhaps can’t be quantified.


Sports psychology

Our research on MLB home-field advantage revealed several studies related to the psychology of baseball players. However, none of them revealed any significant psychological edge to playing at home.

In fact, there were no clear common denominators with regard to other factors. For instance, there is little evidence that hitting in the clutch is a repeatable skill. There is also little data to represent that teams with a lot of veterans perform better in the postseason. Yet, those stats continue to tell us that home teams are a little bit better and win 54% of the time.

Umpire bias

One aspect of home-field advantage that could be considered is the performance of umpires. Much like players, umpires are human and prone to mistakes and errors.

But how would that impact home-field advantage? Without doing so consciously, it’s reasonable for umpires to prefer to hear the approval of home crowds rather than their disapproval, making them more inclined to give borderline calls to the home team.

While instant replay helps to correct some umpiring mistakes, there is no instant replay for calling balls and strikes. Given the number of pitches in a game, a small collection of calls that favor the home team more than the road team can add up over time, ultimately contributing to home teams being more likely to win by a few percentage points.

In the Postseason

Obviously, there is no time that home-field advantage matters more than in the postseason. Teams fight for 162 games during the regular season to not only make the playoffs but to earn home-field advantage in as many playoff series as possible.

Oddly enough, home-field advantage tends to dissipate in baseball during the playoffs. Of the 70 playoff series and Wild Card games played between 2003 and 2012, the home team only won 37 of them, which is over half but lower than the average of 54% that has persisted for decades.

There have also been instances of home-field disadvantage in baseball in recent years. During the 2019 World Series between the Nationals and Astros, the road team won all seven games, which was a first in World Series history. Likewise, when baseball expanded the playoffs in 2022, the league thought it was giving an advantage to the higher seed by allowing them to host every game of a three-game series.

However, the road team ended up winning three of those four series, going against the idea of a home-field advantage.

Is baseball unique?

Of course, in determining whether home-field advantage means anything in baseball, it needs to be looked at in comparison to the other major sports. Are the trends that baseball experiences the same in other sports or unique to baseball?

Compared to the NHL, NFL, and NBA, baseball actually has the lowest rate of home-field advantage. MLB’s rate of home teams winning 54% of the time is below the NHL at 55%, the NFL at 57%, and the NBA at 60%. Historically, both baseball and hockey show no significant difference during the playoffs whereas the NBA jumps from 60% to 65% in favor of the home team during the playoffs while the NFL goes from 57% to 65% in favor of the home team when the playoffs arrive.

The only conclusion to reach is that home-field advantage in baseball matters, but only a little.

Obviously, there are countless variables that go into what team wins in any given baseball game. Playing at home creates a slight advantage but not a significant one.

Perhaps more importantly, playing at home in baseball means less than it does in any of the other major sports, especially during the postseason. In other words, when MLB games matter the most, home-field advantage actually becomes less important.

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