Light Bulb

A wonderfully sensible realignment/schedule optimization plan


In response to the realignment post earlier this afternoon, I got an email from reader Ron in Chicago, in which he exhaustively sets forth a realignment/schedule optimization scheme that pretty much accomplishes what everyone seems to want and does so in the least obtrusive manner possible.

It expands the playoffs, as seems inevitable. It makes travel better. It makes the schedule more balanced. It ensures that the season doesn’t stretch into November. It’s pretty wonderful. That is, unless you like divisions.  I guess they’re fine, but I’m willing to chuck them in order to increase balance and stuff.

Ron has already sent this along to Major League Baseball and has shared it on a message board or two, but I think it deserves some wider exposure, so I’m reproducing it in its entirety.  Let’s scrutinize it and see what the flaws are and how, if possible, we can improve it.  The goal, I think, is to come up with a plan against which we can judge whatever proposals Major League Baseball actually comes up with over time, and I think Ron’s is a great start.

Everything below the line is from Ron in Chicago. I am but his scrivener.


You said no divisions might just work, and I agree.  Here is my plan I came up with, assuming they’re expanding the playoffs next year:

Both Leagues 15 Teams– If they are going to have 5 teams in each league make the playoffs, go all the way and have both leagues 15 teams. That way, the top 33% in each league makes the playoffs. My idea is to move the Colorado Rockies to the American League since they don’t have a century or more of history in the NL, and it would also even the leagues by time zones– 7 east, 4 central, 4 west (mountain/pacific).

Shorten the Season by a Week- With the added round of playoffs, baseball has to shorten the season by a week (25 weeks). If they can play 6 day/night doubleheaders, they can do this. They could be scheduled roughly every three or four weeks, scheduled on Saturday’s.

Interleague Play All Year- With 15 teams in each league, there will need to be interleague play all season. All teams would play 18 interleague games, with either one or three series going at all times.

Close to a Balanced Schedule- There would still be 18 interleague games, but the other 144 games would be split up this way– you play the four teams in your former division 11 games, and the other ten teams 10 games for the 144 total. I really don’t care which four teams you play 11 games, but I did it this way so rivalries like the Yankees/Red Sox and Cubs/Cardinals will always play four series per season. The Rockies would be considered a former AL West team, and the Astros would be a former NL West team.

50 Series Per Season- With 25 weeks, they could still play roughly two series per week. With the All-star break, they have to cram one week with two 2-game series still, but it can work. Example of a White Sox schedule breakdown:

Home series in bold:
Cle: 3-3-5
Det: 2-3-3-3
Min: 3-3-3-2
KC: 5-3-3
Bal: 3-3-4
Bos: 3-3-4
NY: 4-3-3
Tor: 4-3-3
TB: 3-3-4
Col: 4-3-3
LAA: 4-3-3
Oak: 4-3-3
Sea: 3-3-4
Tex: 3-3-4
Cubs: 3-3
NL: 3
NL: 3
NL: 3
NL: 3

Schedules would alternate in the second year, and then be reset in the third year.

Series breakdown:
2-game: 2
3-game: 36
4 games in 4 days: 6
4 games in 3 days: 4
5 games in 4 days: 2

Road trips would be scheduled with common sense, so there isn’t excessive travel expense issues. With only 25 road series, this should not be an issue. Also, with interleague play all year, they can schedule those games with more common sense. For example, if the White Sox had to play in San Francisco, they could schedule that series around a trip to Oakland, so they are in the same place for the whole week.

Season Schedule:
Opening Day would be on a Thursday, from March 29 to April 4.
All-Star Game: Tuesday, from June 26 to July 2.
Final Day of Season: Wednesday, from September 19 to September 25.
Game 7 of World Series: Thursday, from October 25 to October 31.

The 4th Place team would host the 5th place team in a best-of-three on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday following the regular season.

If they did this in 2012, the full schedule would look this way:
Opening Day: Thursday, March 29. When OD is in late March, they should schedule the opening series in warm weather cities, and domes.
All Star Game: Tuesday, June 26
Final Day: Wednesday, September 19
Play-In Series: September 21, 22, and 23

“Division” Series would be expanded to a best-of-7:
AL: 9/25, 9/26, 9/28, 9/29, 9/30, 10/2, 10/3
NL: 9/26, 9/27, 9/29, 9/30, 10/1, 10/3, 10/4

League Championship Series:
AL: 10/6, 10/7, 10/9, 10/10, 10/11, 10/13, 10/14
NL: 10/7, 10/8, 10/10, 10/11, 10/12, 10/14, 10/15

World Series:
10/17, 10/18, 10/20, 10/21, 10/22, 10/24, 10/25

This is the earliest the World Series can end, but the World Series will never be scheduled in November. They can expand the playoffs, make all rounds best-of-7, and still finish the World Series in October.

