CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (07/03)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Skewed Left: Which Pos... (06/26)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: What the ... (07/09)
Next Article >>
The Lineup Card: Ten T... (07/03)

July 3, 2014

Skewed Left

The Ingrained, Misguided, 162-Game Schedule

by Zachary Levine


“The people who control the destinies of base ball, and the enthusiasts who have kept the game alive and made it the greatest pastime in the world, demand as much of base ball as they can get. Our duty is to provide it and simply adhere to their wishes in the matter.” – American League Vice President Charles W. Somers to the Sporting Life, May 2, 1905

This week we reached the halfway point of the season in baseball, a sport whose name’s halfway point is no longer denoted with a space, and boy is there much of it. We’re ~50 percent of the way to 162, a number that’s been part of the American League fan’s rapid recall since 1961 and the National League’s since 1962, without any deviations save for a couple of strike years. And it’s a number that – given baseball’s dynamic scheduling history – makes no sense.

When Somers was quoted 109 years ago, it was in reference to the 154-game season, then considered by some to be far too long. A jump from 140 games in most of the previous years, the 154-game schedule came to be in 1904 and forced the abandonment of the one-year-old World Series concept because nobody wanted to play that long after a long season. (The American League was against the lengthening of the regular season and claimed that the National League honchos did it only to avoid getting embarrassed in the postseason again.)

The 154-game season would remain the rule in both leagues, the World Series would return in 1905 after the one-year hiatus, and 154 kept right on going until the staggered expansions of the early 1960s.

The number 154 is a cool number. It’s pretty much everything the number needed to be to serve baseball for six decades. It’s an even number—you really don’t want teams playing more home games than road games or vice versa. And it’s a multiple of seven. The 154-game schedule was born at the dawn of the period of 16-team MLB stability, when eight teams composed each league and playing every other team in your league 22 times would get the job done.

But then 1961 came along, and with it the awkwardness of expanding one league without the other. The American League was at 10 teams, the National at only eight. So in each league, the math won out. The National League stayed at the multiple of seven, while the AL went to the next closest even multiple of nine, with the teams pairing off 18 times for a total of 162 games. And when Houston and the Mets followed the Angels and Washington 2.0 the next year, the NL was on board for 162 as well.

The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.

Not a subscriber?

Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.


Cancel anytime.


That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!


That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Related Content:  Schedule,  162-game Schedule

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Sharky

To say nothing of its impact on players' (read: pitchers') bodies! 162 games is a lot of physical abuse for a shoulder, elbow, etc.

Jul 03, 2014 04:29 AM
rating: 0
 
Drungo

The difference in pitcher abuse between 162 and 154 games seems pretty negligble. Even a reduction to 140 games would be the equivalent of 3.5 games a month. I think you'd have to radically shorten the schedule (maybe by half, or 2/3rds?) to make a significant impact, and if you did that teams would just use their better pitchers more often, negating the intent.

Jul 03, 2014 05:56 AM
rating: 3
 
swarmee

So Roger Maris beating Babe Ruth was due to a *longer schedule* and *expansion team pitcher dilution*? I smell an #asterisk #*. Was there discussion prior to the season that extending the length could put "season records" at risk?

Jul 03, 2014 06:00 AM
rating: 1
 
KJOK

Excellent article but I think mentioning the Maris/Ruth HR chase is important as I think season records were still on the minds of many in 1969 as a 'negative' to changing the number of regular season games.



Jul 03, 2014 20:16 PM
rating: 2
 
StefanAFrisch

With 160 you could also up the 1 game wildcard to a 3 game series and for those 4 teams it would be the same as the current 162+1. It makes the wildcard a little less random. The incentive to avoid the wildcard is rest and/or opportunity to enter the division series with your preferred order of starters.

Jul 03, 2014 06:52 AM
rating: 7
 
Myles Handley

I've always felt I had an elegant solution.

Each team plays 6 3-game series against the teams in it's own division. 18 * 4 = 72 games.

Each team plays 2 3-game series against the teams in it's own league. 6 * 10 = 60 games.

Each team plays a home 3-game series against the teams in it's designated rotating interleague division, as well as an away 3-game series against the teams in it's other designated rotating interleague division. 10 * 3 = 30 games. 72 + 60 + 30 = 162 games.

This discards the "rivalry series," but I don't really care. In those cases, you are only missing that team 1 out of 3 years. You play teams from your own league 3 times as often as any interleague team (18 games in 3 years from 6), and you play interdivisional teams 3 times as often as non-divisional, same-league opponents (18 times in 1 year from 6).

Jul 03, 2014 07:51 AM
rating: 5
 
Nathan Aderhold

I like the simplicity here, but I'm struggling to figure out how you arrived at 30 for the last number. If each team is playing two interleague series -- one home, one away -- of three games, wouldn't it be 6 * 10?

