NY Times credits Yankees for imaginary recovery from pretend home-field disadvantage

This is more a “stupid sportswriting” story than a “stupid stadium coverage” one, but there’s a stadium angle, so: On Saturday, the New York Times’ Jorge Arangure Jr. wrote an article about how the Yankees haven’t had the same home-field advantage at Fake Yankee Stadium that the did at the original Yankee Stadium, but now that’s turning around. How does he know? Because they had a really good couple of weeks:

Through the end of its 85-year tenure, the old Yankee Stadium remained a place where opposing teams feared playing. The lore grew to the point that ghosts were rumored to inhabit the building.

The opening of the new stadium in 2009 brought along a different atmosphere, more corporate, less rowdy, and gradually, it seems, Yankee Stadium has lost some of its intimidation.

The Yankees carried a lowly 18-23 record at home into the All-Star break this season. If they were going to contend in the second half, Manager Joe Girardi had said, the Yankees would need to turn the Stadium into the imposing place that it used to be.

They appear on their way to doing just that: With a 10-6 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday, the Yankees improved their home record to 29-27. They have gone 11-4 in the Bronx since the break and have won four of five games on their current homestand. Finally, these Yankees have turned their home park into an advantage for themselves, even if it is not yet the fearful place its predecessor was.

In the Big Book of Journalist Fallacies, this should be familiar as the sin of small sample size. During the course of any season with lots of wins and losses — and a 29-27 home record definitely qualifies there — there will be stretches where the team does exceptionally well, or exceptionally poorly, if only by random chance. If you doubt, this, try a simple experiment: Flip a coin 81 times in a row. The first time it comes up heads four out of five times, write an article for the New York Times on how the coin has really turned the corner and figured things out.

(The Yankees, as if eager to make this point, promptly lost their next two games on Saturday and Sunday. So now they’ve won four out of seven at home, and are 11-6 since the break. Good thing Arangure filed on Saturday morning, huh?)

So are the Yankees actually being hurt on the field by their new stadium? Over the first almost-six years of the new stadium, the team is 287-176 (for a .620 winning percentage) at home, and 249-215 (.537) on the road. Over the last six years of the old stadium, they were 310-177 (.637) at home, and 267-218 (.551) on the road. So that’s an 83-point bump in place of an 86-point bump, or as near to statistically meaningless as you’re likely to get. So while there are plenty of things to complain about at the new stadium, less of a home field advantage isn’t one of them.

Come to think of it, that’s the kind of thing that a major newspaper might normally want its reporters to check before writing news stories based on what turns out to be a false premise — but it took me ten whole minutes to Google the stats and paste them into Excel, and I know these Times writers must have important places to be.

4 comments on “NY Times credits Yankees for imaginary recovery from pretend home-field disadvantage

  1. I think that the real problem here is that the times lost home field advantage when they moved to the new stadium…

  2. And here I thought it was bloated contracts to has-been players nearing 40yrs old and a decimated pitching staff that had set them back them. Good thing we have journalists working for the Times that can really dig deep…

    BTW, did he have a suggestion as to what to do? Tear down the new place and rebuild the old one maybe?

    Imagine how awful things could have been if they hadn’t built a $2bn stadium with high school dimensions to right…