On Monday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-2. Future first ballot hall of fame pitcher Clayton Kershaw pitched six innings of one-run ball and struck out 10 Diamondbacks. This was the Dodgers' 102 win of the 2022 season.
October's playoff format is different for 2022. The Dodgers' dominance has set them up well.
This is even more impressive when one factors in that the season started a full week plus after it normally would have in other seasons. The Dodgers clinched the NL West three weeks before the end of the season and now have home-field advantage clinched into the first round of the playoffs. The Dodgers have 16 games left to secure home-field advantage throughout the entire playoffs. The Houston Astros also have a terrific record so home-field advantage for the World Series will come closer to the end of the season. They are the only team to have 50 wins at home and 50 wins on the road. Teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees are only slightly better than .500 on the road.
Does Home Field Advantage Even Matter?
There have been many studies done about whether home-field/court advantage really matters in the playoffs. A lot of those studies will tell you that it does not matter that much based on results. I am going to tell you a secret. Sometimes statistics lie. Okay, they do not lie, but they belie what is going on. Here is the thing.
In no sport does home-field advantage weigh heavier than in baseball. Can you guess why? It is simple when you think about it. Extra innings. In football, overtime can (literally) be decided by a coin toss. In the NBA, each team is limited by the same clock so only the home fans really matter in home-field/court advantage. In MLB, if the opposing team scores the go-ahead run in the 9th inning or extras, the home team has a chance to respond. If the home team scores the go-ahead run in the 9th inning or extras—they win. That may not seem like much but a few percentage points of results mean a lot in MLB. The Dodgers have been below .500 in extra-inning games and right at .500 for one-run games. This advantage matters.
The Dodgers Against Good Teams
The Dodgers have a good record against most of the teams they have played (not talking to you, Pirates) in 2022. Against playoff-bound teams, the Dodgers are just "good." The playing field evens out when you stack their regular season record against good teams. Home-field advantage will be a balm for the Dodgers when playing good teams in October. There is one playoff team (or potential playoff team) the Dodgers have dominated—the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers are 15-4 against San Diego.
Home-field advantage matters, even if only slightly. If you acknowledge that it only matters a little, you also have to recognize that winning a World Series tends to hinge on just a few things going right.