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“Last licks”: Do they really help?

Authors: Simon, Gary A.
Simonoff, Jeffrey S.
Keywords: baseball;home advantage;softball
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: Stern School of Business, New York University
Series/Report no.: SOR-2005-3
Abstract: Much has been written about the home field advantage in sports. Baseball and softball are unusual games, in that the rules are explicitly different for home versus visiting teams, since by rule home teams bat second in each inning (they have “last licks”). This is generally considered to be an advantage, which seems to be contradicted by the apparent weakness of the home field advantage in baseball compared to that in other sports. In this paper we examine the effect of “last licks” on baseball and softball team success using neutral site college baseball and softball playoff games. We find little evidence of an effect in baseball, but much greater evidence in softball, related to whether a game is close late in the game. In softball games that are tied at the end of an inning, batting last seems to be disadvantageous later in the game, apparently related to the chances of the team scoring first to break the tie. By also examining games where one team was playing on its home field, we are able to say something about benefits from playing at home that are not related to “last licks.”
Appears in Collections:IOMS: Statistics Working Papers

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