A wonderfully sensible realignment/schedule optimization plan

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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.

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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
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.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Where we stand:

  • The Brewers and Cubs both won, giving them each a half-game boost over the Phillies and a full game boost over the Mets, who lost, but keeping the status quo between themselves. Chicago has a one-game lead over Milwaukee for the second Wild Card and a five-game lead over both New York and Philly;
  • The Nationals lost to the Cardinals, reducing their lead for the top spot in the Wild Card race to a half game. We’ve sort of assumed for a couple of weeks that they were a lock at the top but, know what? They’re not;
  • The Twins put a half-game more on their lead over the idle Indians in the AL Central, making the margin five;
  • The Rays and Indians both had the night off while the Athletics lost, putting the Rays a game and a half behind the A’s in second and first, respectively, in the AL Wild Card race while Cleveland trails Tampa Bay by one and a half.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 5, Orioles 2: When I did yesterday’s recap I didn’t realize that this was a wraparound series and none of you corrected me so I guess that tells ya how this matchup rates in our collective consciousness. Jordy Mercer hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Victor Reyes hit a two-run double in the second to help Detroit earn the split.

Brewers 5, Padres 1: Corey Spangenberg spent five years with the Padres before this season but he set any residual loyalties aside while facing his old comrades, driving in three runs, including a tie-breaking, two-run triple in the fourth inning. Zach Davies, meanwhile, allowed one run over five and the Milwaukee pen held San Diego scoreless for the final four innings. The Brew Crew has won ten of eleven.

Twins 5, White Sox 3: The Sox took an early 2-0 lead but those were the only two runs Twins starter José Berríros allowed while pitching into the eighth inning. Jorge Polanco hit a sacrifice fly and Nelson Cruz knocked an RBI single in the second to tie things up and Mitch Garver‘s RBI double in the fifth put the Twinkies ahead for good. They didn’t hit a homer in this one. I hope they feel OK.

Cardinals 4, Nationals 2: Marcell Ozuna drove in all four of the Cardinals runs with a two-run homer and a two-run double. He also nailed a runner at home plate in the fourth to keep the Nats from tying things up:

The Nationals are looking over their shoulder and seeing the possibility of three NL Central teams making the postseason while they’re on the outside looking in. Not saying it’s gonna happen, but it could.

Cubs 8, Reds 2: Kyle Schwarber hit a three-run homer and Nicholas Castellanos hit a two-run double while five Cubs relievers tossed five and two-thirds scoreless innings. Schwarber — who we have always identified with stellar defense, right? — also made this diving catch:

Rockies 9, Mets 4: Rockies pitcher Antonio Senzatela hit a tying, two-run single in the fourth after which Trevor Story, a far more usual offensive contributor, smacked a three-run homer to blow things open for Colorado. In all the Rockies roughed up Steven Matz for seven runs on six hits in four innings. Before that single, Senzatela had been 0-for-44 on the year.  Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil each homered in a losing cause for New York.

Diamondbacks 7, Marlins 5: Robbie Ray pitched five and two-thirds innings of no-hit ball and left the game after allowing only one run in six innings. Once he was gone, however, the Fish put up a five-spot in the top of the seventh to come back from being down 3-0. Their lead didn’t last long as the Snakes put up a four-spot in their half of the seventh, including a bases-clearing three-run double by Jake Lamb, to give themselves back the lead and, ultimately, the game. Lamb also knocked in the game’s first run while being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the first. There are easier ways to get an RBI but whatever works, right?

Royals 6, Athletics 5: The A’s six-game winning streak comes to an end thanks to some late inning heroics by Royals batters. Specifically, Brett Phillips hit a tying home run off Liam Hendricks in the ninth after which Adalberto Mondesí hit an RBI double to put Kansas City on top. That Mondesí double isn’t an RBI if not for the fact that, one batter earlier, Whit Merrifield reached second thanks to a Ramón Laureano letting the ball simply pop out of his glove. Oops.