Future Perfect: A Balanced Schedule for 2013

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.

 Also:

–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.

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43 Comments on "Future Perfect: A Balanced Schedule for 2013"

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Thomas
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I think this is genius, except for the DH rule and I’m well aware I’m in the minority in that I like the AL home DH NL home pitcher batting. Regardless, the scheduling and wild card formats are genius. I love it.

Max
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I could easily see the schedule set up being used. Baseball, though, would never ever have a point system for wins and losses, it’s not “tradition”. Ironic, since we are setting up a schedule for interleague play every day.

Lawrence Azrin
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1) The scheduling idea is great, but MLB will never have interleague games against just one division. They want to maintain natural interleague rivalries, while also playing opponents from all the different divisions. You couldn’t have the natural interleague rivalries every year if you were changing the divisions every year. 2) Agree with Max/#2, MLB would never go for a point system, like the NHL. This is a very creative way to adress the strength-of-schedule bias you refer to. 3) I agree with #1/Thomas here, I also know I’m in the minority, but I like the AL/DH and NL/no-DH for… Read more »
Doug
Editor
If you want inter-league, balanced schedule as you’ve proposed is the only way to go. Interesting how easily that came together with 5 teams in each division. I understand the natural rivalry stuff but here’s what’s wrong with it. – Rivalries (natural or otherwise) come from familiarity. Thus, the true rivalries are with the teams in your division, not clubs you see in only two series a year. – Many clubs don’t have “natural” rivals. Do people in Seattle get stoked because the Padres are coming to town? Or, do Philadelphians circle the Blue Jays series when the schedule comes… Read more »
Luis Gomez
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I’m not sure people will see “something defferent”, I mean, on the earlier days before sportscenter, baseball tonight, MLB Network, et al; I could understand that expression, but nowadays, I think baseball fans in DH ballparks are very aware of the non-DH style of play and viceversa.

Luis Gomez
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I meant “something DIFFERENT”. Darn it, I keep butchering your language, sorry.

bstar
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I like some of the suggestions, here, birtelcom, but I don’t think your point system will totally fix the inherent unfairness of the wild card. Take the NL East teams, and the current system we have now. Because this division is so much better than the NL Central or West, obviously having to play your division opponents in the NL East makes their schedule harder and gives an advantage to NL Central and West teams in bidding for the wild card. But with your point system, although it may make things a little fairer overall, it will swing the pendulum… Read more »
Evan
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The points system is interesting and intriguing, but using these two different methods for determining the division races and the wild card is defective. Imagine this scenario: Team A is in division one and has no chance of winning the division, but is in contention for the final wild card going into the end of the season. Teams B & C are in a different division in the same league and are tied for the division lead. However Team B had an exceptional record in interleague games and intradivision games, but did comparatively poorer in interdivision within its own league.… Read more »
Andy R
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The inherent flaws of a 15-team league are inter-league games every day(which cheapens the novelty factor somewhat), and the idea that the two leagues are nothing more than conferences. Would baseball consider one more round of expansion to get to 32 teams? Where would they go? Charlotte? Buffalo? San Antonio? Back to Montreal??

Just thinkin’…

bstar
Guest

I’m not sure where they’d go, Andy, but I’d bet a lot of money MLB, whenever they do expand to 32 teams, will follow the NFL’s model and go to 8 4-team divisions, with 2 wild cards per league. So then 12 of the 32 teams will make the playoffs, further cheapening the regular season. This is perhaps the biggest reason I am not a fan of the extra wild card team this year–it’s going to lead directly to 6 teams per league making the playoffs once expansion happens again.

Andy R
Guest

You’re probably right, bstar- to me, baseball isn’t suited to the “mini-division” concept, since a team would play so few of its games within their division- I would almost rather see 32 teams in 4 geographical divisions and scrap the concept of NL and AL completely, with 154 games played only in your division/league. Traditionalists would hate it, but tradition has been backhanded by the game for so long that there seems to be no tradition left…

Paul E
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Andy R:
With 32 teams, wouldn’t a 16 team league of 2 eight-team divisions work w/o inter-league play? A team would play its seven division rivals 14 times and the eight teams from the other division 8 times each. This would equate to a 162 game schedule (w/o interleague play-HOORAH!!). Let the two division rivals play an 9 game LCS with maybe two travel days. Forget the “wild card”…..kill the DH, too.

I promise to go work on Iran and North Korea if MLB ever goes forward with all of the above

Richard Chester
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Paul E: I agree with you except for the DH change. Would you want a 9 game WS also?