Jul 23, 2014 15:06 PM
rating: 0
 
Nathan Aderhold

Wait, never mind. Ignore me.

Jul 23, 2014 15:10 PM
rating: 0
 
greenengineer

Here's an elegant solution.

Add two more teams (to 32). Divide each league into two 8 team divisions. Each team plays their division rivals 22 times. No interleague, no interdivision. 154 game schedule. Division winners meet head to head in a 7 game league championship series. League winners meet head to head in a 7 game World Series.

No wild cards, no crappy teams sneaking into the playoffs.

It's baseball, not the NHL.

Jul 03, 2014 08:11 AM
rating: 4
 
BrewersTT

Sure would be fun to argue about stats interpretation with this system. There would be virtually no basis at all for normalizing anything, as we could not assume that players face a similar mix of opponents, that parks host a broad mix of teams, etc., etc.

Jul 03, 2014 16:12 PM
rating: 2
 
WaldoInSC

...and the World Series ends October 15 before the snow falls.

Jul 03, 2014 18:48 PM
rating: 3
 
adam

Very interesting article! Great account of the history, and lots of thoughts being provoked.

The second paragraph after the quote should read 109 years, not 99.

Jul 03, 2014 13:38 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ben Lindbergh
BP staff

Fixed, thanks.

Jul 03, 2014 13:49 PM
 
stapletoncda

Actually, baseball might be better served by aligning the teams into 3 divisions, Eastern, Central, and Western. Divide those divisions into North and South. Schedule a couple of home and way series with each team in the division with an added sprinkling of series with team from the other divisions. Then have all games start at 7 PM with flexibility on Sunday and occasionally on Thursday. Long story short, this would align the teams closer in the same time zone and teams would spend less time and money with cross-country flights. Hence, your TV rating would be more consistent as teams within the division would be playing other teams basically within the same time zone. Your favorite team would be playing the same time every night. Next step, give all teams one day off per week: Monday. All teams travel on Monday which guarantee players a consistent schedule. Next, minimize plane jumps when teams travel. Example: if you play in SF on Tuesday-Thursday then the next series is with Oakland and the team that played in Oakland Tuesday-Thursday is in SF on Friday-Sunday. Anyway, that's my stump speech if anyone is really listening.

Jul 03, 2014 23:20 PM
rating: 1
 
DetroitDale

I don't care how many games the season lasts but if we're gonna have wildcards, we need to bring back the balanced schedule to cancel out the advantage of playing in a weak division. Sure it would mean the end of interleague play but the novelty of that marketing stunt went out with dialup modems. Besides its ridiculous to have interleague play between leagues with different rules anyway, but that's a whole other debate

Jul 04, 2014 19:31 PM
rating: 2
 
Dave Scott

I rarely think or complain about the length of the schedule in June or July, but I do curse it in early April or even March when I watch the Tribe in the snow. Rarely have much problem in the fall, though. Mostly, the more games the better. In my experience, only beat reporters and football fans really complain about the number of games. The rest of us enjoy it.

Jul 05, 2014 07:20 AM
rating: 1
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (07/03)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Skewed Left: Which Pos... (06/26)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: What the ... (07/09)
Next Article >>
The Lineup Card: Ten T... (07/03)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article League Preview Series
Every Team's Moneyball: Minnesota Twins: Reb...
Premium Article Skewed Left: History Repeats Itself
Premium Article League Preview Series
Premium Article Pitching Backward: Why Relievers Get A Free ...
Premium Article Spring Training Notebook: Cactus League
Prospectus Feature: How the Astros do Spring...

MORE FROM JULY 3, 2014
The Lineup Card: Ten Trades That Made Our Ch...
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Edwin Ends One
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Wednesday, Jul...
Fantasy Article Free Agent Watch: Week 14
Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Rick Porcello: Buy or Sel...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner: Week 15
Fantasy Article TTO Scoresheet Podcast: Maximizing Value in ...

MORE BY ZACHARY LEVINE
2014-07-17 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 4...
2014-07-15 - Skewed Left: What Is An All-Star Pitcher?
2014-07-09 - Premium Article Skewed Left: What the CBA Says About the All...
2014-07-03 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Ingrained, Misguided, 162-G...
2014-06-26 - Premium Article Skewed Left: Which Position Players Make the...
2014-06-19 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Missing Mound Charge
2014-06-12 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Wisdom of Pinch-Hitting wit...
More...

MORE SKEWED LEFT
2014-07-25 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Mismatched Incentives of Dr...
2014-07-15 - Skewed Left: What Is An All-Star Pitcher?
2014-07-09 - Premium Article Skewed Left: What the CBA Says About the All...
2014-07-03 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Ingrained, Misguided, 162-G...
2014-06-26 - Premium Article Skewed Left: Which Position Players Make the...
2014-06-19 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Missing Mound Charge
2014-06-12 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Wisdom of Pinch-Hitting wit...
More...