Monday, January 17, 2011

Home Field Advantage Update

I just read an article about home field advantage in Sports Illustrated titled "What's Really Behind Home Field Advantage?" by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim.  They have also co-authored the book titled Scorecasting, which I think I might purchase soon.  I couldn't find the article I read online anywhere otherwise I would post a link although they do have a new article outThe Curse of the #1 Draft Pick on the Sports Illustrated website.  Back to the point.  They took four of the most popular myths of home field advantage and basically disproved the myths.  It really is quite the article, just a damn that Auburn is on the front cover.  If you really want to read I may be able to scan and send via e-mail.
Myth #1: Home Teams Win Because Their Crowds Boost Players' Performance
To eliminate this myth they took a look at all situations that isolated one player and the crowd (free throws, shootouts, punts, field goals and pitch accuracy).  They proved that these statistics are nearly identical no matter home or away.  Example in NBA free throw percentage for away teams is 75.9% and for home teams.....75.9%.  Because I am trying to keep this somewhat brief I will move on.
Myth #2:  Home Teams Win Because The Rigors Of Travel Doom Visitors
This is a popular myth and one that I thought might be a factor but they analyzed a TON of games and compared the win percentages of typical away teams to "away" teams playing in their own city or stadium (Lakers vs Clippers, White Sox vs Cubs, etc.) and the numbers once again were nearly identical.  I often times think of the west coast teams losing on the east coast in the NFL as an example of this, but if you think about it east coast teams are a lot better as of late in the NFL.  Every NFL game this past weekend was played east of the Mississippi.
Myth #3:  Home Teams Win Because They Benefit From a Kinder, Gentler Schedule
Moskowitz basically said that scheduling benefits occur in certain sports like college football and basketball with powder puffs, or "little sister's of the poor" as Ohio State's President would say, but not in other sports like baseball, soccer and the NFL so it doesn't provide any explanation at all across the board.
Myth #4:  Home Teams Benefit From Unique "Home" Characteristics
They used to statistics to prove that home teams in cold-weather climates playing at home and warm-weather teams playing at home in those particular conditions are no more likely to win that the average home field advantage.  They also dispelled the myth that teams tailor their teams to meet the dimensions of their ballparks.  Teams from "hitting ballparks" batted no better than teams from "pitching ballparks".
It all comes down to officiating.  They started with soccer and analyzed extra time.  Across the board in every sport home teams had a significant advantage in penalties, strikeouts, walks, etc.  They also analyzed when the games weren't in doubt such as teams up by multiple touchdowns, runs, etc. and games that were crucial like tie ballgames, bases loaded and two outs.  In the blowout situations the home team advantage disappeared and in the crucial situations it improved.  They also provided statistics to prove that the larger the crowd the more advantage the home team had with referee decisions.  Example: A meaningless baseball game between Pittsburgh and San Diego isn't going to have as much home field advantage as Boston or New York.  Probably the most telling study they did came from the QuesTec cameras implemented in several ballparks.  In those ballparks, in which the umpires realized the cameras were present, the home field advantage in strikeouts and walks not only disappeared but actually slightly favored the away team.
Psychologists refer to the powerful effect popular opinion has on people as conformity.  It influences peoples behavior without them even realizing it.  Even being placed in a secluded room soccer officials proved a bias when just the crowd noise was played on a TV.  They did not provide a bias to the home team when the sound was muted.  Wow.
My Take
You need to read the article.  It is pretty unbelievable how accurate they make their hypothesis appear.  It also makes it seem like hour after hour of our lives have been wasted analyzing the effects of home field or court and how important it is for athletes to play at home because they play better.  Moral of story: That is BS.  It all comes down to officiating.  I guess I'm glad that the Bears will have the zebra's on their side, but it still doesn't explain why the foul count in the 8th grade girl's basketball "B" game I coached the other night had an 11 to 1 foul ratio in favor of the AWAY team.  Now THAT is BS.  

1 comment:

  1. Any chance you can email me a copy of the scanned article? I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!