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Articles Tagged Competitive Imbalance 

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July 28, 2003 12:00 am

Competitive Imbalance

0

Boyd Nation

The sky is falling! The Huns are at the gates! Dogs and cats have been eyeing each other lustily! There's a competitive imbalance problem, where 28 teams entered the season with no chance of finishing within 40 games of .500! OK, enough of that. The notion that Major League Baseball has a competitive imbalance problem has been so thoroughly discredited in these and other forums that I'm not going to waste too much time on it here, although some of the supporting data below touch on it tangentially. It's actually a worthwhile question to note that the extended playoffs might have pushed things to the point where MLB has a competitive balance problem, which in the NFL is known as the parody of parity. It's possible that it's currently too difficult for a well-run club to sustain prolonged excellence, not because of some silliness about market resources, but because the playoff marathon frequently randomly robs the best teams of chances at deserved high-revenue World Series shots. I think we're in the range where this is a matter of individual aesthetic choice, though, so we'll leave that discussion for after the incoming (duck) round of playoff expansion. In the meantime, I want to show you what actual competitive imbalance actually looks like on a large scale, identify some of the causes, and discuss just how big a problem competitive imbalance actually is. College baseball has a considerable amount of competitive imbalance. There are factors that have nothing to do with baseball that have a great effect on the quality of team that a school is likely to field, variables like weather (which, due to the early schedule, influence the amount and type of practice a team can get), enrollment, tuition, and how many games the football and basketball teams have won lately. With my External Factors Index, I've done some analysis on this stuff; you can create a single number which has a .82 correlation with results in my rating system (which only considers on-field results). It's certainly possible to overcome these factors--which Rice was nice enough to demonstrate by winning this year's College World Series--but the issues do exist.

OK, enough of that. The notion that Major League Baseball has a competitive imbalance problem has been so thoroughly discredited in these and other forums that I'm not going to waste too much time on it here, although some of the supporting data below touch on it tangentially. It's actually a worthwhile question to note that the extended playoffs might have pushed things to the point where MLB has a competitive balance problem, which in the NFL is known as the parody of parity. It's possible that it's currently too difficult for a well-run club to sustain prolonged excellence, not because of some silliness about market resources, but because the playoff marathon frequently randomly robs the best teams of chances at deserved high-revenue World Series shots. I think we're in the range where this is a matter of individual aesthetic choice, though, so we'll leave that discussion for after the incoming (duck) round of playoff expansion. In the meantime, I want to show you what actual competitive imbalance actually looks like on a large scale, identify some of the causes, and discuss just how big a problem competitive imbalance actually is.

College baseball has a considerable amount of competitive imbalance. There are factors that have nothing to do with baseball that have a great effect on the quality of team that a school is likely to field, variables like weather (which, due to the early schedule, influence the amount and type of practice a team can get), enrollment, tuition, and how many games the football and basketball teams have won lately. With my External Factors Index, I've done some analysis on this stuff; you can create a single number which has a .82 correlation with results in my rating system (which only considers on-field results). It's certainly possible to overcome these factors--which Rice was nice enough to demonstrate by winning this year's College World Series--but the issues do exist.

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I get a lot of e-mail suggesting that baseball should use European-style relegation/promotion to encourage teams to compete. People suggest it to me in bars. I've read it in columns by otherwise sensible baseball writers. It is easily the most impractical idea anyone has proposed to solve some of baseball's problems, and I am baffled by its continued popularity.

I get a lot of e-mail suggesting that baseball should use European-style relegation/promotion to encourage teams to compete. People suggest it to me in bars. I've read it in columns by otherwise sensible baseball writers. It is easily the most impractical idea anyone has proposed to solve some of baseball's problems, and I am baffled by its continued popularity.

Let's say that basketball decides to do something even more radical, and every year they're going to turn the NCAA Division I college with the best record into a professional team, and the Nuggets have to go into the amateur business and start a university.

But wait, that's ridiculous, you say. Those players don't have professional contracts. Where would they play? They've graduated, would they then have to stay with the same team? Who would pay these new salaries?

Uh huh, yup, you're right. And those are only some of the problems that relegation in baseball faces. But I want to take a concrete approach to showing the barriers to this course.

Let's say that baseball implemented a modest form of relegation to begin after the 2002 season. One team from each league is relegated. Then one team from each Triple-A league is promoted. I chose that method because it seems fairer that way, but what happens next is applicable no matter how you divvy up the joy and pain.

The two teams in 2002 would be Milwaukee (56-106) and either Tampa Bay or Detroit (55-106), with the tiebreaker being Tampa Bay's 2-4 record against Detroit, and the team's distinguished record of sustained, general haplessness.

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February 21, 2001 12:00 am

The Daily Prospectus

0

Gary Huckabay

The dark time between the end of the World Series and the time pitchers and catchers report has mercifully come to an end. Arms have been dragged to Arizona and Florida, and beat writers, pundits, and integrated B2B/B2C Baseball Content Provision Weasels (read: us) are looking to fill space until games start being played. There's a fair number of stock topics that usually serve as fodder for local coverage this time of year, including but not limited to:

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