Sports Reference Blog

What’s a Home Game on HTBF?

Posted by sean on August 6, 2020

With Major League Baseball making a mad dash to complete the 2020 season, a number of norms and standards have gone by the wayside this season. Due to postponements, cancellations, and Canada's need for a quarantine of those playing America's Pastime, MLB has been forced to schedule what they've considered home games to be played on the road. In these games, the host team bats first and they often go through the charade of wearing their road unis while the traveling team wears their home whites. We handle these games in a certain way and this has led to confusion as to what the home and road records and splits represent on

Our policy has been and remains that a team playing in their home park is the home team regardless of whether they bat first or second (we call these Home Team Batted First or HTBF). We feel that home and visitor refers to location and not batting order. In a neutral site game (of which there have been very, very few), the home team would be the team to bat last. Since 2007, there have been 19 games where the home team batted first, those are listed below.

| game_id |
| MIL201709150 |
| MIL201709160 |
| MIL201709170 |
| PHI201006250 |
| PHI201006260 |
| PHI201006270 |
| SEA200709261 |
| SEA201106240 |
| SEA201106250 |
| SEA201106260 |
| SFN201307232 |
| TBA201505010 |
| TBA201505020 |
| TBA201505030 |
| WAS202007290 |
| WAS202007300 |
| PHI202008051 |
| BAL202008052 |
| BAL202008060 |

One change we may make for those who disagree with this policy is the addition of a split for team batted first or last in inning. This way you can see the splits for the definition of home team that you prefer.

Retrosheet has also identified hundreds of games taking place prior to 1915 where the home team batted first. At that time the home team, was given the choice of batting first or last in the inning. Once it become ingrained that teams always batted last, it was changed into a rule of the game.

Interestingly, our data provider for indy, foreign and historical minor league data, Ted Turocy, compiled research from others on whether or not batting last confers the advantage people think it does. Turocy's contribution in the paper was to point out that “one-run” strategies can’t possibly account for anything like the overall home-field advantage - they just don’t change winning percentages that much - and that in any event the defense also has strategies too. You can read In Search of the “Last-Ups” Advantage in Baseball: A Game-Theoretic Approach for more information on this. It turns out that knowing how many runs are needed to win a game is just as useful to the defense as it is to the offense.

One Response to “What’s a Home Game on HTBF?”

  1. Cliff Otto Says:

    The rule that required the home team to bat last was part of the 1950 MLB rule changes.