The Phillies Have a Special Homefield Advantage

The Philadelphia Phillies have dominated at home in the postseason.

On the list of things Major League Baseball players enjoy, playing in Philadelphia as a visiting team probably lives toward the bottom. Heck, when the fanbase boos Santa it is safe to say they are pretty ruthless. Could they be a driving contributor behind the Phillies’ extreme home/away splits?

At home in the 2023 postseason, Philadelphia slashed .270/.345/.556, leading the postseason in home OPS. The Phillies also paced the league in home playoff home runs (18), doubles (20), and walks (28). In five road games, Philadelphia’s OPS plummets to .692, which ranked fifth amongst road teams this postseason. The Philadelphia pitchers enjoyed the same sorts of advantages, tying for first with a 2.00 postseason ERA at home, and limiting opponents to a measly .214 batting average against. The staff nearly matched those ludicrous home numbers on the road, posting a 2.55 ERA and .216 batting average against on the road. Those numbers seem to be affected more by talent than environment.

In the 2022 postseason, the splits are staggering. Philadelphia struggled overall at the plate in the 2022 postseason but hit an abysmal .185 in road postseason games in 2022. The lineup struck out 87 times in nine games, compared to 78 in eight home games. The Phillies ranked second in home OPS with an .839 mark, compared to a meager .558 OPS on the road. What is causing these extreme mismatches?

Citizens Bank Park on the surface is a relatively neutral ballpark, clocking in with a Statcast Ballpark Factor score of 101 across the last three seasons, where 100 is average. Digging a bit deeper, the Bank is more susceptible to triples and home runs, with a Ballpark Factor of 120 and 113 for each category, respectively. Have the Phillies cracked the code and tailored their team precisely for their stadium? In free agency, the Phillies seemed to have targeted those two categories, giving big money to Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, and Trea Turner recently. Turner ranks in the 99th percentile in sprint speed according to Baseball Savant, coinciding with five triples and 30 stolen bases in his first year with Philadelphia. The power that Turner displayed, hitting 26 home runs, the second-highest total of his career, could have been slightly influenced by the Bank. According to Baseball Savant’s expected home run stat, Citizens Bank tied for the third-highest total for Turner.

Schwarber is a perfect example of a team building towards their ballpark. It is no secret that Schwarber is a slugger, bashing 246 home runs in his career, besting his career batting average of .227. Schwarber is the rare player that posted a positive WAR despite hitting below .200, which he has now done twice. Playing in Citizens Bank recently has been lucrative for Schwarber, hitting 93 combined home runs in 2022 and 2023. Schwarber’s 46 home runs in 2022 paced the National League. In the playoffs, Schwarber has hit 11 (!!!) home runs in 31 games across 2022 and 2023. Schwarber has benefited from playing half of his games in Citizens Bank and especially comes alive in the postseason. Had every game taken place at Citizens Bank Park for Schwarber, he would have hit 53 home runs instead of only 47.

Bryson Stott is a homegrown Phil who put himself in the discussion of best second basemen in the game last season. He also inspires the crowd to sing along to one of the cooler trends from last season.

Oh, and that home run nearly registered on the Richter Scale. Not really, but you get the point. Philadelphia gets LOUD when cool things happen. Yes, every crowd gets loud, but something sounds different with Philadelphia. Stott’s wRC+ at home was 103, compared to 100 on the road. Not a huge difference but clearly the city of Brotherly Love is kind to Stott. Something about that atmosphere seems to ignite memorable moments. This of course is nothing new, as the 2008 World Series featured thrilling moments, like Carlos Ruiz’s walkoff “single”.

Even without the technological advances that baseball broadcasts enjoy in 2023, the crowd noise came across loud and clear in that FOX telecast.

In the 2023 regular season, Philadelphia raked at home, slashing .263/.336/.455, hitting 117 home runs, good for a 112 wRC+. In road regular season games, Philadelphia hit 103 home runs and posted a slightly below-average 99 wRC+. The home-field advantage even extended to the pitching mound across the 2023 regular season, as the Philadelphia pitchers enjoyed a slightly better FIP at the Bank. Strikeout numbers were up for Phillies’ pitchers at home as well, as the team’s strikeout-per-nine was nearly a point higher at Citizens Bank.

On the more extreme side of the home/away splits, Nick Castellanos bashed 18 of his 29 home runs at Citizens Bank in 2023. Even more extreme, Castellanos hit a blistering .303 at home, and a brutal .240 with 106 strikeouts in road games. Staying true to his regular season splits, Castellanos hit all five of his postseason home runs at home. Further, his OPS in Citizens Bank Park was a gaudy 1.175, compared to a miserable .311 away from Philadelphia.

The most extreme of home/away splits might just be superstar Bryce Harper. In regular season games at Citizens Bank Park, Harper hit 15 of his 21 home runs, slashing .352/.459/.622, good for a ridiculous 186 wRC+. On the road, Harper still walked at a solid clip, posting a .340 OBP, but struck out an ugly 68 times in 59 games. Those splits actually reversed in the postseason, with Harper’s postseason OPS jumping from 1.005 at home to 1.257 on the road. This is probably the result of small sample size, as Harper has historically been a better hitter in his home ballpark.

Let’s try to get to the bottom of these extreme splits. We can throw the pitching out of the window, as the team’s staff was borderline dominant both at home and on the road. The hitting, however, warrants a closer look. Does the team like hitting in front of their fans that much? Maybe. Does a rowdy crowd influence some umpire calls? Theories have been thrown out there, but nothing definitive seems to surface. My theory: the players love playing in Philadelphia, and the team is expertly constructed to fit the confines of the ballpark.

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