Can a team make the playoffs with a losing road record?

The SF Giants can't win on the road and Bruce Bochy has had enough.

As you know, I watch a lot of San Francisco Giants baseball. What you may not know, is the Giants are one of the worst teams on the road this season, sporting a 19-29 (.396 win pct) record in games away from AT&T Park. That's second from the worst in the NL behind the Marlins road record of 17-27 (.386), and 5th worst in all of baseball behind the Orioles, White Sox, Royals, and the aforementioned Marlins.

None of those 4 teams are contenders, while the Giants are still in the race for the NL West, 3.5 games back of the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.

That got me thinking, can a team make the playoffs with a losing road record? If they do, can they succeed there? As the old adage goes, win at home, break even on the road.

I looked back over the last 6 years, which is the era of 2 wild card teams, to see if any playoff teams had a losing road record during the regular season. The results were a bit surprising and then not surprising at all.

Twelve of the sixty teams to make the playoffs during the last 6 seasons had losing road records. That's 20 percent! I don't know about you, but that feels like a lot to me. Here are the teams who made the playoffs the last 6 years with sub-.500 records on the road.

2012 Tigers: 38-43 on the road, 88-74 overall - lost World Series to Giants

2012 Cardinals: 38-43 on the road, 88-74 overall - lost NLCS to Giants

2013 Braves: 40-41 on the road, 96-66 overall - lost NLDS to Dodgers

2014 Cardinals: 39-42 on the road, 90-72 overall - lost NLCS to Giants

2014 Pirates: 37-44 on the road, 88-74 overall - lost Wild Card to Giants

2014 A's: 40-41 on the road, 88-74 overall - lost Wild Card to Royals

2015 Dodgers: 37-44 on the road, 92-70 overall - lost NLDS to Mets

2015 Astros: 33-48 on the road, 86-76 overall - lost ALDS to Royals

2015 Blue Jays: 40-41 on the road, 93-69 overall - lost ALCS to Royals

2016 Orioles: 39-42 on the road, 89-73 overall - lost Wild Card to Blue Jays

2016 Dodgers: 38-43 on the road, 91-71 overall - lost NLCS to Cubs

2017 Yankees: 40-41 on the road, 91-71 overall - lost ALCS to Astros

As you can see, there is one prevailing theme. None of these teams went on to win the World Series. It's almost as if you need to be able to win on the road for that to happen. The 2012 Tigers were the only team from this list to even advance to the World Series, and they were swept by the Giants in 4 games. The Tigers lost both games in San Francisco by a combined score of 10-3, and were shut out in game 2.

If you combine the road record of all 12 of the teams above during the playoffs, you get a 16-32 record. None of these teams had a winning record on the road in the playoffs and only the 2012 Cards and 2015 Astros broke even at .500.

Just last season the Yankees were an abysmal 1-6 on the road, only winning game 5 of the ALDS in Cleveland. All the Yankees had to do was win one game in Houston and they would have made the World Series instead of the eventual champion Astros.

So, to answer my original question, yes a team can make the playoffs with a losing road record. When they get there, it doesn't seem as if they will fare well.

This season, at of the end of play on July 5, every division leader has a winning record on the road. The Phillies are the only team currently filling a playoff spot with a losing road record and their hold on the final wild card slot in the NL is tenuous. The Cards and DBacks are right on their heels, and you guessed it, both of those teams have winning records on the road.

In this day and age of baseball, it pays the be able to win away from your home yard. If a team can't do that, they're unlikely to collect a trophy, or even make it to the World Series.

So yes, win at home, but be a little better than even on the road and there's still a chance to win it all.

Eric Nathanson

Join me on July 16 for the first installment of 2-Out Hits: The Podcast. I'll be primarily focusing on NL baseball because frankly, that's what I watch the most. In my first episode I will handicap the HR Derby and look at this year's All Star Game.