Paul E
Guest

@27 Richard:
Make it 11 games: 4 – 5 – 2 with only two travel days….and the All Star game winner gets nothing except bragging rights. Prior year’s WS winner’s league gets the home field advantage

e pluribus munu
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I’m growing increasingly surprised that no one has yet demanded that we bring back the Browns.

Paul E
Guest
Munu: The only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia. If you think my ideas smack of “yearning for the old”, how about going back to 24 teams and letting the other six serve as draft fodder? This would almost totally eliminate the “shitty” fifth starter and improve the depth of everyone’s starting pitching rotation. It might even get so damn competetive we could eliminate the 10 year/ $200M contracts AND we might see pitchers throwing inside more in an effort to maintain their jobs in such a competetive workplace. Any suggestions on the 6 teams we should eliminate? (Pittsburgh, Tampa,… Read more »
e pluribus munu
Guest
You could always improve the average performance level by cutting teams – I’m not sure there’s much gained in terms of the value of the game, and there would certainly much lost for the fans in cut cities. You’d basically narrow towards big markets and eliminate great some baseball cities like Pittsburgh (besides, these things run in cycles: today you’re suddenly referring to the first-place Pittsburgh club; a few years ago you might have named Detroit). I share birtelcom’s concern about the integrity of championships – or, to be more precise, the relevance of the regular season to the championship… Read more »
Insert Name Here
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More expansion wouldn’t be surprising… I’ve got my money on Portland and New Orleans for the new teams. That way we can have what would be the “AL South” with Texas, Houston, New Orleans, and Kansas City, and Portland replaces Texas in the AL West.

bstar
Guest

With all the unbelievable crowd support the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder are getting from their great fans, I wonder if OKC would be a possibility. And what about Louisville? Hasn’t their support of their minor league team been fantastic over the years?

Paul E
Guest
Since Bud Selig and his minions are oblivious to common sense and tradition, and are merely interested in maximizing revenues in any fashion possible, why not this pipe dream: 1) Eliminate the DH (for good/permanentl 2) Kill inter-league play (the novelty has worn off) a) Play interleague exhibition games in late March/early April 3) Go with a 160 game schedule by playing 20 games against your division rival and 8 sgainst each of the 10 teams in the other division 4) One wild card team and they don’t play a home game in the first round Selig sucks (sorry). I’m… Read more »
John Autin
Editor

I’m no Selig fan, but I remain convinced that a 2nd wild card, in the current plan, actually makes it harder for a wild card to win it all, which I think is good.

Nothing wrong with maximizing revenues if it doesn’t cost you in fairness and credibility.

Doug
Guest
My problem with the new wild card format is you could have a situation where one of the wild cards just missed winning its division, and the second wild card was well back. Then, it’s basically a crap shoot between a “deserving” wild card and another who doesn’t really belong. Not only that, but the deserving team, in its effort to win the division, may have used up its best starters and have to go with a #3 or #4 starter in the wild card game against a team which, knowing it wasn’t going to win the division, was preparing… Read more »
bstar
Guest
Not only that, Doug, but the team that was probably battling the “deserving” wild card for the division crown may have also had to use up its best pitchers down the stretch to win the last few games of the season and clinch the division. Let’s suppose these are the teams with the two best records in the league. Now you’ve got the #1 and #2 best teams in the league with their regulars not rested and their rotation not set while the team with the fifth best record, well back of the other 4, is able to pitch its… Read more »
Jameson
Guest

Interleague play should be one game against each team in the other league.

John Autin
Editor

Intriguing idea. Would you have it in a single month, like a giant carousel, or spread the games out?

jameson
Guest

I would have the games spread out over the course of the season. I don’t think it would be too difficult to tack on single games during road trips to nearby cities in the teams own leagues. A game against the Orioles while your team is playing the Nationals, etc. I think Colorado and Seattle are the most geographically isolated MLB teams, most others are close enough to other teams with a few sharing cities or very close or close enough: NY, Chi, LA, SF/Oak, StL/KC, Pit/Cle.

Paul E
Guest

That would certainly increase airline revenues

Fireworks
Guest

birtelcom’s been reading my comments! Thief!

:p

MLB has a golden opportunity to fix things in 2013 (I too thought up the 4×18, 10×6, 5×6 scheduling scheme, as I’m sure others have–the math really works out neatly), but MLB is so enamored with these stupid interleague rivalries.

Gonna be disappointing when they screw up the opportunity to right things.

But hey, it’s what the fans want, right? Just like the fans want the integrity of the ASG to be kept by tying it into the WS. Bud Selig really knows the fans.

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