First Pitch: Can Home Field Advantage Be an Advantage Again?

Can the fans at PNC Park impact the next two games? (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Can the fans at PNC Park impact the next two games? (Photo Credit: David Hague)

We don’t know if the “Cue-to” chants from the Wild Card game actually made a difference in the way Johnny Cueto pitched. What we do know is that Johnny Cueto entered the game with a dominant track record against the Pirates. The chants started, and immediately he dropped the ball off the mound, then gave up a solo homer. By the end of the fourth inning, he was out of the game. It’s hard to completely chalk that up to correlation.

Prior to that Wild Card game, the matchup looked even. Francisco Liriano had dominant numbers at home, and success against the Reds. Cueto had success against the Pirates. On paper it looked like a pitcher’s duel that could go either way, depending on which offense got the edge.

That’s almost how the upcoming two games against the Cardinals look.

Tomorrow there’s Francisco Liriano again, going up against Joe Kelly. Sure, Kelly has good numbers against the Pirates, but he’s a regression candidate. Liriano is not a regression candidate, and is certainly capable of putting up dominant performances against any team. He has also done this in a lot of big games.

Monday will feature Charlie Morton against Michael Wacha. Morton has struggled against the Cardinals, but does better at home. Wacha has been hot at the end of the year, and might be a slight advantage over Morton. But could the crowd at PNC tip the scales?

I’m not sure if the crowd will be amped up again on Sunday, but it wouldn’t surprise me. However, if the Pirates win from a Liriano start tomorrow, then they’d enter Monday up 2-1, with a possible clinching game. Even though it would be an early afternoon game on a Monday, I think the crowd would be pumped for a possible clinching game.

I was in St. Louis for the last two games. The crowd there was lively, but they were hardly anything close to PNC Park during the Wild Card game. 30 minutes before the Wild Card game, Pirates fans were starting “Let’s go Bucs” chants. During the lineup introductions they were giving loud boos to the Reds, and loud cheers for the Pirates. Then there were the Cue-to chants.

The loudest I heard the Cardinals fans came after the Carlos Beltran homer. By then, the wheels were off the wagon for the Pirates. The Cardinals fans weren’t having any impact on the game. 30 minutes before the first game, half of the seats were empty. I didn’t even realize the lineups were being introduced until I looked up and noticed half of the Pirates roster down the third base line. Cardinals fans actually cheered for Clint Hurdle and other Pirates when they were introduced.

There’s no question that the Pirates will have more of an advantage with the home field atmosphere. The question is just how much of an advantage that will be. The Pirates players are calling for another #PNCBlackout tomorrow, although that might not have the same impact during the day as it would at night. A loud crowd would have an impact, and could possibly swing an advantage, just like it possibly provided an advantage against Cueto. The right crowd noise could ensure that Liriano helps the Pirates win on Sunday, and it could tip the scales in Morton’s favor on Monday.

The two games will be close, and the Pirates could take both games. Any extra help they could get would be huge, just like it might have been against the Reds in the last home playoff game.

Links and Notes

**Pirates Announce Duke Welker as the PTBNL For Justin Morneau

**How PNC Park Can Change In October

First Pitch

  • I want to go on record before the game starts, if it would have been me, I would have started Morton today and kept Liriano for tomorrow, for a couple of reasons. 1. If Liriano does not get the job done because Kelly pitches out of his mind, you have Liriano for Monday and Cole for the next game. 2. If Liriano looses today, Morton has to pitch tomorrow and he is very hittable by the Cards.

  • I think the advantage from the home field is the physical structure itself and the Pirate management’s tailoring of it for their home team. The Cards have had some trouble with left handers, Liriano has had his implosions, I believe the Cards will get a steady game from Kelly, I have no Idea witch Liriano will show up.
    I see an advantage from the fans for some players.

  • CalipariFan506
    October 6, 2013 11:28 am

    I also hope fans keep it classy. McCutchen was given applause when he was introduced in St. Louis.

    Plus Matt Adams is local. If anything I’d like to see him get a nice ovation.

  • I think the biggest advantage of being home is the dimensions of the outfield. As we saw against Cincinnati, Liriano’s effectiveness against lefties nearly makes the small right field moot. The Cardinals will be starting two righties. That’s the first part of it but it’s only in game 3. The second advantage we’ll have for both games: Marte (+1.8 DWAR) vs Holliday (-2.3) in the huge left field, and McCutchen (+1.0) vs Jay (-0.9) in center. That’s a DWAR swing +6 for the Pirates in left and center (4.1 in left and 1.9 in center), and it’s really not even that close since only about 10 of their 150 games played were in PNC.

    Note: Even in RF the Pirates have an advantage with Byrd’s +0.6 DWAR vs Beltran’s -1.5. That would give a total outfield defensive swing of +8.1 games.

  • I’m actually mildly worried that Bucs fans might embarrass themselves by trying to copy something (KWAY-to chant) that was so spontaneous and organic that it was perfection.

  • Playing the next two games at PNC Park is a tremendous obvious competitive benefit, but an even larger unseen benefit to the Pirates is the introduction of this team to the american public. The Wild Card Game was an overwhelming success for TBS, and two more games of the young and exciting Pittsburgh Pirates at the best venue in baseball cannot help but increase the value of the franchise for the owners. In April 2013, Forbes Magazine rated the Pirates with a value of $479 mil, a 43% increase in the overall value from 2012. What does that amount to in dollars? How about a cool $144 mil in team value from 2012 to 2013. The only team to increase at a better rate was the Oakland Athletics who increased their value by 46% over the value in 2012. With young guys like Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, and Gerrit Cole leading the way, the Pirates are a team that America will love to watch now and in the future.

    The numbers above show an increase in value on a team that was already 20 years without finishing over .500. Imagine the increase in value the storybook 2013 Pirates are going to provide for team ownership. And, all of this means that the Pirates will be able to afford an increased team salary level – possibly a few more long term deals for some younger players and the possibility of hanging on to some productive veterans. I thought the playoff games alone would provide at least $5 mil per game and thought that was enough to provide more money for the players/pitchers for 2014 – that was chickenfeed compared to value of the franchise.

    • Cato the Elder
      October 6, 2013 12:21 pm

      The team’s valuation has little impact on the available money the team has to spend. The added ticket revenue and the increase in MLB revenue-sharing is money in hand, which could/should increase spending on players, but it will not be anything that drastic. The Pirates are stuck with a terrible TV deal, and they are for a while. TV is where the real money is made (see the Yankees and Dodgers) and unfortunately for the Pirates there is no real chance to capitalize on those revenue streams for years to come.

  • Is the black out Sunday or Monday?