Home-field advantage is a strange concept, or should I say, a strange reality. It doesn’t really matter, for our purposes, why it exists — it just matters that it exists. It’s there, all of the time, in every single baseball game, and while I wouldn’t say it’s an unspoken thing, it’s seldom thought of in depth. A team playing at home has an advantage it wouldn’t have in a neutral site. A team playing on the road is at a corresponding disadvantage. We accept that it is, and we don’t talk much about it, and when we talk about potential edges, it’s usually ignored in favor of pointing at match-ups. It’s almost too boring to point out Team X stands better odds because they’re playing in their ballpark. Someone’s always playing at their ballpark.
But home-field advantage is exactly what the Reds and Pirates have to play for this weekend. Very fleeting home-field advantage — home-field advantage in the one-game wild-card playoff between the two rivals. The teams will play three before they play one, and the Pirates are 50-31 at home, while the Reds are 49-28. Each would prefer to play before its own partisan audience. It’s obvious that it matters who gets to play at home. But how much does it matter? What’s a way that we can think about this?