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Home Field Advantage in the MLB
by: Proloy Bhattacharyya

Of all the major sports, baseball is known for not having a great home field advantage. During the regular season, astute bettors will prey upon bookies by betting on teams that are in situations where the home field advantage is extreme.

Home teams win on average 53.6% of the time. This translates to a 7.2% advantage over road teams which is a smaller disparity compared to basketball and football.

Home teams in bootball and basketball feed off of their home town fans and are motivated. With baseball, it is most appropriate to try to find situations in which baseball teams will be more motivated.

Consider the Red Sox are 51-15 + 29 units the past 3 seasons at home off a home loss. Over the same span and angle, the Rangers are 47-33 +17 units and the Braves are 52-20 +20 units. These are 3 such teams that have a strong home field advantage given this situation. Because baseball is such an unpopular sport with bettors and this angle does not apply to all teams, the oddsmakers have not had to adjust on a situation as this.

Those 3 teams alone combined for 150-68, +66 units. This means that to even it out, the spread would have to be adjusted 30 points. So instead of being -130, the team would have to be -160. Instead of being +145, they would have to be +115. This is considerable in the eyes of most bettors. The normal home field advantage is already taken into account in the spread but it is the handicapper's job to find profitable situations in which the home field advantage is higher and capitalize on it.


Home teams perform completely differently during the first half of the baseball season and the last half. I analyze baseball games differently based on which half of the season it is and I will demonstrate one such disparity.

Baseball is a long drawn out season with so many games that the best effort from teams generally do not surface until the latter half of the season. As a result, the home field advantage is stronger during the first half of the season.

Over the past 6 seasons, baseball's home teams have won 54.6% of their games during the first 81 games of the season ( including 55.8% this season ). During the second half of the season, baseball's home teams have only won an average of 53.0% of their games. Although a 1.6% difference may not seem major, it still represents a 3.2% drop to a home team's advantage. Also, first half home records have not been below 53% in any of the past 6 seasons.

If we only take into account division rivals, the home field advantage drops by exactly 4% from the first half of the season to the second.

This indicates that one ought to first try to find profitable road teams during the second half of the season. So far this season, road teams in the second half of the season are 179-153, +54.3 units. Last season they were 319-353, +16 units. Decreasing the sample size to a smaller number of games can really yield huge profits for any bettor.


Then I wanted to apply a few handicapping principles that we generally apply to the NBA such as the betting against a team on zero-days rest angle.

Home teams in the first game of a series are 54.4% winners if their opponent is playing back-to-back days but only 52.8% if their opponent has had 1 or more days rest. This is a significant advantage that is averaged over approximately 5000 games.

If we condition this fact on our team not having to travel because its previous game was at home, the percentage increases to 975-801, 54.9%. In fact, blindly betting home teams in this situation is +26 units over the past 6 years. Because of the large number of games in baseball, even simple angles such as these do not get factored into the spread as they should.

As my "YTD Home Favorite Money Line Records" piece suggested, home teams perform much better against non-divisional rivals than against divisional rivals. Utilizing that knowledge, we improve this system to 55.6%, +39 units.

American League favorites that fall into this system are 226-113 (66.7%), +56 units over the past 6 seasons with no losing seasons. Even though this is coincidental




 



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