Home-field advantage is one of the most talked-about factors in any playoff series, regardless of the sport. With the recently crowned 2015 National League East champion New York Mets scheduled to begin their National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, October 9, home field is still up for grabs.
The Mets are ahead of the Dodgers right now, and should the teams finish with identical records, the Mets own the tie-breaker, having won the head-to-head season series 4-3. Through their first 157 games, the Mets have won 61.5 percent of their home games (48-30), and 51.9 percent of their road games (41-38), but those numbers are skewed by what transpired before and after the team acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the July 31 trade deadline.
Cespedes, who for his first six weeks in Queens made as bold a statement for National League Most Valuable Player as anybody, first appeared in a Mets lineup on August 1 against the Washington Nationals. In 54 games since then, the Mets are 36-18, but it's how the Mets accumulated that 36-18 post-Cespedes mark that's a little eye-opening.
In those 53 games, the Mets are just 12-12 at home—losers of six of their last nine—and 24-6 on the road—winners of 11 straight before dropping last night's contest to the Phillies. Cespedes has played in seven full home series—he joined the team in the middle of what would have been his eighth—and nine full road series for the Mets: They're 2-5 in those home series and 6-2 in the road series with one split of a two-game set.
Now, there's little reason to think the Mets are suddenly a great road team and a mediocre home team. Home/road records fluctuate and normalize over time. Earlier in the year, the Mets could only win at home; now that trend has reversed. The home team wins 54% of the time, and even if that advantage nearly vanishes in a five- or seven-game series, the Mets—and their fans, and their owners—would rather have that potentially extra game at home.