Did Oakland's towel waving really distract Miguel Cabrera?
Fans of a few teams cried foul during the 2012 Division Series, upset over the newly implemented format regarding home-field advantage. But if you think it made any difference, you are mistaken.
In fact, the home field played no advantage to either team.
Let's analyze the four series that took place under the new format to see the effects of playing at home for three games after starting the first two on the road.
Note: The old format consisted of two games at home and two on the road, and Game 5 was at home.
Yankee Stadium saw odd declines in attendance, especially during playoffs.
The New York Yankees had home-field advantage against the Baltimore Orioles.
Starting two games in Baltimore did not affect the Yanks. They smashed the Orioles in the first game, 7-2. The Orioles then squeaked one out in Game 2 with a final score of 3-2.
The series shifted to New York tied.
The Yankees then produced a 3-2 walk-off win thanks to Raul Ibanez in Game 3. If you want to attribute his two home runs to Yankee Stadium dimensions, you might be able to. Right field is just 353 feet out, and down the line is only 314 feet out.
Still, the Orioles have left-handed batters and switch-hitters in their lineup too, so there's nothing to stop them from taking advantage of the short fence.
The O's won Game 4 in extras before the Bronx Bombers closed out the series at home in front of an embarrassingly low (for the Yankees and for postseason) crowd.
Advantage Factor: Slim to no effect on either team.
The rampant towel waving didn't stop Verlander.
The Oakland Athletics had home-field advantage for their series against the Detroit Tigers.
Beginning in Detroit, the A's quickly fell to an 0-2 hole before heading back west. Loud chants of "MVP" can overwhelm rookie pitchers when facing Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Pressure builds, and before you know it, young fielders make errors that allow cheap runs for the Tigers.
On the other hand, the A's strike out a lot, and the first two pitchers they faced—Justin Verlander and Doug Fister—have strikeout ability. This makes one think that even at home, the A's would have fared the same.
Returning to Oakland, the A's then had to win three games straight. It wasn't unheard of; they had just done it against the Texas Rangers, a seemingly more difficult opponent.
They won the first two before losing for the second time in the series to Verlander.
Let's return back to the old format, though. Even at home, the A's likely would have lost to Verlander in Game 1. Say they beat Fister in Game 2, and now, they fly to Detroit for two games. They'd have to win both away games to finish off the Tigers. If they split, it's back to Oakland—and Verlander—for Game 5.
Advantage Factor: Very, very minimally in favor of the Tigers, if at all.
And in the end, only disappointment was left.
The Washington Nationals held the home-field advantage in the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals.
In Game 1 in St. Louis, the Nationals overcame the home team with a score of 3-2. In Game 2, they were drubbed by the Cards, 12-4.
In Game 3 in Washington, the Nationals were beaten badly yet again, 8-0. Then, they barely beat the Cardinals 2-1.
It came down to Game 5 at Nationals Park. Both wins were close; both losses were blowouts. What would Game 5 hold?
It held a 9-7 loss after the Nationals were leading with two outs in the top of the ninth. In front of their home crowd, the Nationals were one strike away from advancing to the NLCS (three times) and still lost.
Advantage Factor: None whatsoever to either team.
Neither the rally towel or hat would help.
The Cincinnati Reds owned home-field advantage for the NLDS matchup which pitted them against the San Francisco Giants.
This one is pretty easy to communicate.
In two games at AT&T Park, Cincinnati—the away team—won both games. They returned to the Great American Ballpark needing just one win to advance.
Home-field advantage should have helped.
But it was the away team yet again—this time, the Giants—who won every game. With a 3-2 lead in the series, the NLDS finished, sending San Francisco to the next round.
Advantage Factor: Maybe the reverse, if any. But seriously, there was literally no effect.
Did fans overshadow momentum? No.
Three out of four teams with home-field advantage lost. This would lead to the assumption that the new format is unfair and should be changed back.
Yet, the teams seemed to be evenly and fairly matched in each case.
And in all three of the cases in which the home team lost, there's an easy explanation. The A's faced fantastic pitching and struck out too much—something they would have done, no matter what. The Nationals clearly were not the better team against the Cardinals. The Reds had three home games to close out a series and couldn't.
Was there a true home-field advantage? No.
But did the setup provide a disadvantage to those teams who should have received an edge? No.
The format played no part in deciding the winners and losers.