David Ortiz recently blamed the Cubs' consistent inability to win games on the team's penchant for scheduling day games. "When you come down to the Cubs' schedule it's a game-changer, believe it or not," Ortiz said. "They play so many day games at home and then they have to travel to another city and adjust themselves to the night games." This is the sort of thing that desperate Cubs fans would find appealing. So is Ortiz onto something, or is he full of shit?
Testing his theory is simple enough: it's just a matter of tracking Cubs road games since 1988, the year Wrigley Field installed lights and began hosting night games. If what Ortiz says is true, then the Cubs should perform much better on the road after home night games than they should when they play a night game on the road following a day game at home. And if the effect is truly significant, winning road night games that immediately follow home day games should be much more difficult than winning road games in general.
Since 1988, the Cubs have a .457 winning percentage in road night games that immediately follow home day games. In away contests following home night games, they perform better, winning half of the time. This sounds like a great improvement; so far, it seems like Ortiz is on to something.
But... the sample of away contests following home night games is incredibly small, at just 38 games over about 26 and a half seasons. Ortiz could have a point, but there's not enough data to make a substantial claim, largely because the Cubs still play most their home games during the day, and most of their home series end in day games.
It's when looking at a bigger sample that we see that Ortiz is full of shit. Ortiz has heard from his Cubs buddies that it's just really hard for them to win night games on the road after playing home day games. But since 1988, the Cubs have actually won slightly more of these games (.457 winning percentage) than they do all road games (.451).
In all this amounts to there being no significant difference between the Cubs' overall road performance and their performance in games they play at night on the road following home day games. The effect that is in Ortiz's favor, meanwhile—that the Cubs win more road games that follow home night games—comes in a sample so small that it's impossible to take seriously.
Leaving results aside, if the Cubs' scheduling was indeed so different and onerous, this would give them a serious home field advantage since other teams would have to adjust to every time they came to Wrigley. If the adjustment between night and day is really such a pain the ass, the Cubs' home field advantage should, in theory, offset or even be greater than their road disadvantage.
Ortiz's theory seems interesting, because the Cubs have been so awful for so long that it seems like there has to be some systemic explanation for it. But this is no more credible than the curses of the Billy Goat and Steve Bartman, nothing more than another straw to grasp so to avoid the reality that the team just sucks. If anyone wants to know what the problem with the Cubs really is, meanwhile, Clark is right there.