Buster Olney — or, rather, his research guy Kenton Wong — notes today that since the advent of divisional series play, the team with home field advantage in the divisional series has won
just 31 of the 60 series (25 of 48 since it changed to a 2-2-1 format in 1998). Since the advent of the LCS in 1969, teams with home-field advantage are 39-41. So yeah, maybe home field advantage isn’t that huge of an advantage.
Which goes against our predispositions — as well as some pretty major home-road splits by some teams this season — which hold that home cookin’ does a baseball game good. I’m not sure anyone can come up with a great explanation for this, but here’s my stab:
The thing that gives you home field advantage is the better overall record. The thing that gives you the better overall record over the course of a long, long season is depth, both in the rotation and otherwise. That depth, however, is seriously overrated in the postseason when you can do crazy things like lean on a couple of hot relievers and top starters, rather than go five deep, day-in-day-out. Meanwhile, the teams without home field probably had to fight tooth-and-nail to get their playoff spot, and thus were on more of a playoff footing longer, relying on a couple of top guys.
There might be a dozen things wrong with that, but I can’t do any better. Well, I could cite random chance, but people really, really hate when you do that when talking about baseball.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: