Beginning next season, Houston will move to the AL West and there will be two leagues of 15 teams, each with three five-team divisions. Although my plan for how to handle this new arrangement is no more likely to be adopted than a re-make of Love Story with Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee in the roles of Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw, I’ll share it after the jump.
Under my ideal plan for 2013 and beyond:
–Each team would play 18 games against the other four teams in its division. That would add up to 72 games of each team’s regular season schedule.
–Each team would play 6 games against each of the teams in the other divisions in its own league. That’s another 60 games per team, so we are up to 132 games of the schedule so far.
–Each team would play six inter-league games against each of the five teams in a single, designated division in the other league. That’s 30 games , so now we are up to a full, 162-game season. Rival divisions would be assigned on a three-year cycle, so that for example NL West teams would play AL West teams in 2013, AL Central teams in 2014, and AL East teams in 2015, and then start the cycle again in 2016.
–The standings to determine the wild card teams, as between teams in different divisions, would be separate from, and calculated in a whole different way than, the normal, 162-game standings used to determine division winners. The inter-division wild card standings would be based on points, sort of like hockey standings. Teams would be awarded three points for a win in an inter-division game, one point for a win in an intra-division game, and zero points for inter-league games.
These point standings would achieve strength-of-schedule fairness among teams from different divisions competing for the wild card. Because under my proposed schedule, intra-division rivals play each other three times as often as they play league teams outside the division, the points system adjusts for what would otherwise be unfair strength-of-schedule differences by giving three times the weight to inter-division games. And because, under my proposed schedule, there would be no schedule overlap at all in inter-league games (as between teams in different divisions competing for wild card spots), to avoid strength-of-schedule bias in wild card standings I simply would not count those inter-league games for wild card purposes.
–Every inter-league game, regardless of home field, would be played with a modified DH rule. Under this rule, each manager would have (instead of a DH for the whole game) one and only one chance, at any time during the game, to use a pinch-hitter who would not have to play in the field and would not became ineligible to enter the game again later (as a pinch-hitter or otherwise), although of course he could not bat again until the other eight lineup spots had come up at least once. Think of this as the “one at-bat DH” rule, or the “super-pinch-hitter” rule.
Although these proposed rules and scheduling concepts may have other problems, they are structured to be as fairly balanced as possible. Therefore, they will never actually happen. But I hope they are at least amusing to consider.