For better, for worse
Home field advantage has always been present in baseball, but not to the degree it is in other sports. That may be changing. This year there are a number of teams with lopsided records: dominant at home, but sub-500 on the road. Last season, four of the six division winners were above .500 on the road, and the two that weren't finished only one game under. Of the current six division leaders, four have losing marks on the road. The two most lopsided records belong to the Tampa Bay Rays and the Chicago White Sox. The Rays are 43-17 at home, but only 23-28 on the road. The White Sox are 61-49 at home, but only 26-33 on the road.
The home team is winning 55.4 percent of the time in '08, which is a little above historical averages. They are scoring about half a run more per game than the visitors -- the cumulative home ERA is 3.99 versus a 4.53 ERA for the visitors. Home teams are hitting .270, versus .255 for the visitors. Home field advantage is more pronounced in 2008 than it has been in years. Compare the home/away splits in ERA and batting averages with last season and also with a composite of the five prior seasons in the chart to the right.
It's clear that the home teams are pitching and hitting better than they did last year. But, what's so different about this year? The most plausible theory is the absence of amphetamines. For decades, ballplayers used drugs, both over-the-counter and the prescription variety to get them through a grueling 162-game season.
The coast-to-coast road trips, day games after night games and the long season may well be taking their toll on unmedicated major leaguers. This is something to remember when making out your fantasy lineups. A good pitcher becomes an excellent pitcher when facing fatigued hitters.
In weekly fantasy leagues, you look for two-start pitchers who can slide into your rotation. However, if the two starts are on the road, you could be better off with a one-start pitcher at home. I'll take one start from
When you factor in the home/away splits, you can find some bargain pitchers on the free-agent wire. The bargains who enjoy home cooking are "For Better". Every fantasy team has a pitcher or two that travel about as well as a colicky baby. These (over-valued?) pitchers are "For Worse" due to their shaky road records.