Standings would be presented with all 15 teams in order. The top-3 teams would be blocked off so it’s easy to see who is in the playoffs if the season ended that day. Then the next two teams would be blocked off to show who would be in the Play-in Series. Then the rest of league follows.

They would show how many games out of 5th, 3rd, and 1st place each team is, in that order. That way, if your team is out of the playoff group, the first column shows the least amount of games you’re out of the playoffs. Then the 3rd place column, then the 1st place column showing how many games each team is behind the 1-seed.

Right now, the top-3 in the AL would be Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. The Angels would host the Yankees in a best-of-3.

I’d also make it a rule that the Play-In Series teams cannot produce Playoff merchandise until they actually win the series. That way, you’re putting a premium on finishing in the top-3 in the league, and you’re not rewarding the 5th place team with any home games until they beat the 4th place team in their park.

I think this would be a great format. It would bring more teams into the race without the problem of who is better–a good wildcard team, or a bad division winner.

Just eliminate divisions, play a close-to-balanced schedule, and seed the top-5 in order, and nobody can complain about the format.

What Barry Bonds being the Marlins hitting coach means. And what it doesn’t mean.

FILE - In this March 10, 2014, file photo, former San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds chats to the dugout during a spring training baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz. Bonds' obstruction of justice conviction reversed by 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.  (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

The news that Barry Bonds plans, tentatively at least, to accept the Marlins offer to be their hitting coach has the hot stove sizzling. Which is totally understandable. Barry Bonds is a big famous — infamous, even — name and he’s been out of baseball for a long time. That he seems to be getting back in the game, then, is understandably interesting. That he seems to be heading to the Marlins — not exactly an expected destination — is likewise interesting.

But how interesting is it? And does it really matter, both for Bonds and for the Marlins? And if so, how much? Let’s do a quick Q&A about it, shall we?


Q: Bonds is one of the greatest hitters of all time. That should make him an amazing hitting coach, right? 

A: Not necessarily. The guy thought to be one of the best hitting coaches in history — Charlie Lau — had an OPS+ of 89 for his career across 11 almost totally bench-riding seasons in the bigs. Many of the other top hitting coaches in baseball history were likewise scrubeenies of one flavor or another. Same goes for pitching coaches, by the way, while many of the ex-superstars that got into the coaching biz didn’t last long and didn’t have a lot of success. Indeed, there appears to be no correlation at all and at least some anecdotal disconnection between playing prowess and coaching prowess, possibly because that which comes naturally to a superstar is hard to communicate to someone not as gifted. Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Bob Gibson coached. None of them changed the coaching game by their presence.

All of that said, Barry Bonds’ greatness came not just from his physical gifts —  naturally or artificially bestowed — but from his approach to at bats. His preparation, his strategy and his plate patience. Some of those things can likely be communicated fairly straightforwardly, even if they cannot simply be picked up by any Justin, Adeiny or Christian who comes along.


Q: Let’s assume Bonds would be a good hitting coach, though. How much of an impact could he possibly have?

A: That’s the big question, really. And you won’t find a lot of agreement on it. Many people say that hitting coaches are only as good as the lineup they coach and that, especially in this day and age, a player’s own preparation — which he may take far more seriously than the atta-boys from a coach his father’s age — matters much more than anything else.

There have been some attempts to quantify a good hitting coach’s impact, however. One such study was conducted by Baseball Prospectus’ Russell Carelton a couple of years ago. Carelton found that hitting coaches can really only have a noticeable impact on whether or not hitters take a more aggressive or a more passive approach at the plate and cannot, by themselves, teach pitch selectivity. He further found that hitting coaches seem to be divided into two groups: those who teach hitters to put the ball into play and those who encourage a walk/strikeout/home run approach to things.

As far as results go, Carleton found some pretty significant impacts in small sample sizes and for hitting coaches, like Clint Hurdle, who coached in volatile run-scoring environments such as Colorado and Texas. He concluded, however, that even if we’re being super conservative, a good hitting coach could account for 20-30 runs in a year, which is a couple of wins, and that a couple of wins is a pretty big impact for a low-paid coach.

Of course, the Marlins had the second worst offense in the National League last year. They need more than just 20-30 runs.


Q: Getting away from the numbers, this is a big deal, right? For the Marlins? For Bonds? 

