Team Travel vs Team Winning Percentage

Recently over at FanGraphs there were two articles posted looking at how many miles each MLB team has to travel in the 2013 season. (AL here)(NL here) As one could predict, the teams in the West divisions end up traveling substantially more than the teams in the East and Central divisions. What I wondered though, was if this actually had any effect on a team’s performance during the season. That is, does the amount of miles that a team travels over the course of a season have any effect on that teams’ winning percentage? If it did, you would anticipate that the teams that travel more miles during the season would see some negative effect on their overall winning percentage – due to the additional stress or other factors.

My feeling, was that due to the methods of travel available to all major league teams – charter aircrafts, etc., the effect of additional travel would be extremely minimal.

The first thing that I did, was to calculate the distance in air miles between each major league city, using this website. This was rather tedious, but unfortunately my interns were out of the office today, so I had to to it myself. Next I used the MLB schedule files from 2005-2011, available on Retrosheet, to calculate the travel destination pairings that each team made in each season. I chose to go back to 2005 because that’s the first year after the Expos moved to Washington, and no other team has moved locations since then. I then got each teams winning percentage in said season to be able to see if there was any correlation between miles traveled and winning percentage.

Before we get to the results, let’s look at a couple things. From 2005-2011, here is the average miles traveled by each team in a season, from highest to lowest:

Team Average Miles
SEA 49021
OAK 46713
ANA 46426
SFN 39620
SDN 38971
LAN 38125
TBA 37940
TEX 37155
MIA 35596
BOS 34293
ARI 34145
HOU 32276
COL 31899
NYA 31788
TOR 31369
NYN 31102
PHI 30389
BAL 30044
PIT 29675
ATL 29593
KCA 28658
DET 28548
WAS 28353
MIN 28223
CLE 28168
SLN 26399
CHA 26337
CHN 26170
CIN 26075
MIL 25326

The Mariners have gotten the short end of the stick (long end?)in terms of travel miles since 2005, average almost 50,000 miles a season; almost double that of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The highest single season miles total for an individual team was 54,670 by the Seattle Mariners in 2008. They went 61-101 that year. The lowest single season miles total was 22,703 by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2005. They went 100-62 that year. Maybe there is a correlation! On to the results.

*Click to make larger

So, when I ran the miles traveled by each team against their winning percentage in that season, the R-square came out to be 0.0000977. Really small. No statistical significance at all. I also ran total miles traveled against a team’s road winning percentage, because I thought maybe the additional miles traveled would affect a team more on the road. The R-square for that was 0.0000809; even smaller than with overall winning percentage.

In conclusion, (as long as I didn’t screw anything up horribly), the amount that a team travels during a season has no statistically significant correlation with the team’s winning percentage. I don’t really have a valid explanation for this, other than the relative comfort that all teams travel in these days, but it would seem that even though the teams out west travel more, they don’t face any repercussions for doing so.

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