Are imbalanced interleague schedules really so bad?

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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.

 

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.