A: Though I’m on record being a pretty big Bonds fanboy, I think we should temper our expectations on all of this. Mark McGwire made something of a P.R. splash when he entered the coaching ranks with the Cardinals. He was the first bigtime PED guy to return to the game and he was under the microscope for a bit. But then, of course, he just faded into the same woodwork into which all of the other hitting coaches fade. We didn’t think too much of him until he changed jobs a few years later then when he changed jobs again just recently. Being back in the game certainly didn’t help his Hall of Fame case either. He’s been sliding off the ballot pretty steadily for years, actually. The most that can be said is that, when McGwire’s name comes up in news reports, the first reference to him isn’t “The controversial, steroid-associated slugger, Mark McGwire.” That usually waits until the second paragraph. If Bonds has that happen to him it’ll be a moral victory for him. But given that he’s more infamous than McGwire was, don’t count on that happening.

Ultimately I think that Bonds will, after the initial wave of stories and the initial pictures of him in Marlins garb next spring come out, fade into that woodwork like any other coach. After all no one comes to the ballpark to see a hitting coach. Not even one as famous as Barry Bonds.


Q: Quit being negative. Isn’t it something of a big deal? Even a little bit? 

A: OK, I’ll give you this much: between McGwire, the reinstatement of A-Rod and his well-received and successful 2015 season and now Bonds being hired, it’s fair to say that baseball has had no problem with the rehabilitation and mainstreaming of the PED crowd from the 1990s and 2000s. They’re not pariahs in the game and their association with it is not considered controversial by the people who play it and run it. The only people living in the past in this regard, it seems, is the media. Perhaps another so-called villain being welcomed back into the game’s ranks will help bring them around too.


Q: Why is Bonds, after years of exile from baseball and a seemingly idyllic life in California, willing to go work for Jeff Loria anyway?

A: We won’t know until he says so, though I’m sure many people will try to speak for him on that count. To the extent they do, they’ll likely talk about his “legacy” and the fact that his legal troubles were finally and definitively put behind him in 2015. All of that is just speculation, of course. The most we know is that Bonds was (a) willing to coach the Giants in spring training; and (b) spoke at various points in his career about how he’d like to maybe one day be a coach of some kind. This is a job that seems to be open and it’s in a city — Miami — that ain’t a hard place to live, even if the organization for which he’ll work is dysfunctional.

Maybe a young man’s dreams don’t really ever go away. Maybe baseball is fun and guys who spent almost their entire life in baseball miss it when it’s gone. And maybe Barry just wants back in.

Astros “shopping” slugger Chris Carter

Chris Carter

With tomorrow’s deadline to tender 2016 contracts to arbitration eligible players looming, Jerry Crasnick of reports that the Astros are “shopping” first baseman Chris Carter.

Few players in baseball have more power than Carter, who hit 24 homers in 129 games this year and has averaged 30 homers per 150 games for his career, but he’s also a career .217 hitter with little defensive value who should probably be a designated hitter.

Houston has no shortage of power options, many of whom have somewhat similar skill sets to Carter, so shopping him around makes sense. He seems unlikely to generate a big return, however. Carter could command a salary of more than $6 million via arbitration.

UPDATE: Barry Bonds tentatively plans to accept the Marlins hitting coach job

Barry Bonds

UPDATE: Bob Nightengale reports that while negotiations are not yet finalized, Barry Bonds “tentatively plans to accept the Marlins’ offer to be hitting coach with Frank Menechino.” Which is a good reminder that Menechino is still the Marlins’ hitting coach. Who would be the assistant and who would be the coach — or if they’d be co-coaches — is unclear.

12:00PM: The matter of Barry Bonds as the Marlins hitting coach has gone from “consideration” to “offer,” reports Bob Nightengale. The Marlins now await Barry Bonds’ response.

The biggest mystery in all of this is whether Bonds is actually interested. No one has reported that he was willing or even that there have been serious conversations between the Marlins and Bonds. That could be because Bonds, as has always been his practice, doesn’t talk too much to the media. Indeed, we learn more about him from his social media presence than anything reported about him. So it’s possible that Bonds and Jeff Loria have been in contact about all of this and he’s strongly considering it as well.

It’s also possible that this is all nothing and the Marlins are just trying to make a long shot happen.

MONDAY, 5:01 PM: This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Royals avoid arbitration with Tim Collins for $1.475 million

Tim Collins Getty
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Left-hander Tim Collins, who missed the entire 2015 season following Tommy John elbow surgery, will remain with the Royals after avoiding arbitration for a one-year, $1.475 million contract.

Collins was a non-tender candidate due to his injury and projected salary via arbitration, but the Royals are convinced he can bounce back to be a valuable part of the bullpen again in 2016 and beyond. He agreed to the same salary he made in 2015.

Prior to blowing out his elbow Collins posted a 3.54 ERA with 220 strikeouts in 211 innings from 2011-2014 and he’s still just 26 years old. He figures to begin 2016 in a middle relief role.