Monday, June 16, 2008

R-D Interleague Play

Joe Sheehan is a great author, but his article today about how interleague play affects the standings misses the point.

Yes, interleague play affects the playoff races. Yes, it's unfair. However, interleague scheduling does not make nearly as much difference as Sheehan implies.

Sure, a 16-2 interleague record gives a team a huge leg up in the playoff race, enabling them to edge out another team with better intraleague numbers. But does a team go 16-2 in interleague play solely because of their easy schedule? Hardly.

In 2006, the Tigers had a worse record than the Angels against AL opponents, as Sheehan points out. And Detroit played a much easier interleague schedule; their foes had a .472 winning percentage (in games against non-Tigers teams) as compared to .508 for the Angels. Over 18 interleague games, that advantage is worth...wait for it...

.65 wins. As in, less than two-thirds of one win.

The Angels finished six games back in the wild card race. Can anyone seriously argue that uneven interleague scheduling is to blame for the full deficit?

Sheehan also argues that the Red Sox have an unfair advantage, getting to play the Brewers, Phillies, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks, while the Yankees play the Mets, Mets, Padres, and Pirates. Before the start of the season, when the schedule was made, which of these groups of teams would you rather have signed up to play against? I would have chosen the former in a heartbeat, and I'm not sure I still wouldn't, what with the Pujols injury.

Now, I'm not arguing that the current setup is the most fair way to run things. The Royals vs. White Sox scheduling quirk is one Cubs fans have been complaining about for years--but the scalpers will still tell you that those are the most expensive tickets of the year. As long as the demand for rivalry matchups is higher than that for a balanced schedule, the status quo isn't budging.

My point is simply this: If you cherry-pick statistics like Sheehan does here, you can make any point you want to. Every year's standings would provide some comment like "If we didn't have to play the Blue Jays ten times as opposed to their seven, we would have won the division." Instead of blaming the schedule-makers, try playing better in interleague games. It's not that hard.

1 comment:

baseblog said...

It's definitely a weird spot to nitpick about fairness. Having 4 teams in one division and 6 in another is drastically less fair than schedule balance.