There has been a lot of discussion this season in regards to the imbalanced MLB schedule. Now this is not a new problem, it has been around for years since the start of Interleague play. This year however since the Astros moved to the AL West we have seen Interleague play throughout the entire season as opposed to a few weeks in the middle of the year. The other talk is how we need to shorten the season as 162 games is just absurdly long.
So what are the issues well for starters the imbalance of Interleague play every division is paired up with a division from the opposite league. This can cause issues depending on the strength of the division, example the AL East is taking on the NL West this year, while the AL West is taking on the NL East. If you look at the combined winning percentages of the clubs you start to see the discrepancy, AL East .544% vs NL West .485% and AL West .482% vs NL Central .529%. Right there you can see how it starts to become a little unfair the AL East has 35-22 record and .614 winning percentage against the NL West this season. The AL West also has a winning record against the Central, 44-38, but a large part of that is Oakland having a 13-5 record in Interleague play.
Second issue is the use of the DH in the American League, and no DH in the National League, AL pitchers are asked to hit a few times a season, thus creating higher risk of injury while batting, and running the bases. The other big issue is not playing identical opponents as the rest of your division. The Blue Jays as part of there rivalry series played the division leading Atlanta Braves for four games, however Tampa Bay got to play the Marlins.
Because of this there are some that want Interleague play abolished, while there are certainly negatives, I don’t see MLB getting rid of it anytime soon due to the increase of revenue it provides. Secondly I worked within the format of a 162 game schedule as again I don’t believe MLB is going to be shortening the season and lose revenue.
Currently this is the breakdown of the MLB schedule for each team, 19 games VS your 4 divisional opponents (76 games), 6 or 7 games VS non-divisional opponents (66 games), and 20 Interleague games, for a total of 162 games.
Changes to make everything more even, 18 games VS your 4 divisional opponents (72 games), 6 games VS non-divisional opponents (60 games), 2 games VS each non-league opponent (30 games), for a total of 162 games.
These are some very small changes that can be made to balance everything out, for starters you don’t need 76 games versus your division to figure out the winner. I don’t think you need 72 but to stay within the format of 162 games you lose 1 game against each opponent and wind up with six 3 game series, 3 home and 3 away seems pretty even to me.
Secondly, I don’t think it’s even that some team can play Oakland and Detroit 7 times, while another team gets Houston and Minnesota 6 times. So we even this out, every team plays there non-divisional opponents 6 games each. Nine series will be a 3 game home and away series for 54 games. One series will be a 4 home and 2 away, or 2 home and 4 away and this is due to the changes in Interleague play to ensure everyone plays 81 home and 81 away games. This 4 and 2 series would be rotated every season.
Lastly Interleague play you play every non-leauge team for a 2 game series, ensuring every team will have the same opponents. Each team will play eight two game series on the road for 16 games, and seven two game series at home 14 games or switched, eight home and 7 road. This would rotate each year so the eight teams you played on the road would play on the road the following season, and the seven teams you played at home you would play on the road.
Interleague play is a good thing, it increases the visibility of all times across the league and its players, it makes the players more marketable around the country. You cannot deny that for eight National League teams seeing that Yankees, and Red Sox come to town would not boost revenue. I have seen what happens in Toronto when teams like San Francisco, and Philadelphia come to town attendance skyrockets, which is increased revenue.
Until MLB decides to get rid of the DH or add it to the NL there is not much I can do about that; but I think a change to the schedule as outlined above would be a big step in the right direction to level the playing field for all teams. You could even use the winning record between the AL vs NL to determine world series home field advantage instead of the All-Star game but that’s another can of worms. Regardless changes need to be made, and it wouldn’t take all that much work to make it happen.