The Importance of Home Field in the NLDS

With all 162 games done for all 30 MLB teams, the postseason is upon us. The matchup that has been set for seemingly forever, the Dodgers vs. the Mets, is now finally upon us. With the Mets two losses in a doubleheader on Saturday, and the Dodgers victory over the Padres the same night, the Dodgers clinched home field advantage for the National League Division Series. With the series starting Friday night in Los Angeles, the important question for the Mets is how will losing home field advantage affect the series.

The Mets losing both games of the doubleheader on Saturday guaranteed that they would be facing both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, arguably the two best pitchers in all of baseball this season, on the road at Dodger Stadium. On the 2015 season, the Dodgers are tied with the Cardinals for the best home record in all of baseball with a record of 55-26. By comparison, the Mets finished the season with a home record of 49-32.

An interesting thing about these two teams is their road records. The Dodgers are under .500 on the road for the year, finishing with a record of 37-44. On the other hand the Mets are just above .500 on the road at 41-40. This seems to show the Dodgers needed home field advantage more than the Mets, and now have an edge because they were able to get it.

Taking the home-road splits one step further, the Dodgers aces have performed much better at home this season than they have on the road. For Clayton Kershaw there is almost a point difference between his home and road ERA (1.73 at home vs. 2.60 on the road), and quite a large gap in both FIP and xFIP (1.67 and 1.98 at home vs. 2.40 and 2.28 on the road).

For the Dodgers likely game two starter Zack Greinke, it is a similar story. Greinke sports a minuscule 1.46 ERA at Dodger Stadium and a still ridiculous but higher ERA of 1.88 on the road. The interesting thing about Greinke, when compared to Kershaw, is both his FIP and xFIP are higher at home than on the road (2.78 and 3.29 at home vs. 2.75 and 3.16 on the road). It is unclear why this is, but it seems that Greinke is still the better pitcher at home given the ERA difference.

Losing home field advantage in the divisional series now forces the Mets to face arguably the two best pitchers in the league in the park that they are most comfortable in. This also leaves the Mets with some decisions to make on who will pitch on the road in games one and two and face Kershaw and Greinke. 

At this point it seems fairly clear that Matt Harvey will most likely start game three for the Mets, although given all the three pitchers being able to get proper rest for Friday, anything is possible. Let’s look at the home-road splits for the Mets three best pitchers, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom to compare to Kershaw and Greinke.

Noah Syndergaard Matt Harvey Jacob deGrom
ERAHome/Road- 2.46/4.23Home/Road- 2.23/3.42 Home/Road- 2.08/3.09
FIPHome/Road- 3.10/3.44Home/Road- 2.88/3.31Home/Road- 1.80/3.64
xFIPHome/Road- 2.84/3.01Home/Road- 2.95/3.68Home/Road- 2.61/3.28

What these home-road splits show is that the Mets may be in some serious trouble regardless of which pitchers they decide to throw on the road in games one and two. All three of the Mets top starters have over a point of difference between their home ERAs and their road ERAs. And the advanced analytics don’t support any improved performance either.

While the Mets may play better on the road than the Dodgers do, the Dodgers are the best team in the league at winning games at home. Couple this fact with the home-road pitching splits of both the Dodgers aces and the Mets aces, and the Mets could be in some serious trouble because they lost home field advantage. The postseason is, of course, a time when truly anything can happen, but faced with the two best pitchers of the 2015 season at home at Dodger Stadium, the Mets could already be at a huge disadvantage.

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