Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Home Field Advantage in the Super-Regionals About the author, Boyd Nation

Home Field Advantage in the Super-Regionals

Publication Date: June 12, 2007

I've identified a problem, but I don't have a solution. The good news is that the study that identifies the problem, while important, can be described briefly, so I have a little extra space. That's good news, because I want to gush a bit.

Standing in Dudy-Noble Field last Saturday, biting my nails and cheering supportively in sheer terror along with the 13,000+ other folks in attendance as Taylor Harbin came up with MSU holding a three-run lead with two men on in the ninth, after Harbin had missed a home run on his last at bat by about a foot, holding my two-year-old son as I got to continue his introduction to this big part of my life, and then screaming in sheer joy as Harbin chased a high Mitch Moreland fastball to end the game and send my Dogs to Omaha for the first time in the super-regional era was one of those transcendent moments that make life the wonderful, joyous thing that it is. That's why we follow this game, and that's why we should take every opportunity we can to make it even better.

Now, on to the numbery part. A good bit of TV time (did you know those guys have to talk all the time?) was spent on just how often the home team wins in the super-regional series. It's one of those questions that's not superficially obvious -- after all, they usually play the super at the home of the theoretically better team, so they should win, right? Well, not always, although they should certainly win more than they lose. It turns out, though, that we can define the question and find a solid, analytical answer:

If you take the ISR-based probabilities for each of the 72 super-regionals played to date, you can compute the expected number of wins for the home team if the series were played on neutral fields. In other words, each season, compute the ISR's to date (so later performance isn't factored in) before the supers, compute the probabilities for each home team winning, sum them all up, and see how that number compares to the actual results.

As it turns out, there is a significant home field advantage at work in the supers, even more so than in the regular season. Using the method above, I find that you would expect the home team to have won 45 times, which would be 63%. Instead, the home team has won 59 times, for 82%. That's a fairly substantial advantage.

Now, you could argue that there's an element of fairness at work there -- after all, shouldn't regular season success be worth something? There are two problems with that, though. First of all, there's already a reward at work in being seeded higher -- you get to play weaker competition -- so adding more of an advantage probably gives too much reward. Secondly, and more importantly, the current system is too dependent on the committee's evaluations of who's actually better, which is a bit suspect, especially in the sorts of fine-grained distinctions that happen at the super level.

As I said, though, I don't have a solution for this problem. The sport is not yet ready for true neutral-site locations, so that's not a workable solution. Tinkering with the rules is far too dangerous. Letting the visiting team bat last in all games makes sense, but they're already using that for some games, and it doesn't seem to matter much. This may just be one of those problems that we have to be aware of until we grow enough to find a solution.

Looking ahead to the ultimate neutral site, here are the ISR-based probabilities for each team in Omaha reaching and winning the championship series:

52/31  Rice
37/21  Arizona State
30/14  North Carolina
28/14  UC Irvine
19/ 8  Oregon State
16/ 7  Cal State Fullerton
13/ 4  Mississippi State
 5/ 1  Louisville

Pitch Count Watch

Rather than keep returning to the subject of pitch counts and pitcher usage in general too often for my main theme, I'm just going to run a standard feature down here where I point out potential problems; feel free to stop reading above this if the subject doesn't interest you. This will just be a quick listing of questionable starts that have caught my eye -- the general threshold for listing is 120 actual pitches or 130 estimated, although short rest will also get a pitcher listed if I catch it. Don't blame me; I'm just the messenger.

Date   Team   Pitcher   Opponent   IP   H   R   ER   BB   SO   AB   BF   Pitches
5/26 Binghamton Scott Diamond Maine 9.0 11 4 4 1 9 36 38 111
6/01 UC Riverside James Simmons Nebraska 7.1 7 4 3 2 3 30 33 133
6/01 Oklahoma State Oliver Odle Creighton 9.0 9 4 3 0 5 37 38 143
6/01 UCLA Tyson Brummett Pepperdine 8.2 9 3 3 1 6 36 38 129
6/01 North Carolina Robert Woodard Jacksonville 8.0 7 0 0 2 5 31 34 123
6/01 South Carolina Harris Honeycutt Wofford 7.0 5 1 1 4 7 23 30 122
6/01 UC Irvine Wes Etheridge Wake Forest 8.0 4 0 0 4 10 26 31 125
6/01 Brown Jeff Dietz Texas 7.0 14 5 5 4 3 32 36 131
6/01 Austin Peay State Shawn Kelley Vanderbilt 10.0 5 1 1 0 9 36 38 122
6/01 Vanderbilt David Price Austin Peay State 9.0 5 1 1 2 17 31 34 128
6/01 Arizona Preston Guilmet Oral Roberts 7.0 7 3 3 3 11 27 31 121
6/02 Ohio State Cory Luebke LeMoyne 10.0 8 5 5 0 7 36 40 132(*)
6/02 Oregon State Michael Stutes Virginia 6.1 5 3 3 6 9 24 33 132(*)
6/03 Nebraska Johnny Dorn UC Riverside 9.0 5 1 1 6 12 29 36 145
6/09 Cal State Fullerton Wes Roemer UCLA 9.0 9 2 2 0 7 34 36 125
6/09 UC Irvine Scott Gorgen Wichita State 9.0 8 0 0 3 7 31 34 141
6/09 Mississippi Will Kline Arizona State 8.2 11 4 4 2 7 34 38 132(*)

The Diamond count is a correction based on an actual pitch count.

(*) Pitch count is estimated. As always, I welcome actual pitch count corrections.

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