clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Blue Jays have a different take on home field advantage in 2022

Teams are playing different rosters at the Rogers Centre

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Your Chicago Cubs are in Canada for a three-game series against the Blue Jays, but like so many teams before them they are without some key guys on their roster. Justin Steele and Adrian Sampson are on the restricted list because their vaccination status means they were unable to travel to Canada to play in this series. Al is going to absolutely wreck me if this turns into a post about the politics of vaccinations, so I’m just going to preemptively ask everyone to avoid those topics. However, this is a baseball blog and players missing games impacts a team’s competitiveness. So with the Cubs traveling to Toronto this week it seemed worth exploring how much of a home field advantage the Blue Jays have received with opposing teams being unable to travel their regular roster of players.

Fansided has been tracking the players who were unable to travel to Toronto over the course of the season. It is worth noting that the only teams who have not placed any players on the restricted list prior to traveling to Toronto are the Texas Rangers (who opened their season in Toronto), the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees (although it is worth noting the Yankees have not traveled to Toronto since the trade deadline, and they did add Andrew Benintendi to their roster at that point):

Oakland A’s (3): Catcher Austin Allen, reliever A.J. Puk, and reliever A.J. Snead

Boston Red Sox (2): Outfielder Jarren Duran, reliever Tanner Houck

Seattle Mariners (2): Starting pitcher Robbie Ray, reliever Drew Steckenrider

Cincinnati Reds (4): Outfielder Albert Almora, infielder Brandon Drury, reliever Joel Kuhnel, starting pitcher Tyler Mahle

Chicago White Sox (2): Starting pitcher Dylan Cease, reliever Kendall Graveman

Minnesota Twins (4): Outfielder Max Kepler, reliever Trevor Megill, reliever Emilio Pagán, reliever Caleb Thielbar

Baltimore Orioles (2): Reliever Keegan Akin, outfielder Anthony Santander

Tampa Bay Rays (2): Reliever Brooks Raley, reliever Ryan Thompson

Philadelphia Phillies (5): Infielder Alec Bohm, pitcher Bailey Falter (Falter was optioned to the minors instead of being placed on the restricted list), starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, starting pitcher Aaron Nola, catcher J.T. Realmuto

Kansas City Royals (10): Outfielder Andrew Benintendi, utility player Whit Merrifield, catcher M.J. Melendez, designated hitter Hunter Dozier, starting pitcher Brad Keller, starting pitcher Brady Singer, outfielder Michael A. Taylor, outfielder Kyle Isbel, reliever Dylan Coleman, catcher Cam Gallagher

St. Louis Cardinals (3): Infielder Nolan Arenado, infielder Paul Goldschmidt, catcher Austin Romine

Cleveland Guardians (1): Pitcher James Karinchak

While Fansided did an admirable job capturing the first part of the season, I picked up where they left off. Here are the players who have missed games in Toronto since the Cardinals series at the end of July:

Detroit Tigers (1): Pitcher Andrew Chafin

Los Angeles Angels (3): Outfielder Taylor Ward, pitcher Aaron Loup, pitcher Ryan Tepera

Chicago Cubs (2): Pitcher Justin Steele, pitcher Adrian Sampson

Now, all of these absences aren’t created equally across players or by teams. It seems relevant that the teams who did not have any absences in Canada include two of MLB’s elite teams (the Yankees and Astros) and one team that spent close to a quarter of a billion dollars in contracts in the offseason (the Rangers). Teams who want to win it all don’t tend to leave much to chance, and vaccinated players being eligible to compete in Canada is a variable with a lot more control than say, injuries on or off the field.

In terms of individual players by team, we have a tool in WAR that provides a sense of a player’s relative value to the league and therefore, relative to their team. For purposes of this post I used bWAR. So I took the team WAR to date for each of these rosters and then calculated a proportion of WAR that was unable to travel to Canada as a proxy for how competitive each team was north of the border. This methodology is imperfect, but it gets us close to understanding the relative competition gaps. Obviously losing one Nolan Arenado is worth a lot more than losing four or five fringy players for other teams. Similarly, some players with negative WAR wind up helping their team by not playing here, which seems...a bit off. Finally, there isn’t a great way to disaggregate WAR at the time of the trip, so these are season totals to date, and that definitely does not accurately reflect a player slumping in May, for example.

With those caveats out of the way, this is still an interesting exercise to see which teams were hurt the most when they traveled to Canada:

WAR lost in Toronto — Sorted by proportion of total team bWAR

Team Team bWAR RL bWAR Total Proportion of bWAR
Team Team bWAR RL bWAR Total Proportion of bWAR
Royals 16.5 10 6.5 60.61%
Phillies 35.3 12.9 22.4 36.54%
Cardinals 38.3 13.8 24.5 36.03%
Reds 14.6 5.2 9.4 35.62%
White Sox 22.3 5.8 16.5 26.01%
Cubs 23.0 3 20.0 13.04%
Athletics 9.5 1.2 8.3 12.63%
Orioles 34.4 2.8 31.6 8.14%
Angels 22.6 1.8 20.8 7.96%
Red Sox 22.0 1.5 20.5 6.82%
Mariners 30.2 1.7 28.5 5.63%
Tigers 8.9 0.4 8.5 4.49%
Twins 29.2 1.2 28.0 4.11%
Guardians 28.7 0.8 27.9 2.79%
Rays 32.0 0.8 31.2 2.50%
WAR lost by visiting team in Canada Baseball Reference — Compiled by Sara Sanchez

It is unsurprising that the Royals and their whopping ten players on the restricted list took the biggest hit here. Since that trip we know at least Whit Merrifield’s status has changed, he’s been traded to Toronto and is playing home games. It’s also unsurprising that some teams with very low team bWAR totals lost large proportions of that total with just a few players (I’m looking at you, Cincinnati).

But what really jumps out here are the supposed contenders who have very important players missing key series in Toronto. The Cardinals lost their two best players in Arenado and Goldschmidt for their series in Toronto, and while that’s one thing for a two-game series in July, it’s an entirely different thing if (God forbid) the Cardinals make it to the World Series and need to play in Canada. Similarly, the Phillies lost key players and both games when they traveled to Toronto. They are in a playoff race in the NL East where every victory matters.

The Blue Jays are a .563 team at the Rogers Centre and a .516 team on the road in 2022. I have to wonder if the quality of competition they face at home created a unique home field advantage for Toronto this year.