Could the NL Central be Decided by Unbalanced Schedule?
From SABR member Larry Granillo at Baseball Prospectus on May 23:
On Sunday, after the Cubs lost to the Red Sox in Boston in the long-awaited rematch of the curse-tastic 1918 World Series, the interleague ledger for the National League Central looked like this:
Chicago Cubs 1-2 Cincinnati Reds 0-3 Houston Astros 2-1 Milwaukee Brewers 3-0 Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 St. Louis Cardinals 2-1
The Brewers’ 3-0 mark isn’t technically “interleague,” as their trio of victories came against the National League’s Colorado Rockies. The series, however, took place during MLB’s interleague schedule (i.e., the six three-game series set aside for interleague play), making it as separate from the balanced, 144-game non-interleague schedule as any matchups against the American League.
The biggest complaint about interleague play is that it drastically unbalances the schedule. Sure, many people dislike interleague because of the tradition element, but if that were its only drawback, the criticisms wouldn’t have much traction (much like those directed toward the wild card). The fact is that a six-series mini-schedule where the leagues cross in such a way that each division plays another division in the opposite league (along with their designated “natural rivalries”) can be nothing but uneven.
Teams play between four and six other teams they would never face regularly, and they are never exactly the same teams that their division-mates face. If one club happens to have a full slate of sub-.500 teams on its schedule while their division rival’s is filled with teams ten games over .500, there is nothing that can be done; the team with the easier schedule is given a great advantage.
How have these scheduling quirks affected the National League Central? Will the division, which many predicted to finish in a tight cluster, be turned on the unbalanced nature of this year’s 2011 interleague schedule?
Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=13991
Originally published: May 23, 2011. Last Updated: May 23, 2011.