Why home field is huge for these 3 teams

August 24th, 2019

With more than a month remaining in the regular season, three teams have all but locked up division titles.

Entering Saturday, the Dodgers (85-45) held a 20 1/2 game lead over the D-backs, with 100% odds of winning the National League West, according to FanGraphs. The Astros (83-47) had a 7 1/2-game lead over the A’s and 99.4% odds to take the American League West, while the Yankees (84-46) had an eight-game lead over the Rays and 99.0% odds in the AL East.

But even if these three clubs clinch first place, there will still be something to play for down the stretch. Final records would determine home-field advantage in a potential AL Championship Series matchup between Houston and New York, as well as in a World Series battle between either of those clubs and Los Angeles.

Home-field advantage isn’t everything. But it takes on some added significance here, because of this fact: The 2019 Dodgers, Astros and Yankees have been, to this point, three of the five most successful home teams of the Wild Card era.

Best single-season home records
Since 1995 (Through Thursday)

  1. 1998 Yankees: 62-19 (.765)

2T) 2019 Dodgers: 51-17 (.750)
2T) 1995 Indians: 54-18 (.750)
4) 2019 Astros: 47-16 (.746)
5) 2019 Yankees: 49-20 (.710)

The Cubs (44-20, .688) are not far behind, but their struggles on the road (25-39) have them in a tight battle for the NL Central, and eight games behind the Braves for home-field advantage in a potential NL Division Series.

So let’s focus on this top trio. Going all the way back to when divisional play began in 1969, the Dodgers own the third-best home winning percentage, even after Friday night’s series-opening loss at Dodger Stadium against none other than the Yankees.

L.A., which notched its MLB-high 12th walk-off win Thursday against Toronto, trails only two all-time great teams in that span. The “Big Red Machine” Reds of 1975 (.790 at home) went 108-54 overall and won the World Series over the Red Sox, while the 1998 Yankees won 114 games and swept the Padres in the Fall Classic.

The 2019 Astros and Yankees rank fifth and 12th in the divisional era, respectively, entering Saturday's games. The Astros, who are hosting the Angels this weekend and won Friday's opener, have won 19 of their last 22 at Minute Maid Park. New York dropped six of its first nine games in the Bronx but has slugged its way to a 46-14 record there since, while losing back-to-back contests just once.

It’s the Dodgers who have been by far the most dominant home team, however.

Entering Saturday, they've scored 366 runs at Chavez Ravine (5.4 per game) and allowed just 218 (3.2 per game), giving them a plus-148 run differential that's inside the top 40 all-time with 13 home contests still remaining on the schedule. The Dodgers’ Pythagorean winning percentage of .721 at home -- based on their runs scored and allowed -- is the highest by any team since the championship-winning 1942 Cardinals (.751).

Highest single-season run differential per home game
Since 1995 (Through Friday)
1) 2019 Dodgers: +2.18 runs
2) 2001 Mariners: +2.01 runs
3-T) 2015 Blue Jays: +1.95 runs
3-T) 1998 Yankees: +1.95 runs
5) 1998 Astros: +1.83 runs
12) 2019 Astros: +1.68 runs
26) 2019 Yankees: +1.43 runs

The Yankees (35-26), Dodgers (34-28) and Astros (36-31) all rank in the top eight in the Majors in road record, too. These are good teams, period, regardless of where they are playing.

But is there something in particular that is making them historically good at home? Keep in mind that just last season, the Dodgers were better on the road (.580) than at home (.549). The Astros were far better away from Minute Maid Park (.704), and in fact finished with the best road record of any team since the 2001 Mariners.

These things fluctuate, and of course, having home field guarantees nothing. It was just two Octobers ago that the Astros won a World Series Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, and that’s not an unusual result. Home teams are just 13-19 in Game 5 of the Division Series, and 30-26 in Game 7 of any best-of-seven playoff series.

This postseason could put the comforts of home to the test for these three clubs. The Astros, Dodgers and Yankees have found great success in their own ballparks all season long, and soon those venues will be hosting some highly important games.