Sports fans, coaches, general managers, team owners, players, sports journalists, odds makers and gamblers are always trying to determine the factors which allow a team to have an edge or an advantage when they compete against their respective opponents.
Variables that they include in their analysis include: winning streaks, records against their opponent, points allowed, points scored, turnovers, errors, key match ups, the weather, playing indoors vs. playing outside, travel, quality of coaching, team experience,
age of players, injuries and the outcome of the last meeting between the teams.
Carlton Chin, my colleague and the coauthor of one my books, ran the numbers for home field advantage. Over an extended period of time (several decades), the data indicates that teams do win more often at home than they do on the road.
In the NFL, for example, the home team wins 57.3% percent of the time.
In major league baseball, home teams win 53.9% of the time.
Where the NBA is concerned, the home team wins 60.5% of the time.
The success at home can be attributed to the impact of the crowd, getting favorable calls from the officials, and the players being in familiar surroundings.
To study home field advantage for individual teams – and to adjust for stronger and weaker teams – we compare team records at home versus their records away. Over the longer-term time-frame, we see that NFL teams win 57.3% of the time at home, thus winning 42.7% on the road – for a 14.6% difference. Similarly, we see that the difference for baseball is 53.9% – 46.1% = 7.8%, and for the NBA: 60.5% – 39.5% = 21.0%.
When you add high altitude to the mix, it is clear that teams that are based in Denver may have a significant advantage over their opponents. According to Carlton Chin’s research the Rockies, the Nuggets and the Broncos all have strong records at home. Over the past decade, the Colorado-based teams have combined for one of the best home-field advantages of all major professional sports.
In the NBA, the Nuggets are about 30% better than the league average for home-field advantage (+27.6% home-field edge). In baseball, the Rockies almost double the league home-field advantage at +13.8%. Interestingly, the Broncos are only about average in terms of home-field advantage, at +12.5% over the past decade – although previously, the Broncos home-field advantage was notably strong.
Over the past decade, the Rockies and Nuggets have consistently placed at the top of their respective leagues in terms of home-field advantage, and in total the Colorado-based teams can boast “attitude at home,” in addition to the “altitude advantage.”
Players, coaches, physiologists and sports psychologists have noted the psychological and physiological challenges of playing in The Mile High City.
Player stamina is impacted, the ball travels through the air differently, and behaves differently than it might if the games were played at sea level. Home teams are used to these changes. Visiting teams are not.
Moreover, some believe that the Denver teams play at up pace tempo to use the “thin air” to their advantage.
In conclusion, the Mile High City is a great place to be the home team.