Is the All-Star Game Awarding Home-Field Advantage Changing the World Series?

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Is the All-Star Game Awarding Home-Field Advantage Changing the World Series?

Here's a fun fact about the All-Star Game deciding home-field advantage in the World Series: It was initially conceived as an experiment.

It's true. When Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed in 2003 to give the change a try, they only agreed to try it for two years, as Murray Chass of The New York Times reported.

Well, the two-year experiment has been going on 10 years now, and Tuesday night's rendition of the Midsummer Classic will make it No. 11. We've come far enough to ask the question: 

Has the World Series actually been impacted in any significant way in the last 10 years? Is the home-field advantage aspect of the Midsummer Classic changing the Fall Classic?

Short answer: No, not really. That's what became clear once I took a closer look at things, anyway.

For now, we can start by noting this: Since the All-Star Game started deciding home-field advantage in the World Series in 2003, the team with home-field advantage in the World Series is 7-3. That record might suggest that home-field advantage in the World Series counts for too much.

But then there's this to consider: In the 20 World Series before the rule went into effect, teams with home-field advantage in the Fall Classic went 17-3.

That's an .850 winning percentage against a .700 winning percentage, so, if anything, home-field advantage in the World Series has actually become less of a factor in the last decade.

Where things get tricky, however, is when you consider where the home-field advantage would have been each year under the old rules, which called for home-field advantage to alternate between the American League and the National League each year.

Here's a quick look at where home-field advantage in the World Series ended up, where it would have gone under the old rules and which league emerged victorious.

Year Earned HFA Would've Had HFA Winner
 2003  AL  NL  NL 4-2
 2004  AL  AL   AL 4-0
 2005   AL  NL   AL 4-0
 2006   AL  AL   NL 4-1
 2007   AL  NL   AL 4-0
 2008   AL  AL   NL 4-1
 2009   AL  NL   AL 4-2
 2010   NL  AL   NL 4-1
 2011   NL   NL   NL 4-3
 2012   NL   AL   NL 4-0

You'll notice that I emboldened the years in which home-field advantage went to a league other than the one it would have gone to under the old rules. In 10 years, there have been six such incidents.

That's a lot, and it doesn't look good that the team that would have had home-field advantage is just 1-5 in these six incidents. That indicates that the All-Star Game has robbed some teams of a chance at a World Series victory.

But then one takes a closer look at the five series in question...

 

2005 World Series: Chicago White Sox defeat Houston Astros 4-0

G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

The Astros would have had home-field advantage in the 2005 World Series under the old rules, and they certainly could have used it.

The White Sox were the clearly superior regular-season team with 99 wins to Houston's 89, but the Astros had a superior home record. In fact, Houston's 53-28 home record was tied for second best in MLB in '05. If the Astros had had home-field advantage, the White Sox might not have looked so mighty.

When you look at how the series unfolded, however, it's hard to imagine how home-field advantage for the Astros would have resulted in a different outcome. They and the White Sox didn't play a seven-game classic in which home-field advantage was a deciding factor. The White Sox swept the Astros in four straight, outhitting them (.847 OPS to .643 OPS) and certainly outpitching them (2.63 ERA to 4.58 ERA) in the process.

At the time, it looked like the better team had won, plain and simple. It still looks that way in retrospect, and the same is true of the next World Series in this discussion.

 

2007 World Series: Boston Red Sox defeat Colorado Rockies 4-0

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

What we have here is more or less the opposite of the 2005 World Series. This is not so much a case of the team that would have had home-field advantage really needing it so much as it is a case of the team that actually got it not needing it.

The Red Sox were a better team than the Rockies in the regular season in 2007, winning 96 games to Colorado's 90. The Red Sox also had a superior home record, winning more games at home than all but two other teams. As such, the Red Sox didn't really need the leg up. 

But sort of like with the 2005 World Series, it's hard to imagine how things would have been any different if the Rockies had had home-field advantage instead. They were outplayed by a superior team, and it was all over very quickly as the Red Sox swept.

This next World Series is where things finally get interesting.

 

2009 World Series: New York Yankees defeat Philadelphia Phillies 4-2

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Sort of like the 2007 Red Sox, the 2009 Yankees really didn't need home-field advantage in the World Series. In addition to the best overall record in MLB, they also had the best home record.

It thus would have been awfully nice for the Phillies if they had gotten home-field advantage, and the fact that they didn't get swept makes one begin to ponder what might have been...

But only for a moment. 

The Phillies were competitive in the 2009 Fall Classic from an offensive standpoint. They only got outscored by five runs (32 to 27) and actually had a higher team OPS than the Yankees (.782 to .725).

