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When the Houston Astros were strong-armed out of the NL Central and into the AL West, MLB had not only made things a bit more fair for the National League (and a lot more fair for the teams in the NL Central), it also put itself in a bit of a pickle. The move gave the AL its 15th team, and left the NL with a similarly odd 15 teams. Query: in a sports where teams play multiple-game series throughout the year, how do you create a schedule that accommodates an uneven number of teams in each league?

Well, you’ve got to have interleague play throughout the year.

And that’s what we’ve now got, starting in 2013. Today, MLB revealed its master schedule for 2013. The Cubs open with the Pirates in Pittsburgh on April 1 (and then do the whole off-day-the-next-day thing), and the Reds and Angels open in the first interleague series of the season.

The Cubs’ first interleague series starts April 16 against the Rangers at Wrigley Field.

With even leagues, MLB was finally able to put together completely balanced schedules in terms of the types of games each team plays. That is to say, each team will play 76 games within its division, 66 against the rest of their league, and 20 interleague games. Some reports had the schedule not balancing out unless each team played upwards of 32 interleague games, but obviously that must have been some kind of rounding error. It isn’t quite the interleague bounty some had hoped for, but it’s a slight increase from 2012 (the Cubs played 15 interleague games this year). There will still be some lack of balance in terms of which intraleague teams are played (and the rivalry series), but it’s much closer than it’s been in recent years.

The season ends in late September this year, which will provide more time for tie-breakers and weather issues related to the new Wild Card round of the playoffs.

The particulars of the Cubs’ schedule will be coming shortly.

  • PJ

    Curious to see how it works. Division and interleague makes sense:
    76 gameds / 4 division teams = 19 games against each division rival
    20 games / 5 teams in interleague division match up = 4 games against each team

    but the intraleague games don’t compute:
    66 games / 10 teams from other two division = 6.6 games per team

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, I guess that part is slightly unbalanced, still.

      • ColoCubFan

        Do you see (or hear rumors to such) any chance the NL adopts a DH?

        • ColoCubFan

          Vogelbach finds a position!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Not for a couple years at the earliest. It’s gaining steam intellectually, but not yet from the organizations. Guarantee the players will support it, though.

        • kerrell goolsby

          They need to.

    • Sandberg

      Should be 80 vs. division, 60 vs. rest of league, 20 vs. one division in other league, and 2 for rivalry, which could be home/away for the close teams and alternate years for the teams that are farther away.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        If they are going to do the wild-cards based on W-L, then they need to make the schedules for teams in different divisions roughly comparable. You can do a truly balanced schedule: if nothing else, a team playing the PIrates now has an easier schedule than a team playing the Pirates in June. However, you can make it much more balanced by eliminating division-heavy play.

        • Sandberg

          That’s true, but I am not worried about the wildcard teams, win your division and you’re in. Otherwise you risk getting screwed over by the schedule.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            The issue is not about [em]teams[/em]; it’s about getting the best playoffs possible. Regardless of whether the Cubs are in post-season, there still are several other series that I will be watching: and I do not want to watch an inferior team that had an easier schedule instead of a superior team that had a tougher schedule.

  • cas-castro

    some play 7 and others play 6. doesnt sound very balanced to me..the division games make sense as do interleague. it would be more even if they were to add 4 more games to the schedule. which wont happen..

    • cubchymyst

      Or the could remove 6 and go to a shorter schedule. They could then start the season a little later or move the playoffs up.

      • Stinky Pete

        A shorter schedule will NEVER happen. You are taking food from the owners’ kids’ mouths.

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  • Stinky Pete

    The way I have always worked it out was

    72 games vs division or 18 vs each team in division
    30 games vs other divisions in league and one division in opposite league or 6 games vs 15 other teams.
    Simple.
    All series are 3 games and we don’t have silly 2 and 4 game series.

    It’s just SO damn easy. Why won’t it work?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      You still have the problem of WC teams from different divisions having fundamentally different schedules.

      • Stinky Pete

        My guess is that helps push the importance of winning your division. If you don’t want to pin your post season hopes on a one game playoff and whine about uncommon opponents, then just win your division.
        Or add 12 games to the schedule and have everyone play one home and one away against everyone.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The 1 game playoff format for the WC does that already. Basically, it’s now about 50:50 as to which WC team advances, and the division winners get an extra couple of days off, which greatly improves their chances of putting their best starters in games 1 & 2.

