Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays can't explain their huge homefield advantage

PORT CHARLOTTE — The place is drab. The location isn't ideal. It lacks some typical revenue streams.

When you start picking apart Tropicana Field, there are plenty of reasons why a Major League Baseball franchise might consider it necessary to build a more modern ballpark in another spot in the marketplace.

On the other hand, there is this:

The Rays kick butt there.

And though that may not be a scientific designation, the numbers do suggest that Tropicana Field provides as much homefield advantage as any stadium in the majors. Either that, or the Rays really stink on the road.

You might have gotten that idea last season when the Rays had a .642 winning percentage at home and a .395 percentage on the road. That's a pretty glaring discrepancy. The largest in the big leagues last season. One of the largest in the past decade.

But maybe that was simply a case of happenstance. A fluke. A one-time statistical oddity that has no real relevance.

Except, when you combine the past two seasons, the Rays still have the biggest discrepancy. Ditto for the past three seasons. And four. And five. In other words, this doesn't feel like a coincidence.

Even if you take for granted that, throughout the league, the home team is going to win a majority of games, the Rays have still been either unnaturally good at home or unnaturally poor on the road for a long period of time.

So what are the possible explanations?

It could be that the Rays have a roster built to take advantage of Tropicana Field. It could be that a domed stadium with artificial surface has become such a rarity that opposing teams struggle when they come to Tampa Bay. It could be that the Rays are goofing up away from home.

All of those reasons, and a few others, were mentioned in the Rays clubhouse Sunday morning. But there was no consensus, and no one felt strongly enough to argue his point too loudly.

"You can bounce all over the place with different reasons, but I really don't have one strong answer," manager Joe Maddon said. "It could be that there are several factors that combine to go into this."

The numbers say Tropicana Field is not a particularly unusual ballpark. Based on figures in the 2010 Bill James Handbook, the park has been more favorable toward pitchers the past three seasons, but not to a dramatic degree. Home runs are a little below average. Not a lot of errors. Plenty of triples. Which may be why players say the real difference could be in the level of comfort.

Now that the Twins are moving to a new ballpark, Tropicana Field is the last fixed dome in the majors. And, along with Toronto, is one of only two stadiums with artificial turf. That makes Tropicana something of an anomaly, even if it doesn't play as small as the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati or as large as Petco Park in San Diego.

"We're used to the turf, to the dirt, to the lights. We feel comfortable there," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "And, this is definitely no knock on the fans, but we've sort of taught ourselves to be intrinsically motivated at home. It's easy to play in front of a packed house. We've grown accustomed to motivating ourselves on those nights when there aren't a lot of people in the stands."

Even in some of their poorer seasons, the Rays were unusually productive at home. In 2006, they went 20-61 away from Tampa Bay, which matches the worst road record in the majors in the past 40 years. Yet that same season, the Rays were above .500 at Tropicana Field.

So does that mean Tropicana Field made a terrible team look good? Or were the Rays a pretty decent team that bombed on the road?

"In the past, I thought it was more of a youth thing. We were so danged young and inexperienced, I thought that played a factor in how we did on the road," Maddon said. "But that doesn't explain last year. There is no excuse for what happened to us on the road last year.

"I want to believe, knowing this group, that we have a much better chance of playing well on the road this year. I believe that. How do I quantify it? I can't. I just believe we'll be a better road team based on my knowledge of these guys."

When the Rays won the pennant in 2008, they set a franchise record with a 40-41 road record. That's all Maddon is asking for in 2010. Play close to .500 on the road, and Tampa Bay should be contenders by season's end.

Because no one doubts the Rays will play well enough at Tropicana Field.

It may not be much, but it is home.

John Romano can be reached at

. fast facts

Comforts of home

Greatest disparity in winning percentage between home and road.


Tampa Bay .247

Pittsburgh .219

Boston .210

Detroit .198


Tampa Bay .229

Boston .210

Minnesota .178

Pittsburgh .177


Tampa Bay .185

Boston .165

Toronto .148

Pittsburgh .142


Tampa Bay .204

Pittsburgh .166

Boston .154

Toronto .151

Tampa Bay Rays can't explain their huge homefield advantage 02/28/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 28, 2010 10:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  2. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. gets extra day off to let hip heal

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. ran in rightfield before batting practice under the watchful gaze of the Rays training staff and manager Kevin Cash. Afterward, Souza told Cash he could use one more day of rest before playing on the left hip he strained Wednesday in Oakland.

    Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brad Miller (13) gets a hug from right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) after his solo home run in the fourth inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, July 21, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: FS1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

  4. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    Looks like LF Corey Dickerson is coming out of his funk at the plate — .186 average in past 16 games entering Friday. He had two hits Wednesday in Oakland and three hits Friday against the Rangers. Okay, one was an infield hit that bounced high in front of the plate, but the other was a long home run to …

  5. History shows Ole Miss upheaval tough to overcome


    After Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze resigned Thursday, with the opener six weeks away, offensive line coach Matt Luke is being thrown into an interim head coaching position. He will try to save a season that already had been scarred by a self-imposed bowl ban for NCAA violations.

    After coach Jim Tressel resigned, Ohio State went 6-7, including a loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, in 2011.