Granted, having the best record in one’s league doesn’t insure rings; only five of the 20 teams that had their league’s best records the last decade made it to the World Series, only the ’05 White Sox, ’07 Red Sox and ’09 Yankees won the World Series.
The advantage for the Braves winning out over the Cardinals and Dodgers is obvious; they are 53-23 at home, 40-41 on the road.
And both the Red Sox and Athletics make it clear they want to get the home field advantage through the American League playoffs; [tweetable]Boston has a one game lead on Oakland and four on the Tigers, and Boston is 53-28 at home, Oakland 52-29[/tweetable]. If they end in a tie, the Athletics have the tiebreaker based on their second half interleague schedule.
Right now scouts following the A’s think they may be the scariest post-season team with the home field. Plumbers Park is a nightmare, the fans are raucous, knowledgeable and tremendous, the late afternoon light treacherous and the playing field complex. “If they play games at 5 Pacific Time,” says one scout, “no one may be able to differentiate Sonny Gray’s fastball and curveball because he throws them both out of the same arm slot. It’s really difficult hitting in that park.” Go all the way back to Willie Mays in the 1973 World Series—it can be an early autumn nightmare in the day time.
Then look at the matchups Bob Melvin and Billy Beane so love: against left-handed pitchers, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes and Derek Norris have OPS numbers from .965 to 1.065. [tweetable]Against righties, Coco Crisp has 16 homers and an .853 OPS, Brandon Moss has a .540 slugging percentage.[/tweetable]
Remember, this is a team that is third in the American League in runs scored and second in fewest runs allowed, which prompts one advance scout to say, “they may be the toughest team at home in the game today. They are very scary.”
For all the years with Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, this Oakland team may have the best chance to go all the way since the 1989-91 Bash Brothers team with Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley.