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Articles Tagged Divisional Races 

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August 12, 2011 10:14 am

Divide and Conquer, AL West: Racing for the Title

0

Joey Matschulat

Out West, the Angels' inability to take advantage of situations on the basepaths could cost them a division title.

Last season, there were two divisions (the NL West, from which the reigning world champion Giants arose, and the AL East) that were decided by a margin of three games or fewer. In 2009, there were two more division races (the AL Central, which the Twins captured by a single game, and again the NL West) that came down to a swing of three or fewer games. 2008? Three races. 2007? Four races. Over the last four years, every division in baseball has been able to boast at least one pennant race resolved within the final three days of the season—well, every division except the AL West.

Throughout the better part of the early- to mid-aughts, the AL West stood proud and tall as one of the more hotly-contested divisions in the game; four of the five division titles between 2002-06 were secured by a margin of no more than four games. But over the last four seasons, the average margin of victory in the AL West has been a far less suspenseful 11.5 games. That’s great for the conquering team but not so great for those fans of AL West teams who enjoy an ample dose of divisional parity, and definitely not so great for the distant second-place team whose late-season gate receipts are inhibited by their non-contender status.

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September 2, 2010 8:00 am

Changing Speeds: Dog Day Aftermath

8

Ken Funck

August again sorted out the contenders from the pretenders.

During the marathon baseball season, the month of August can often be thought of as the league’s Sorting Hat—a time when the playoff contenders separate themselves from the pretenders and position themselves for September’s sprint to the finish. As Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto has been documenting each week, the playoff races have recently taken on a much clearer shape, with the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Rangers, Braves, Reds, and Padres becoming prohibitive favorites, and the Phillies a better-than-even bet to fill out the post-season dance card. As thrilling as the September race to the wire can (and hopefully will) be, a team’s performance in the dog days of August—after the trade deadline, before roster expansion—can often cement a team’s playoff ambitions as time slowly ticks away on the rivals chasing them.  

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You either love the wild card or you hate it. But has anyone ever really looked at it?

The thing is, neither side has any idea what it's talking about. While I can point to specific examples of the wild card killing divisional races, MLB can point to, say, this year's National League wild-card race as an example of the concept creating interest where there would otherwise be none. Those are just examples, offered up in support of an argument, as the saying goes, rather than illumination. It's a visceral argument, not a rational one.

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August 17, 2004 12:00 am

From the Desk of Vex Peters

0

Jim Baker

Note: As we've mentioned in the past, every so often, we lay our hands on a document that was probably not intended for public consumption. We are not at liberty to say how it is we come by these things because we do not wish to compromise our conduit thereto. Suffice it to say, we will continue to make these available to you as long as we can continue to "come by" them. Here is the latest of these intercepted internal missives.

To: Realignment Planning Committee
From: Vex Peters, Steering Chairman, MLB
Date: August 16, 2004
RE: Operation Save-the-Game

People, have you looked at the standings? Are you happy about this? A month ago, we had our army of shills in the broadcast booths claiming there were 23 teams in the hunt for a playoff berth. What's that number down to now, people? Thirteen? We've got four divisions completely out of hand. We've got two wild card races that are tight but how long can we count on that? Either one or both could go s***sville in two weeks' time.




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August 6, 2004 12:00 am

Prospectus Matchups: Holographic

0

Jim Baker

Since the advent of three-division play, the average distance between first and second has risen from 6.4 to 8.2 compared to the two-division era. Percentage-wise, about a quarter of the races come within 2.5 games when the season is done, which is also about what it was during the two-division era. Grudgingly then, I must concede that the raw number of close finishes has gone up because--obviously--25% of four division races is less than 25% of six. However, it is undeniable that the number of blow-out finishes has gone up as well, and not just because there are more divisions. Fully a third of the divisional races since 1995 have gotten way out of hand, up from about 25% in the 1969-1993 era. If teams like the Phillies, White Sox, Red Sox, Cubs, Padres and Giants don't watch out, that trend will be maintained this year.

Since moving to Minnesota from Washington in 1961, the Twins have never finished over .500 four seasons in a row. That is about to change. While in Washington, they did it three times, but never got to five:

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September 19, 2003 12:00 am

Checks and Balances

0

James Click

There have been massive overhauls of the internal structure of baseball over the last 10 years. Major League Baseball expanded to Colorado and Florida in 1993, realigned and added the Wild Card in 1995, introduced interleague play in 1997, and expanded to Arizona and Tampa Bay in 1998. Each of these changes necessitated a change in major league baseball's scheduling, but in each of these changes a balanced schedule was maintained; the schedule made sure teams played every other team in the league an almost equal number of times. There was no such thing as strength of schedule. Starting in 2001, MLB implemented an unbalanced schedule with the usual amount of fanfare and fan disgust that usually accompanies such changes. The change increased games between teams in the same division while decreasing the number of games against other teams in the league. The reasons behind the change were many, but certainly one of the most prevalent was that increasing the meetings between divisional rivals would pique fan interest and peak attendance and, subsequently, revenue. Who wouldn't want more games between the Red Sox and Yankees? Or the Cubs and Cardinals? Or the Devil Rays and Orioles?

Starting in 2001, MLB implemented an unbalanced schedule with the usual amount of fanfare and fan disgust that usually accompanies such changes. The change increased games between teams in the same division while decreasing the number of games against other teams in the league. The reasons behind the change were many, but certainly one of the most prevalent was that increasing the meetings between divisional rivals would pique fan interest and peak attendance and, subsequently, revenue. Who wouldn't want more games between the Red Sox and Yankees? Or the Cubs and Cardinals? Or the Devil Rays and Orioles?

It seems, however, that things didn't quite work out as planned. While there are a multitude of factors that affect a team's attendance, the opponent in town can have a dramatic affect on attendance. But since the number of divisional rivalry games has increased, attendance at such games has gone down. Here are attendance figures for all teams (2003 figures are through Aug. 31) in games against teams in the same division, divided by average attendance in non-divisional games:

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September 15, 2003 12:00 am

Prospectus Today: MLB Shoots Itself in the Foot, Part 4,891

0

Joe Sheehan

Just before 1:00, I checked the program schedule and just about collapsed from the shock: no Game of the Week. Are you kidding me? Two weeks to go in the season, half the teams in baseball still chasing playoff spots, terrific matchups like White Sox/Red Sox and Braves/Marlins on the schedule, a nation of couch potatoes sitting in front of their televisions, and MLB takes this opportunity to fold its tent? I know it was likely Fox's decision, predicated on not wanting to compete with either broadcast college football or its own Fox Sports Net package of gridiron games. So what? It's MLB's job to choose a broadcast partner that will help it promote the game, and that means more than setting up stupid gimmicks for the All-Star Game. Abandoning the national stage at a time when its product should be at its most attractive isn't just stupid, it's corporate malfeasance. This can't be good for postseason ratings, either. What baseball should be doing is creating interest in the teams and players who will be taking the field beginning September 30. You want people getting excited about Barry Bonds and Mark Prior and Nomar Garciaparra now, so that when you stick their games in prime time next month, you have a greater chance of drawing an audience. If I'm understanding the schedule properly, there are no more over-the-air baseball games until the Division Series, which is one of the most bizarre, counterproductive, self-mutilating decisions I have ever seen.

Now, I like college football, so I was perfectly happy to watch as much of that as possible. I did, however, expect to see a baseball game during the day, assuming that Fox would have its Game of the Week at 1 p.m. PDT as it always does. Looking over the schedule, I thought it was odd that there were so few attractive matchups scheduled for the day. The Yankees and Devil Rays were the only 10 a.m. PDT game, while the Giants and Brewers, Cubs and Reds, and Orioles and Blue Jays were scheduled for one o'clock.

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As I explained last week, we asked the attendees at each Pizza Feed to predict the results of the divisional races this year, along with the World Series winner, major award winners, managerial firings, etc. This week, we'll take a look at the American League divisional races.

As I explained last week, we asked the attendees at each Pizza Feed to predict the results of the divisional races this year, along with the World Series winner, major award winners, managerial firings, etc. This week, we'll take a look at the American League divisional races. For each division, the average rank of each team is listed, along with the standard deviation for each team, which is a measure of how much variability there was for each team. The lower the deviation, the more agreement there is about that team's place in the standings.

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