The problem was the Phillies' pitching, which posted a 5.37 ERA. And here's the kicker: Phillies pitchers were worse at Citizens Bank Park in the '09 World Series than they were at Yankee Stadium. They allowed 11 runs in three games in The Bronx, and a whopping 21 in three games in Philadelphia.

As such, you wonder whether more home games really would have been a good thing for the Phillies. The Yankees proved more than capable of handling them on their own turf.

We've got two more to go...

 

2010 World Series: San Francisco Giants defeat Texas Rangers 4-1

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When the National League finally won the All-Star Game in 2010, the Rangers found themselves in the same position the Astros were in back in 2005.

The Rangers would have had home-field advantage under the old rules, and they could have used it. They won two fewer games than the Giants in the regular season, but they had a better record at home.

But once again, it's hard to imagine how home-field advantage would have mattered. The deciding factor in the 2010 World Series was the Giants' pitching, and it was actually better against the Rangers in Arlington than it was in San Francisco.

In two games at AT&T Park, the Rangers scored seven runs. In three games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the Rangers mustered only five runs. 

So, again, we find ourselves looking at a case in which the better team won. The same would eventually be true of the 2012 World Series.

 

2012 World Series: San Francisco Giants defeat Detroit Tigers 4-0

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Our usual refrain applies here: The Tigers would have had home-field advantage under the old rules, and they could have used it.

The Tigers won six fewer games than the Giants last year, but they had a superior home record. They needed home-field advantage. Particularly from an offensive standpoint, as they scored 4.85 runs per game at home in 2012 to 4.11 on the road.

Sure enough, Detroit's bats went silent at AT&T Park in the first two games, as the Tigers scored only three runs, including being shut out in Game 2.

But the pattern held back in Detroit. The Tigers were shut out again in Game 3 and managed only three runs in Game 4, which the Giants won in extras to complete the sweep. Just as they did in 2010, the Giants proved that their pitching was superior anywhere.

There's also the reality that home-field advantage would have done nothing about the long layoff the Tigers had to deal with before the series. A long layoff rendered them flat and helpless in the 2006 World Series against the Cardinals, and it did the same in 2012.

That makes for an interesting wrinkle to this series, but the series itself is another that can be chalked up to the better team winning.

 

Adding It All Up

When I was preparing to dive into this humble little project, I knew full well ahead of time that I wasn't going to find what I was hoping for: a hard-fought World Series that was won by the team with home-field advantage that wouldn't have had it under the old rules.

The trouble is that there haven't been many hard-fought World Series in the last 10 years, period.

The only World Series in the last decade to go seven games was the 2011 Fall Classic between the Cardinals and Rangers, in which the Cardinals made good use of home-field advantage by taking Games 6 and 7 at Busch Stadium. But since they would have had home-field advantage under the old rules anyway, that series is sort of a non-factor.

What do you think? Has the World Series been the same since the All-Star Game started deciding home-field advantage?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Among the six series in which home-field advantage would have gone to the team other than the one that earned it in the All-Star Game, one team (the 2003 Marlins) rendered the point moot by winning, and there was only one remotely close series among the other five: the 2009 clash between the Yankees and Phillies. And in that series, home-field advantage may not have helped the Phillies due to how badly their pitchers were battered by Yankees hitters at Citizens Bank Park.

If there's an argument to be made, it's that having the All-Star Game decide home-field advantage in the World Series has helped usher in more short (i.e. "boring") World Series in the last 10 years. But if you'll pardon the attack, Mr. Straw Man, making that point would require one to ignore that the teams that have won the short World Series in the last decade have dominated on the road in addition to at home.

There's also this: The short World Series trend started before the All-Star Game began deciding home-field advantage, as the Yankees required only 13 games to win three straight World Series between 1998 and 2000. 

So here's where we find ourselves staring the original question in the face: Has the home-field advantage aspect of the All-Star Game had an impact? Based on what we've looked at, the answer is "no" more than it is "yes."

Maybe that's why MLB hasn't decided to kill the experiment yet. Maybe the league likes the "This time it counts" tagline and sees that it's not doing any noticeable damage, so it might as well carry on. 

Please don't excuse those words as a defense of the idea. I liked it initially, but it's run its course. If it were up to me, home-field advantage in the World Series would either go back to being an alternating affair or, better yet, just go to the team with the better record during the regular season.

But in the meantime, I guess it's good enough to be content with knowing that having the All-Star Game decide home-field advantage isn't ruining the World Series.

 

Note: Stats and records courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

 

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