The World Series stands at a game apiece for the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs. Cubs fans are hoping the fact that Games 3, 4, and 5 are going to be at Wrigley Field will guarantee a sweep and — potentially — the first World Series title for their long-suffering team. Science would argue that they’re not delusional.
NeoSmart Technologies, a Chicago-based private research firm, analyzed the 145-year-old grand tradition of baseball to figure out whether, indeed, the home field advantage exists, at least in America’s national pastime. They analyzed 210,719 games, and came to some pretty surprising conclusions.
The blue, wavy line above shows home wins for teams, and the solid line below that is at the 50 percent line — the probability a team will win or lose. Home teams generally win above the 50 percent line, which indicates the home field advantage is in effect. The other green line represents the probability that a team plays better at home rather than away; as we can see, that line is pretty steadily in the positive zone (although who knows what happened in 1875).
And as the firm points out:
[T]he average over the past 145 years has been for teams to win 54.7% of the games they played at home, and to win some 21.3% more games at home than away. For the 2015 season, teams on [sic] won 54% of their home games giving them a home field advantage of a whopping 17.88%.
In other words, the home field advantage myth is not fake at all, suggesting it really does help to feel like you’ve got your biggest fans behind you. When a team wins 54 percent of its games at home, it’s guaranteed a win once every 12.5 games, not because it’s a better team, but simply because it’s playing on home turf.
On the flip side, it sucks to be the rival team on enemy turf — a team is going to lose once every 13 games played away.
So, how does this play out for the Cubs and the Indians?
The Cubs have a slightly higher win rate at home than away, clocking in at 55 percent. That should be advantageous, but lo and behold, the Indians boast a higher win rate on away games than the Cubs do, at 47 percent compared to the Chicago team’s 46 percent. It means that while the Cubs are back home at Wrigley for a few straight games, and can enjoy all the sweet perks that comes with, the Indians aren’t too bad at fighting back. In fact, they are one of the best teams at playing away — and winning. And the “Friendly Confines” of Wrigley Field has a double-edged sword in its Midwestern niceness, with the stadium being the fifth-“kindest” park for visiting teams.
But don’t worry, Cubs fans. Sure, the Indians are good at scoring a win away, and the teams are neck-in-neck in this World Series, but a few science-approved superstitions and a prophecy (added to the fact that the team is far and away the best team in the MLB — unbiased opinion here) has the lovable Cubbies pegged at a 62 percent chance for winning the series.
Photos via NeoSmart Technologies, Getty Images / Jamie Squire