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Don Mattingly is not too caught up in home field advantage

Sep 10, 2013, 9:47 AM EDT

mattingly tall getty Getty Images

People said the Dodgers tried to buy a roster and that you “can’t buy chemistry.” They also wrung their hands that the Dodgers “peaked too soon.” That first bit of hokey conventional wisdom has been demonstrated as ridiculous and the second bit is pending, but seems like a stretch too given how resilient this team has been.

What’s next on the baseball conventional wisdom checklist? How about home field advantage in the playoffs? Because Don Mattingly is not too concerned about that, either, reports Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times. He’s way more concerned with player health than pressing them too hard after everything is clinched and reminds us that “we’ve seen wild card teams win the whole thing.”

Now, I don’t put home field advantage into the same category as “peaking too soon” as there is some empirical evidence to suggest that, yah, home field is better than being on the road. But I still think it’s better to have a healthy team than a home team if a choice must be made and I like how Mattingly isn’t too caught up in the things the sportswriters get caught up with.

I know he was under fire earlier this season and I never really considered Mattingly to be one of the game’s top managers (or bottom for that matter). But he has definitely impressed me as this season has gone on. He’s dealt with bad play, great play, controversies and big personalities. He’s mixed kids and veterans and high dollar contracts with journeymen and nothing seems to have taken him off his game.

Here’s to seeing him do more to undermine the conventional wisdom too.

  1. alexo0 - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    No, no. no! How you dare speak anything less than praise for the gospel of sportswriters. It’s their knowledge and expertise of the game that lead them to become baseball journalists in the first place. If they say home field is worth fighting for, then it damn well is. I remember back in the day when they cried for Donny “Baseball” to vacate his position as manager. They are upset that never happened and, being eternally wise yet vindictive, will never relent in reminding everyone how the Dodgers will rue that non-decision. Just like they will rue not busting their ass to secure the best record.

  2. paperlions - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    That is a bit of a false dichotomy. The optimal choice, obviously, is to be both healthy and to have home field advantage, and I seriously doubt that there are many managers in Mattingly’s current situation that would not try to optimize simultaneously along both axes (player health and probability of having home field). Really, there are no managers whose philosophy would be “screw being healthy, we want home field no matter what” and there are no managers whose philosophy would be “screw home field, we are resting everyone”…mostly, because rest does not ensure health, and playing does not ensure…um…unhealth….and playing guys who have injuries or health concerns that are significant enough to worry about likely does not contribute much to winning, because guys that are hurt typically aren’t as good as they are when they are not hurt.

    In short, Mattingly is just doing what pretty much everyone would do in his place.

  3. jbriggs81 - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    While I don’t think Mattingly should push borderline injured players to play after they clinch the NL West, I do not agree that he shouldn’t make a point of trying to obtain home field advantage. Home field advantage may not be quantifiable, but it certainly helps. Another factor is that a team like the Atlanta Braves players much better at home then they do on the road. If you get into a seven game series with Atlanta, you want to be the home team.

  4. rickdobrydney - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    Everyone—- it’s YEAH, not yah, or ya——-

    • brazcubas - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:40 AM

      Unless you’re saying yah, or ya, in which case it would be yah, or ya.

      Also, it could be a typo.

    • km9000 - Sep 10, 2013 at 6:06 PM

      Well, if you wanna get that technical, it should be “yes,” shouldn’t it?

  5. Detroit Michael - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    Obviously, there is some truth to home field advantage. We can check it empirically.

    I’ve heard it said that MLB baseball home teams win about 54% of their games. I checked 2008-2012 and it was a little higher than that, closer to 55% than to 54%.

    That’s a pretty sizeable advantage, not something to scoff at. At the risk of stating the obvious, two evenly matched teams, one of which has the homefield advantage is the equivalent of a .540 winning percentage team playing a .460 winning percentage team at a neutral site.

    • ncpolister - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      …I’d be more interested (and it would be way more relevant) to see that statistic as relates to playoff games rather than simply regular season where length of road trips, injuries, and resting key players may skew those results…

      • km9000 - Sep 10, 2013 at 6:19 PM

        Going into last year’s postseason, there was a .05 percentage point difference between regular and postseason home advantage, since 95.

      • Detroit Michael - Sep 11, 2013 at 9:26 AM

        It’s consistent with the regular season home field advantage. In a century of post-season games, 1903-2012, the home team has a record of 741-624, which is a winning percentage of .543 for the home team and .457 for the road team.

        Note that the team that did better in the regular season is more likely to have home field advantage for the play-off series (other than the World Series) as a whole, so the deck is stacked slightly in favor of the better team having home field advantage. The actual home field advantage is likely to be a bit less than the above numbers indicate.

  6. sadtwinsfan - Sep 10, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    he must have heard about the twins 10 GAME HOME LOSING STREAK.

  7. rcali - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    So he’d rather play an extra game in Atlanta or St. Louis? Cards have a fierce playoff crowd advantage. Atlanta has the best home record in baseball. Maybe they should have fired him when they had the momentum to do so.

  8. garlicfriesandbaseball - Sep 10, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Reblogged this on Garlicfriesandbaseball's Blog and commented:
    GFBB Comment: Brandon Belt made a comment yesterday about the Dodgers and their incredible 1st place NL West ranking this year, something to the effect, “that’s where they’re supposed to be”. I thought it to be a rather odd comment and did a little research to find that the Dodgers have the highest average salary this year in all of MLB, besting the Atlanta Braves who will undoubtedly be their biggest contender in the playoffs. Dodgers average salary $7,468,882 vs the Braves average salary of $3,095,800. Personally, I’m cheering for the Braves for that reason alone. I’ve never bought into the “Giants-hating-Dodgers” routine that’ prevalent in both ball clubs, but I am a fan of getting those ridiculous obscene salaries in line with what the average Joe can afford to pay at the gate i.e., cut the cost of the tickets in half and halve the players salaries. The players would still be making tons. I’m still a little peeved that the Giants, back in 2011, after winning the World Series and all the profits that go with that, raised the price of their season tickets. I know baseball’s a business but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Just one fan’s opinion.

    • senioreditor2 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      I’m rooting for Sandra Bullocks movie because she only received 3.25 million vs. what Tom Cruise, because he got $7.625. Wow, that makes sense.

  9. senioreditor2 - Sep 10, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    I pay $12 for a movie that George Clooney got paid 20 million to star in and most people really don’t care. Why do baseball fans care what baseball players make? The average fan is no closer to being a good actor then a baseball player but for some reason hold such animosity towards athlete’s salaries? Why do I never hear anyone crying that their popcorn is $7 because of what Tom Cruise makes? Stop crying about salaries and watch the games for free from home. Oh wait, it the players fault that your cable bill is so high and not $200,000 per episode fees that actors make on hit network shows….right……….

  10. ncpolister - Sep 10, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    …Statistically, being “healthy” or having “the right players get hot” means far more to a deep and successful playoff run than home field. Mattingly is right, a number of Wild Card teams have either made it to or won the Series the past 5 years or more…

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