Fenway Park in Boston, home of the Red Sox and probably best known to Australian readers for its role in Good Will Hunting, is one of the toughest places for visiting players.
Or at least that’s what this headline says. The article goes on to say… well, almost nothing.
The 2013 Major League Baseball playoffs are now in full swing, and since the March 31 players have been subjected to 162 regular season games and, doubtless, just as many interviews – if not double or treble that number. And still, Ian Browne hasn’t been able to find any quotes to support the headline. (If you want 2 minutes and 42 seconds of your life to evaporate, watch the video that accompanies the article – a kind of information vacuum into which questions are poured and come back mangled into a kind of language blancmange. The issue of Fenway’s powers doesn’t even come up.)
The closest to some real evidence was this:
Browne says: The Red Sox had the best home record (53-28) in the American League this season. (The Major League is made up of two 15-team Leagues – the National league and the American League. Epic history of this is on Wikipedia or most enjoyably here.)
Statsman says: the lower end of the 95% confidence interval for the Red Sox’s win percentage brings in any team with 44 or more wins – six American League teams are inside it. (Also, in a less geeky rebuttal, 2 teams in the National League won more games at home.) But isn’t this all irrelevant anyway? Shouldn’t home ground magical powers should be measured by how many more games are won at home than away? Otherwise all you might be measuring is whether a team is – what’s the word? Oh yeah – “good”. The Red Sox’s +10 puts them behind 9 other teams in the Major League (and who knows how many within the confidence interval… the argument is dead, it’s not worth bothering to find out).
Browne says: They hit better at home (.285 average, .819 OPS in the regular season and postseason combined) than on the road (.269, .773), and they also pitched markedly better at Fenway (3.54 ERA, .687 OPS against) than in enemy territory (3.99/.729).
Statsman says: At least Browne has made this into a comparison. You don’t even need to know what all the abbreviations mean to ask: what do the same stats look like, league-wide? If only he’d had the time or inclination to find out.
Browne says: And here’s an interesting tidbit heading into Saturday’s game. The Red Sox are 5-0 all-time in Game 6 at Fenway. The most memorable of those five triumphs was the epic contest against the Reds in 1975, when Bernie Carbo hit a pinch-hit three-run homer in the eighth, and Carlton Fisk hit the foul pole in the 12th.
Statsman says: Is that what passes for an interesting tidbit these days? How about this instead. If home teams in the playoffs have a 54-46 edge in general (as discussed here), then the probability of five “straight” wins in Game Sixes is just 4.5% (or 0.045). But there are seven potential experiments here, from Games One through to Seven. If the chance of “five straight” is 0.045, the chance of no “five straights” amongst Games One to Seven is (1 – 0.045)7 = 0.719. So the tasty tidbit we’re being offered is something that can be expected to happen about 28% of the time. Stunner!
You have to feel for MLB.com just a little (as much as you can for a multi-billion dollar company). They have to fill – or feel the need to fill? – their website with thousands and thousands of articles every year. No wonder they resort to this contentless dreck. But it’s a shame that this sort of writing doesn’t acknowledge the genuine research that goes into things like the impact of home ground (or as Americans would have it, “home-field”) advantage – on sites like the Bleacher Report, to name just one.
Maybe Fenway really is tough for visiting teams – I don’t know. If I ever run into Ian Browne and we have to awkwardly start a conversation, at least not knowing will be something we have in common, and act as a bit of an an ice-breaker.
Now, back to the MLB.com videos. One of the reporters might ask about the Higgs-Boson particle, and if the answer is something about giving 100% on every play, the universe might really collapse in on itself via the website…Follow @newstatsman