Game 16: New York Yankees
Another friend flew into New York today. Chris Goodman is also a Nelson College Old Boy whom I taught and coached. His family are good friends of Kitty and I so it was good to meet Chris and he will be sharing the Ramada Inn with us for the duration. He arrived early, so we thought that it would be a good idea to make our way to Yankee Stadium and meet up with Sam. We used the effective subway system and easily located Yankee Stadium. The country is currently in the middle of a heat wave and Chris’ mother, Trish, gave him the sage advice that he needed to keep his fluid intake up. We of course took her to her word and quickly located a watering hole, Billy’s Sports Bar and Grill.
It is a little bit of a shame that I was not making this trip four years earlier. That would have allowed us to see the original Yankee Stadium – the “House That Ruth Built”-which was an all-time classic, filled with memories of baseball legends and historic moments. There was some compensation in that today was Old Timers Day, where a number of the living legends of Yankee history were introduced to the crowd and played a game. I was especially pleased to be able to stand and applaud Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Joe Torre̒. They are all living legends that I had heard and read plenty about. In the searing heat the old boys were all giving a rousing reception and then had something like a Golden Oldies hit out. Not a pair of purple shorts in sight though.
The current Yankee Stadium was christened in 2009 with the franchise’s 27th world championship. It is located right across the street from the old stadium, and there is a kid’s baseball diamond on that original site. Echoes of the old stadium are found in the ballparks architecture as well exemplified with the re-creation of the classic frieze around the top of the upper deck and the exterior façade. There is an outstanding museum in the stadium which glorifies the heroes of the past, with all the World Series trophies on display and a great statue celebrating Don Larsen’s perfect game to win the 1956 championship. Despite all the reflections to Yankees history the stadium is thoroughly modern with large seats, plenty of leg room and concession stands.
After their slow start to the season the Yankees have rebounded well and are currently top of their very tough division. Likewise the White Sox are leading their division, the AL Central, so this promises to be a highly competitive game between two genuine contenders.
Chicago White Sox……..200 000 000 -2
New York Yankees .…..022 000 00x – 4
The Chicago White Sox came out of the gates with a hiss and a roar on a very hot day in the Bronx. The fixture was advertised as a sell-out, but as usual there were a few pockets of spare seats around. Yankees pitcher, Phil Hughes, had to weather a rough start. He allowed a leadoff double to Alejandro De Aza and just one batter later the White Sox had a lead after a Kevin Youkalis single.
The weird thing about this was that just last week I saw Youkalis playing in a Red Sox uniform. After having had a relatively slow start to the season where he had been batting at just over .210, a dearth of third base talent made him a desirable player in Chicago. Such are the swings and roundabouts of professional sport. Youk had been a long-time favourite with the Red Sox nation, so was roundly booed each time he took the plate here in New York.
Anyway, Youkalis himself eventually came around to score on a one out single by Alex Rios but that would be the extent of the White Sox offence, as Hughes found his accuracy and command to pitch right through to the eighth innings.
For New York, Robinson Cano clubbed a two run homer in the bottom of the second to tie the game up, as first baseman Mark Teixeira was on base at the time. Then in the very next innings Eric Chavez homered to allow Raul Ibanez to score as well and that was it as the pitchers took control. While a four to two score line does not sound that exciting, the large crowd were definitely enthralled, as the Yankees maintained their lead in the division.
The arena and the crowd here are quite intimidating for opposition. The Yankees have a very good record at home and this must surely be in some part due to external factors. It led me to do a little bit of research into home field advantage and how it affects games across a variety of sports.
While the home field advantage in baseball is relatively small, it still exists. This is especially so for the New York Yankees. Compared with other sports it is smaller, but it is definitely there. The following is a table showing home field advantage over a number of sports:
% of games won Years
By home teams
MLS (USA) 69.1 % 2002-2009
Serie A (Italy) 67.0 % 1993-2009
Central America 65.2 % 2001-2009
La Liga (Spain) 65.0 % 1993-2009
South America 63.6% 2003-2009
English Premier 63.1 % 1993-2009
Europe 61.9 % 2000-2009
Asia/Africa 60.0 % 2005-2009
NCAA (collegiate) 69.1 % 1947-2009
NBA 62.7 % 1946-2009
WNBA 61.7 % 2003-2009
International Cricket 60.1 % 1877-2009
International Rugby 58.0 % 1871-2009
NHL 59.0 % 1917-2009
NCAA (collegiate) 64.1 % 1869-2009
NFL 57.6 % 1966-2009
Arena Football 56.0 % 1987-2008
MLB 54.1 % 1903-2009
Source: Moskowitz Tobias J & Werthem L. Jon Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences behind How Sports are played and Games are won (2011). Page 112
In Moskowitz and Werthem’s book they discuss a number of assumptions surrounding sports and take an almost sabbermetric approach to their studies. As can be seen from the statistics there is an undoubted home advantage in a large number of sports. Even the sports administrators admit that there is an advantage by awarding home field advantage to teams that top qualification pools. Baseball in fact sets up the home field advantage by allowing the home team to bat last so that they always come to bat knowing exactly what they need to do to win the game.
In their book they then question why the home ground advantage exists. Using bona fide statistical evidence from a huge data they first discounted a number of “accepted conventional reasons”, including:
· Teams win at home because of crowd support
· Teams win at home because the rigours of travel doom the visitors
· Teams win at home because they benefit from a kinder schedule
· Teams win at home because they are built to take advantage of unique “home” advantages
So with each of these “truisms” despatched in order, why then does the home field advantage exist. With numerical evidence they argue that it is the bias of officials towards home teams that is most important in creating the advantage. They quote the example of soccer, using statistics from the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, German Bunesliga, Scottish League and MLS in America. In close games with the home team ahead the referees shortened injury time by 50 % compared to if they are behind. Likewise the number of yellow cards distributed to visiting teams is increased as are fouls and free kicks.
In baseball it turns out that home batters receive far fewer called strikes per called pitch than away batters do e.g. pitchers that do not require the batter swinging at the ball. Even more importantly the home batters get the benefit of the call in crucial game situations e.g. a full count of ball three, strike two, and on marginal calls such as pitches on the corner of the strike zone. We cannot expect umpires to be perfect and from my observation and from statistical evidence they get the calls right most of the time. But the errors that they do make are not random. They favour the home team.
They conclude that because of such factors as “informational conformity” in the face of social pressure i.e. using the crowd as a cue to resolve uncertain or ambiguous situations, officials have a definite home bias in all sports studied. All this results in teams like the Yankees getting the tight calls in close games while playing in Yankee Stadium.
We did not worry that much about the home field advantage issue as we left the ballpark enthralled by the stadium, the history and the game itself. Chris said that we had better not disappoint his mum and Sam and I agreed that we better quickly find an appropriate way to cool down. Kitty just smiled and said nothing.