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Are imbalanced interleague schedules really so bad?

Jun 24, 2011, 1:00 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals Getty Images

Yesterday I linked a Ron Roenicke complaint — with which I agreed — about how having teams from the same division playing interleague schedules of differing strengths was unfair.  And it is unfair in the plainest sense of the term in that, without questions, teams have to face challenges of varying strength while vying for the same prize.

But has it resulted in unjust results in practice?  Not so much, says Wendy Thurm of Hanging Sliders who, last March, looked at the varying schedules in the interleague era and concluded thusly:

I have concluded that only two National League divisional races and only one National League wild card race between teams in the same division may have been affected by an unbalanced interleague schedule.

She then followed that up the next week and felt comfortable taking the “may” off of it, saying that “neither the unbalanced interleague schedules nor the unbalanced National League schedules tipped the scales in favor of the team that won each race.”

Check out Wendy’s work.  And then let’s ask ourselves how many things we get worked up about — even if there’s a legitimate, theoretical reason to get worked up about them — actually don’t matter all that damn much.

 

  1. kinggeorge96 - Jun 24, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    I found that interesting… except the part in the follow up post where she didn’t mention the 1 race (2006 National League Central Race) that she said may have very well been decided by the unbalanced schedule!

    “My conclusion: The Astros had the toughest interleague schedule of the 3 teams and missed the playoffs by only 1.5 games. The unbalanced interleague schedules may very well have affected the outcome of this divisional race.”

    In the original post, she didn’t say that she had to go back and check out the rest of the season’s schedules… and didn’t mention it at all in the followup…

    But, it was the thought that counts, right dear??

    • hangingsliders - Jun 24, 2011 at 1:48 PM

      I dealt with the 2006 NL Central race in the original post. It’s the one race where interleague schedules may very well have affected the outcome. Here’s what I wrote:

      2006 National League Central race:

      This one is interesting. The Cardinals won the division over the Astros by 1.5 games and the Reds by 3.5 games. The Cardinals and the Reds each played 15 interleague games against the same opponents (White Sox, Indians, Tigers and Royals) but the Cardinals played 6 against the rival Royals and the Reds played 6 against the rival Indians. The Cardinals went 4-2 against the Royals, while the Reds went 3-3 against the Indians. The Cardinals otherwise played poorly in interleague games, and ended with a worse interleague record (5-10). So I don’t see how interleague hurt the Reds in 2006 vis a vis the Cardinals.

      But the Astros played 3 more interleague games than either the Cards or the Reds. All three teams played the Royals, the White Sox and the Tigers. But the Astros also played 3 against the Minnesota Twins and 6 against in-state rival Texas Rangers. The Twins were 96-66 in 2006 and won the AL Central. The Rangers were 90-72 and won the AL West.

      My conclusion: The Astros had the toughest interleague schedule of the 3 teams and missed the playoffs by only 1.5 games. The unbalanced interleague schedules may very well have affected the outcome of this divisional race.

      • kinggeorge96 - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:14 PM

        After thinking about it, you are correct… it was more of Craig’s wording that I had issue with I suppose. In his statement above, it gives the impression (to me) that you found there was no effect of the imbalanced schedule, period. It didn’t dawn on me until your reply that you were only discussing the ones you said needed to be followed up on in the followup…

        Very interesting though, thanks for the legwork!

  2. royalsfaninfargo - Jun 24, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    I think its the perception of the unbalanced schedule that people dont like. I mean look at the name “unbalanced” is part of the title. Outside of that i dont think it really matters. Good teams will win because they are good and bad teams will lose because they are the Royals! Sorry, that was a Freudian slip!

    • thecfactor - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:01 PM

      I respectfully disagree. Per my post below regarding this years interleague sched for the top 3 teams in the NL central, the Brewers have a significantly tougher interleague schedule than either of the other 2 division contenders. MIL has 5 more games against teams that took 1, 2 or 3 in their division last year than the other 2 teams combined. Tell me how that is remotely even fair?

  3. thecfactor - Jun 24, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    RR has a point. Look at the numbers this year for interleague. The Brewers play 15 games against teams that finished 1, 2, or 3 in their respective divisions. Then look at the other contenders in the NL Central. Cincinnati plays 7 games against teams that finished 1, 2 or 3 and 9 against 4 place teams. St. Louis plays 3 games against teams that finished 1, 2 or 3 and 12 against 4 & 5 place teams. Here is how the 3 contenders in the NL central finished last year:
    1) Cin
    2) STL
    3) Mil

    How is this at all fair? Based on last year’s finish, the Brewers have by far the toughest interleague schedule of the 3. That’s why I like the NFL schedule. The 2 games that you play that are not part of the normal scheduling rotation are based on the previous year’s regular season finish.

    And as much as I like the “rivalry” idea, it is not fair to the rest of the NL Central that STL gets to play at least 3 against KC every year. Since 2002, STL is 28-17 against KC (.622 winning percentage). Only once in that time frame did STL have a winning pct. greater than .622 (.648 in 2004)

  4. Jonny 5 - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    I get to see the BoSox battle it out with the Phillies soon. I anticipate it. Whining about the schedule is small beans when any team can beat any other team in any given series. You see it all season long. This is akin to salary caps to make sure everything is equal. Let’s just accept life isn’t fair sometimes and move on.

    • IdahoMariner - Jun 24, 2011 at 4:01 PM

      I have to agree — if this wasn’t baseball, if it wasn’t a 162 game schedule, well, yeah, maybe it would matter more. But this isn’t football. It’s a long slog through a lot of teams and yeah, any team can beat any other team in any given series. My Mariners just took 2 of 3 from Philadelphia, and got swept by the Nats. I truly, truly enjoy the pure craziness of whenever the Royals beat the Yankees. Yeah, sometimes you are 1.5 games out and it might feel like it was THOSE games that made the difference. But what about all the other games you lost, how come you weren’t 5 games ahead, or ten? Baseball is beautifully crazy.

  5. spudchukar - Jun 24, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    Yeah, St. Louis really gets a break, they play Philadelphia an extra three times.

    Plus, who is going to be the Nostradamus each year. Most would agree the Reds were going to have it easy with Indians, and the Brewers, tough against the Twins. The decision has to be made well before Spring Training, and it will always be a guess.

    Based on last year’s finish the Pads should be matched up with a top AL team, and the D-backs a last place finisher. Without fail every year some team will be burdened with a tougher row to hoe. I see no way to insure a balance, and hope the powers that be never choose to reward failure.

  6. rexryanisablowhard - Jun 24, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    IL baseball blows, unbalanced or otherwise. Takes intrigue out of the World Series and aside from the 10 or so geographic rivalries, it falls flat. Ooooh, can’t wait for those scintillating games between CLE/SF, BOS/PIT, NYY/COL, STL/TOR or, wait for it…CHC/KC! I got a great idea, whichever league wins more games in IL play should get home field advantage in the World Series, then they would really count!! Oh that’s right, the AS Game fixed that problem. It’s been 15 years, time to pull the plug on IL play and Bud Selig.

  7. dirtyharry1971 - Jun 24, 2011 at 6:03 PM

    everything rexryanisablowhard wrote is 100% correct and the fool who gave him a thumbs down simply doesnt have a clue. time to pull the plug on selig, no doubt about it

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