Aug
30

The advantages of playing at home

By

As the games melt away from the 2010 baseball season, the Yanks’ grip on a playoff spot grows stronger. The Bombers are 6.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox with 32 left to play and share an AL East lead with the Tampa Bay Rays. Unfortunately, one of the two beasts of the east can win the division, and the crown this year carries a steep price. The winner will secure home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS while the loser will likely end up with the second-best record in the American League and no home field advantage at all.

For the Yankees, the schedule, as I’ve written a few times this month, isn’t on their side. I’ve updated the spreadsheet of remaining games to include the results from the past week, and if anything, the Rays’ schedule has gotten easier after they took two of three from Boston. For the Yankees, they play 32 games against teams with a combined winning percentage of .522. On the season, the Yanks are 36-22 against these teams, and if they duplicate those results in September, they’ll end up with 99 wins and 63 losses. That should be good enough to win the AL East.

Tampa Bay, however, has other plans in mind. The Rays have 32 games left against teams with a combined .480 winning percentage, and the AL upstarts are 42-24 against these competitors this year. If Tampa Bay duplicates those results, they’ll end up with a record of 100 wins and 62 losses. Baseball Prospectu’s Playoff Odds report doesn’t see either team reaching that 100-win plateau, but gives Tampa that one-game edge in the standings. Considering how many woulda, coulda, shoulda games the Yanks have played this year, that final regular season result would be a tough one to take.

Of course, much could change over the next five weeks, and the Yankees and Rays both seemingly control their own AL fates. The two teams meet seven times over the season’s home stretch, and if the Yanks can strike a decisive blow against Tampa, something they’ve struggled in doing this year, the AL East crown could be theirs for the taking. With Boston now on the ropes, I’m not going to root for the Rays any longer this year.

It’s all well and good to look at how the Yanks can get to October, but the division title concerns the elusive home field advantage. Does it matter if the Yanks don’t have the home-field edge this year? Make no mistake about it: The Yankees are better at home than they are on the road. At Yankee Stadium, where CC Sabathia doesn’t lose, the Yanks are 42-22; on the road, the club is a still-impressive 38-28. At Yankee Stadium, the club puts up a .367 wOBA while on the road, that mark falls to .332. The home-road split could be more significant if the Yanks must play four out of seven games in Tampa Bay where they are hitting just .229/.297/.398 this year.

Whereas the Yanks score 6 runs per game at home and just under 5 per game on the road, their pitching exhibits less drastic splits. Yankee hurlers have a higher ERA at home than they do on the road — 4.08 vs. 3.75. Because Bombers pitchers have given up a whopping 39 more home runs at home in 0.1 more innings than they have thrown on the road, we can say that Yankee Stadium giveth and Yankee Stadium taketh away.

Still, we can’t underestimate the CC effect. Despite the weaker pitching at home, CC Sabathia, the Yanks’ presumptive Game One starter, is 10-0 at home with a 2.46 ERA/3.21 FIP and 8-5 with a 3.75 ERA/3.85 FIP on the road. Never mind the pride of a division crown; I want home field advantage for the joy of watching CC Sabathia dominate in the Bronx.

With 32 games left and seven against Tampa Bay, the Yankees just need to win. They’re not yet guaranteed a playoff spot, but their October Magic Number is a cool 26. Even without bragging rights on the line, they need to gain that home field advantage for another run at a World Series trophy. The longer the standings remain knotted at the top, the more of an edge Tampa Bay gains, and so it is time to just keep on winning.

Categories : Playoffs

79 Comments»

  1. We’re all going to laugh about this when the Rays come to YS3 for the four-game Monday-to-Thursday set September 20th-23rd down a game and drop 3 of 4 to a healthy and fully stocked Yankees club, burying them in a three game hole they can’t climb out of.

  2. Jose the Satirist says:

    but their October Magic Number is a cool 26.

    Is the uniform countdown making a return this year?

  3. Related discussion question: should HFA be determined by a division win or best record? I think it should be the latter. If the WC team has a better record than the division winner it faces, it should play at home. Agree? Disagree?

  4. KofH says:

    What about Swish? Seems like he’s not 30-5 away/home like last year.

    • Home: .285/.356/.482 in 253 PA with 11 HR
      Road: .303/.377/.557 in 278 PA with 13 HR

      His BABIP is .032 higher on the road than at home which can explain a lot of the difference in the two lines this year.

  5. Rob says:

    I’ll gladly take the Wild Card. In fact, let the Rays have it and rest the old guys. I’d much rather face the Twins than the Cliff Lee All-Stars. The Wild Card gets the best Division winner and the Twins have the better balanced team and an easier road.

  6. Hughesus Christo says:

    We’re the effing Yankees. We fear no man, nor Ranger, nor Twin, nor Ray (Devil or otherwise).

  7. bexarama says:

    Honestly, while I think Ben has good points in this article (though the hitting in Tampa thing is likely a SSS), I don’t think one of the reasons we should be worrying about the division/WC is what team we play. I mean, I was dying to play the fading Tigers in 2006, and look what happened.

    Also, at this point in time, the Rangers’ and Twins’ records are too close to definitively say what team gets the ALE winner and what team gets the WC winner. And I think both teams are really good, but we’ve handled both well, so it’s not an issue there.

