Major League Baseball was played in front of no home crowds last season and sparse crowds, for the most part, much of the early-going in 2021. We're starting to see things open back up and hearing from the players that they are feeding off their hometown fans. I have no doubt that they are.
The numbers here are pretty interesting, though. One might think maybe the so-called home-field advantage got worse with the lacking home crowds, but that didn't happen. Since 2010, the two biggest splits in home-road record have been 2020 and 2021.
In 2021, home teams have a .546 winning percentage (like a full-season 88-74 team). Last season, home teams played at a .557 clip (a 162-game pace of 90 wins), which is pretty extreme. It was also an extreme season, being only 60 games, max, with no crowds and COVID-19 protocols.
From 2011-19, the highest home winning percentage was .541 (2015). Most of them hovered around .530.
It's possible the COVID protocols made things so much more difficult on road teams that there was a meaningful shift there.
In digging deeper, though, it doesn't seem as much league-wide as a few teams posting extreme splits. Plus, in 2010, home teams played at a .559 clip and it was a "normal" season and it's not like this season is a huge outlier, not to mention it's only June 16 and our samples are lacking.
Still, the biggest change from 2011-19 to these last two seasons is a handful of teams playing historically bad baseball away from home.
If we include 2020 and 2021 to date, we'll find four of the worst 25 road winning percentages in the history of baseball.
Then there's the Diamondbacks of this season. At 9-29 (.237), they would be 25th-worst ever.
This goes back to 1901 and that's an awful lot of baseball teams in history to have four in the past two seasons.
We aren't done yet, either, with 2021. If we pared things down to the expansion era (the last 60 years), this season's Rangers (.278) make the top 30 (or bottom 30, I guess).
Finally, the streaks are happening.
Last Saturday, the Rangers snapped a 16-game road losing streak. Only 16 teams in history have had longer road losing streaks and two of them are currently going.
The Orioles currently have lost 17 in a row on the road. That's a franchise "record." Only 11 teams in history have run a longer road losing streak and one is happening right now. They have two more games in Cleveland before returning home. Then their next road trip hits the Blue Jays, Astros and Angels.
The Diamondbacks have lost 21 road games in a row. That's the second-longest such streak in MLB history behind the 1943 A's and 1963 Mets, both of whom lost 22 in a row. The D-Backs have two more games in San Francisco before returning home. Their next line of road opponents are the Padres, Cardinals, Dodgers and Cubs.
The Rockies have somehow avoided a road losing streak longer than seven games, but it should again be pointed out they are on pace to have the worst road record in baseball history.
We shouldn't let this season's Pirates off the hook, either, as they are 10-24 on the road, a pitiful .294 winning percentage.
The bottom line is that while it might look like home teams are playing better during the pandemic than before, it's more a product of this group of atrocious road teams skewing the overall record. Now let's keep an eye in the short term on the Diamondbacks and Orioles. It would be dumbfounding to see the two longest road losing streaks ever in the same season. The long-term focus, then, is the Rockies. What a year for road futility.