DFS: Home vs. Away Scoring Analysis (Fantasy Baseball)
One of the unique things about MLB DFS compared to other sports is that in baseball, the home offense is not guaranteed the same opportunity as the road offense. This is because when the home team leads after the top of the ninth inning, they do not hit. This leads to some DFS players preferring to play hitters from road teams because there is a chance for the home batter to lose out on a possible plate appearance in the ninth inning.
I was curious as to the truth of all of this, so I dove into the numbers and checked it out. I have a database of every game played over the last three MLB seasons along with every player’s box score and their DraftKings salary and score. Here is what I found from the data.
Home Teams Win More
No kidding, right? Home teams have won 53% of the games played over the last three years (this number is surprisingly steady from year-to-year; it’s always between 53% and 54%). A small percentage of that extra 3% are walk-off wins, meaning the home team did have essentially the same opportunity as the away team. When the home team is a huge favorite, these numbers will be inflated, and those are typically the situations that DFS players are concerned about.
Plate Appearance Analysis
In 2019, road teams saw 95,113 plate appearances while home teams saw 91,389. That is a 4% reduction for home teams. The ratio was the same in 2018 and 2017, with home teams seeing 4% fewer plate appearances. On a per-game basis, players on the road team averaged 3.68 plate appearances per game while the home team hitters averaged 3.53. That is the same 4% reduction.
While 4% is not a massive difference, it’s significant enough to consider. This is especially true when the home team is a huge favorite. The large home favorite wins more often than the base rate of 53%, so that 4% would also increase in situations where the home team is, say, a -200 favorite. So yes, you should expect less opportunity for home team hitters when building lineups.
Of course, opportunity is not the only factor in the equation. Production matters just as much as opportunity. My hypothesis was that players on home teams perform better than road players, and this seems true given that home teams win 6% more often than road teams. I put that to the test to see if I could quantify it.
In 2019, road hitters scored 166,121 DraftKings points. That is 1.6% more than the home-team hitters, who scored 163,460 DraftKings points. On a per-plate-appearance basis, home teams scored 1.79 DraftKings points per plate appearances, while road teams scored 1.75. That’s a 2.2% increase. Thus, for 2019, hitters performed better at home than on the road, but not enough to make up for the 4% gap in opportunity.
However, when we look at 2018, we see a different story. In 2018, road teams scored 155,617 DraftKings points while home team hitters nearly matched them at 155,497 (just a 0.1% difference). The points per plate appearance difference was more pronounced, as home hitters scored 1.71 DraftKings points per plate appearance compared to the 1.65 from road hitters (3.7% difference). That essentially made up for the missed opportunity overall.
In 2017, home team hitters received 3.7% fewer plate appearances, and they scored 2.2% more — so more like 2019 than 2018.
Here is some more data for the last three years on this phenomenon:
To put this very simply, home team hitters do see less opportunity, but they also do more with the opportunities that they have. Winning teams always score more runs than losing teams (duh!), which means that they score more DraftKings points as well. While the increased production doesn’t make up for the entire disparity in opportunity, it is close enough to really not make a noticeable difference in your DraftKings scores.
You typically stack an offense because you think they are going to score a bunch of runs, and if that happens, you aren’t going to miss the ninth inning at-bats because the team will have done their damage in the first eight innings.
Now, if one team is a massive favorite on the road and another team is the same massive favorite at home, there is certainly reason to prefer stacking the road team — but as a general rule, the home batters are really not something to avoid out of fear of getting less opportunity.
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