    We beat whoever we play, though. >:D

    • Steve O. says:

      We beat whoever we play, though. >:D

      You’re right, Bexy, but the easier road is much better than the hard one. Liriano and Lee is a wash, but the Rangers rotation and bullpen >>>>>> Twins Rotation and bullpen. Combine that with a Morneau-less lineup, and they’re easily the weaker target.

      • Rangers post ASB team ERA: 3.79
        Twins post ASB team ERA: 3.50

        The worm is turning. C.J. Wilson is the only Rangers starter with a sub 3.00 ERA; Harden is the only other one under 4.00. Cliff Lee and Colby Lewis have been utterly meh lately, Hunter/Feldman/Holland have been much worse.

        The Twins, meanwhile, back up Liriano with an effective Pavano (3.41 ERA post-break), Scott Baker (3.83), Brian Duensing (2.83), and Kevin Slowey (3.79). And their Capps/Fuentes/Guerrier/Crain/Rauch/Mahay/Manship bullpen is just as stout as Texas’s.

        • bexarama says:

          That, I have no idea why people are writing off the Twins other than that we usually own them. I feel like we could handle their pitching better than Texas’, but it’s just a gut thing.

          And Steve, you kind of missed the original point of my post, that people have been saying “Win the division = we play Minnesota and that’s easier.” I think there are definite advantages to winning the division, but right now, the potential opponent isn’t really one of them. For one, their records are too close to definitively say who’d face the WC and who’d face the ALE winner, and for another, I think they’re both very good teams.

          Actually, if the playoffs started tonight, we’d be playing Minnesota… as the Wild Card. I could possibly be wrong on that, but I think it’s true :X

          • Actually, if the playoffs started tonight, we’d be playing Minnesota… as the Wild Card. I could possibly be wrong on that, but I think it’s true :X

            You are wrong on that, yes.

            The playoffs don’t start tonight, they start October 5th.

            /deliberate’d

          • Mike HC says:

            You are right that it is too close predict how it will play out. The Yanks should just be focused on winning games and getting/staying healthy.

            But if you had to choose an opponent, I think Minn is the pick. If only for the fact that you would avoid having to travel to Texas, which is a more taxing trip than to Minn. I think travel plays a big role in a Texas vs New York series.

        • Steve H says:

          Power pitching wins in the playoffs though. I’d personally rather face the Twins, especially considering Morneau might be out for the year.

  8. Cam says:

    It’s amazing that Hughes has almost half of all those HRs allowed at home.

  9. Anthony says:

    Where is the magic number countdown on the sidebar?

  10. Anthony says:

    Jesus Montero should be called up right away. With the world ending in 2012 it doesn’t matter if his clock is started now.

  11. Mike HC says:

    I think it is a relative big deal to win the division. There is still respect and honor in winning the division, rather than being the wild card team. Plus, winning the division means you had a better team throughout the regular, even if only by a game or two. I would like to think the Yanks were the best regular season team in the league. And home field advantage of course. There is plenty to play for and win even with a playoff spot all but locked up.

    • Anthony says:

      I think it’s more important to have all of your players ready to go and healthy for the postseason then whether you finish the season as the division winner or wild card winner. It would definetely be a bonus to win the division, but as long as this season ends up with #28, that’s all that matters.

      • Agreed.

        There’s honor in winning the division, yes, but the ultimate honor is winning it all, and you can win it all either as a division champ or as a wild card. Either route is honorable.

      • Mike HC says:

        How much does staying healthy have to effect winning games. In reality, only Jeter, ARod and Posada should even be in the discussion on sitting games and resting for the postseason, and even then, how many do they really need to miss. Maybe sit once or twice a piece in September.

        I highly doubt the Yanks start aggressively resting guys, more than they have been, if they are in the middle of a pennant race. I just don’t see it. Winning the division does mean something.

    • Hughesus Christo says:

      I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I wish I did. In my mind the Yankees and Rays have had the playoffs locked up since Pedroia’s foot exploded.

  12. Steve H says:

    I would actually rather face the Rangers in Texas, since Cliff Lee cannot pitch in hot weather. Also, since Lee hates Texas and already considers himself a Yankee, he’ll probably just tank it and allow the Yankees to win.

    /Cowherd’d

  13. Anthony says:

    http://www.bostondirtdogs.com/ Look at the 1st picture on the front page. Even the Red Sox fans know they are done after the series against the Rays.

    • bexarama says:

      It’s Boston Dirt Dogs. They are really dumb. They went from calling Tex a “Portuguese prince who Boston will love” or something like that when it looked like he was going to sign with them, to “an overrated DH-type” when he signed with the Yankees.

  14. nsalem says:

    Yankees are 0-3 as wild card entrants. It is arguable that having the HFA may have yielded different results in 1995 and 1997. Though we were the Division Champs in 2005, we lost the HFA because Torre didn’t think it was necessary go all out to win game 162 and we lost a close game 5 to the Angels in the Hanky House (Thanks Joe). It would obviously be much nicer to be at home. The Game 5′s in Seattle, Cleveland and Anaheim were not very pleasant.

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