Almost every team in sports plays better at home. Players get to sleep in their own beds as well as enjoy the familiarity of their own clubhouses, playing fields, and fans.
However, every game cannot be played at home, so winning on the road is just as, if not more important, than winning at home. Winning on the road may be more crucial to the 2018 New York Yankees than any other team in baseball.
2017 was an awesome year. The Yankees won 91 games and were a game away from the World Series, but it felt like they won even more! Why? Because they absolutely dominated at home, going 51-30, good enough for the best home record in the American League. Most fans generally only attend home games, and fans are more likely to watch home games than road games due to time differences and scheduling, but also because fans generally enjoy seeing the Yankees play in their pinstripes as opposed to the road grays.
Most fans probably don’t realize that the Yankees actually had a losing record on the road in 2017, going 40-41. They hit .258 away from the Bronx, with 101 homers and 407 runs scored. At home, they hit .265 with 140 homers, and 451 runs scored.
The Yankees pitched to a 3.94 ERA on the road, and held opponents to a .240 batting average. In pinstripes, they accumulated a 3.51 ERA, with a .217 BAA.
Road performance didn’t become a hot topic until the playoffs, where the Yankees were downright abysmal. They went 1-6 away from the Stadium, and just like in the regular season, most of the losses were close games where the Yankees could not hold a late lead or come through in the clutch with men on.
Their road playoff offense was absolutely anemic, as they averaged 2.28 runs a game. This is not a coincidence or something that is likely to regress to the mean: the Yankees are a power hitting team built to take advantage of Yankee Stadium. They will always be more dangerous at home with the short porch in right and the unwavering fan support in the stands.
In order to win the World Series, the team must play better on the road. The Yankees will certainly have a chance to lock up home field advantage for the playoffs, but the odds are not in their favor due to how competitive The Astros, Indians and Red Sox will be.
Beating up on Blake Snell and the Rays for 11 runs at home is great, but beating guys like Dallas Keuchel, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber in road playoff games will determine whether the Yankees will secure a 28th title. They defeated Kluber in Cleveland in the ALDS, and will need to slay more aces on the road in 2018 to bring home the ultimate prize.
Tuesday night at Fenway against Sale will be a great first test.