Tuesday, March 01, 2005

THT Article Open Thread

...if you've got anything you want to say about this.

One of the explanations often given for homefield advantage on strikeouts and walks is the mound. Home club pitchers are more familiar with their mound and this familiarity allows for more control.

If this were true, wouldn't you see an improvement in K/BB for pitchers in say their second year over their first with a club, or by the second half of their first season? Should hold true for free agents and rookies -- either way they have to become accustom to the club's home mound. This should be calculable and comparable to players with long tenures with one club.
As far as the difference between home vs. road where balls and strikes are concerned, perhaps the fans deserve some credit. After all we are all emotional beings.

I think it would be interesting to see a home versus road study of free throws in the NBA to judge this effect. In that scenario all other variables such as officials and footing are removed.
Is there any credence to the "Sunday Starter" effect, where a team pushes pitchers up or back a day to get the star pitcher more appearances at home? Although they do this to draw more fans, a side effect might be that hitters face slightly tougher pitching while on the road.
A couple of questions:

Was there any analysis done to try and isolate the advantage of simply being able to act last?

If you took Colorado out of the NL home field advantage, how much closer would the two leagues be then?
one thing that struck me about your article was the relative insignificance of normalizing for foulouts as compared to balls and strikes. one would think, upon first glance, that foulouts would be a significant contribution to the home-field advantage because the home players know where the walls, bullpen mounds, and dugouts are better than the visitors.

so this data needs further explanation. the following may explain it, as well as provide some more insight on the effect of the renovations at chavez ravine. perhaps the once-expansive foul territory at dodger stadium helped to reduce the home team's advantage in this way:

the longer a batter stays at the plate, the likelier he is to succumb to a strikeout or work a walk. foul balls that reach the seats logically have the peculiar effect of contributing to both of these true outcomes; they prolong the at-bat, making the pitcher anxious about his pitch count (hence he will throw balls the batter cannot foul off), and they also may add a strike to the count.

therefore, the more foul balls that become souvenirs, the greater the opportunity for a strikeout or a walk. hence, the smaller a park's foul ground is, the more home field advantage will affect any given at-bat.

someone should do a study on the square footage of foul ground at each stadium and relate it to home winning percentage. i'm unemployed--maybe it should be me.

The foul outs are pretty much in line with the effect of airballs; both are pretty marginal since apparently the number of plays where familiarity with the park affects the fielder's ability to catch or field a fly ball or line drive is small. Also, foul outs are generally batter mistakes; I don't think the batter has an advantage in avoiding foul outs at home, the batter just benefits from the fielding defecit. Could be wrong, of course.


The answer to your first question would come from analyzing the difference between the w% with the BaseRuns/Pythagopat formula I used and the actual w% to see the concentration of wins. However, I decided not to spend any time on that since I'm not entirely sure what the effect of baserunning is - I know it's small, but I'd want to be able to quantify that before I sought to quantify the impact of batting last. I'm working on a ton of projects right now, but maybe that will come eventually...

Your question about Coors: it accounts for much of the AL/NL difference. I didn't note that in the article because when I checked it I forgot to take out the Rockies' numbers on the road, and so the overall HFA didn't change. About 2/3 of the league difference came from the Rockies in 02-04.
perhaps one reason the effect of foulouts appears marginal is that they cancel out the advantage the home team might have if the batter/pitcher is afforded another chance to get a walk/strikeout, respectively.

on another point, perhaps it is not the ability to act last, as r suggested, but the opportunity to pitch first:

anecdotally, it seems to me that umpires set their strike zones to the pitcher they see first in a ballgame. i noticed this in the cardinals-dodgers series last year, game one, where odalis perez did not get a lot of his borderline pitches because he threw quite a few that were down in the zone, as per usual, and the umpire had already been calling pitches that were up in the zone in the top of the first for the cardinals' pitcher (i don't remember who that was).

so what i'm saying is that perhaps the home team's pitcher gets to set the strike zone that the home plate umpire will use that day. it makes sense because the umpire is trying to be consistent, and can't have a strike zone for each team.
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