          This also would do more to get the two best non-division winners into post-season. Unbalanced scheduling in a division with 2 bad teams will artificially inflate the record of other teams in that division, and thus might easily result in a league-mediocre, division-great team getting a WC spot at the expense of a league-good, division-average team.

          • Stinky Pete

            I do have a difficult time articulating what is rattling around in my head. What I’m trying to say is, “Who gives a fluffernutter about the WC’s?” They are place holders. They create excitement in September and are supposed to fade quickly in October. MLB drastically reduced their importance. And the unbalanced schedule is another way to say, “We really don’t care who you are and how you got here. Win your division if you want to be relevant.”
            The unbalanced schedule at least creates equality within each division.
            What kind of balanced schedule do you recommend? Throw some numbers at me, baby!!

            • DocPeterWimsey

              “Who gives a fluffernutter about the WC’s?”

              I do! I want to see the best teams in the post-season series. (I watch or listen to all of them that I can.) If the talent level varies greatly among division (and it currently does in both leagues), then it will be too easy for one of the best teams to miss post-season because of a relatively difficult schedule.

              Also, keep in mind that the WC team frequently has been superior to at least one of the division winners. Moreover, I’m the sort who gets irked when a team misses the playoffs while an inferior one makes it simply because the inferior team got to win a weak division.

              As for the unbalanced schedule that I’d recommend, basically give each team more or less an equal schedule. Unfortunately, the numbers do not quite divide evenly. However, suppose that we have 54 three game series for each team. Unfortunately, we need 54 interleague series: and that does not divide evenly between 15 teams. (That already creates inequity: nine AL teams would get only three NL series, which puts them at a slight disadvantage relative to other AL teams; similarly, nine NL teams would have at a slight advantage over the other NL teams; my only solution is to give the 9 AL teams with the best run differentials the prior season only 3 NL series and the nine NL teams with the worst RD in the prior seasons only 3 AL series.)

              Of the remaining games, divide them as evenly as possible among all 14 other league teams. Where imbalance must occur, give bad teams from the prior year more games against other bad teams from the prior year.

              It’s not totally fair, but it’s the best option of which I can think.

              • Stinky Pete

                With the WC changes, I really think MLB doesn’t care about the WC and is emphasizing to win your division if you want a real chance. And no, of course it’s not going to be fair. I get your point there. I am seeing our disagreement as six of one, half a dozen of another. And I know you like your six of one. If your balanced schedule cannot be completely balanced and still is “Not totally fair”, then I see it as just another equal option to the unbalanced schedule.
                As far as scheduling opponents based on last year’s record, I know the NFL used to (Still does?) do this and every year there are teams who cruise into the playoffs based on a ridiculously weak schedule. (I maintain the 2001 Bears were the worst 13-3 team in the history of the NFL.) So I really don’t like that option. I guess I could go for a balanced schedule if it just worked out, you know, in a balanced way.
                With the unbalanced, at least you can compete equally with a small number of teams (Four to be exact.).
                To sum up, I guess I don’t disagree with you in principle, but the mathematics do. And I have to follow them.

              • Sandberg

                Let me begin by saying, I agree with you, I think that the best teams should make the playoffs. It should also be totally fair. The problem is that will never happen. :) If that were the case, you’d get rid of the leagues and the divisions and put everyone in the same pool for the playoffs. One home series and one away series, bump the season to 174 games. Top 6 teams get “byes”, bottom 4 teams play 1 game playoffs. Or just go with the top 8 teams.

                The problem with this type of system (and any “fair” system) is that it will be bad for league revenue. The divisions generate rivalries that sell extra tickets. Only 1 Cubs/Cards series in Wrigley per year? And we get the Mariners instead? *Yawn* Once you’ve decided that divisions are a necessary evil for revenue purposes, you’re really only obligated to ensure that each team in a division has an equal playing field. There’s obviously a lot more to this, but I am too lazy to type it.

  • TWC

    Cubs open … April 1 (and then do the whole off-day-the-next-day thing

    This scheduling quirk makes me almost as mad as I get when I remember that the league of the winner of an exhibition game receives home field advantage in the World Series. It’s stupid.

  • die hard

    another approx 100 loss season in the offing unless Cubs target a couple of high ranked FA…one pitcher and one position player…also dump Sveum for Sandberg…

    • Carew

      I don’t think you understand the way the FO are running the show…

      • TWC

        I don’t think you understand[.]

        Fixed that for you.

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