Restoring competitive balance in baseball
This article was originally penned in February 2005 on my Livejournal. A recent discussion has broken out on facebook discussing the possibility of promotion and relegation in baseball, so I thought I’d just repost it here for reference. – Eugene
I just read a crappy article in USA Today where the GM of the Nats suggests that baseball divisions be divided by payroll rather than geographic location. That’s a horrible idea, because it actually encourages teams to have a small payroll or else face the stiffer competition. The cheap teams will then be eliminated in the playoffs every year, while the expensive team that won it all gets a cakewalk to the championship, while the other three or four “great teams” it beat, don’t get a chance while the “best” bad team does. Suddenly the playoffs are reduced to exhibition games, between largely disparate teams. Now, what good is complaining when you don’t have your own solution to the competitive balance solution?
My solution is to develop a system of relegation.
First, make it so the AL and the NL are both 15 team leagues. (Move an NL Team to the AL)
Edit – This happened in 2013 as the Houston Astros moved to the AL West! See? My vision is coming true! – Eugene)
Based on the previous year’s record, the top 10 teams in each league get to be division one of their league. The bottom five get relegated to division two. From then on, the season, playoffs, and anti-playoffs go as follows:
Division one: The 20 division one teams play two 81 game stages (half seasons) with no interleague play. (Playing each team in their league 9 times per stage). This is perfect for 3 game series. If a team A plays team B six times at home and three away in stage 1, in stage 2 they’ll play team B six times away and three at home.
Edit: I don’t really know what I was thinking with the 2 stage season thing… I guess my idea was to boost excitement in the middle of the season, but in retrospect I’d can that idea. – Eugene
Division two: The 10 division two teams play in two seperate 5 team divisions (based on league) with interleague play (now exclusively a division two gimmick). They play a 154 game season with no stages, playing against the division two teams in the same league either 23 or 24 times* (94). They play each division two team in the other league 12 times (60).
If there is a rainout, the game(s) will be played as double headers or on the most convenient off day to be decided by the league.
There are two trading periods in division one: From one week after the World Series until after all teams have played game 40 of stage 1. From the start of stage 2 until all teams have played game 41 of stage 2.
Rosters never expand. There are no trading deadlines in division two. Trades between teams in division one and division two are allowed.
A)In each league, the winner of stage 1 plays a 5 game LCS against the winner of stage 2. The team with the better cumulative record gets 3 home games (home field advantage). (See B)
B)If the winner of stage 1 and stage 2 are the same team, then the second place team from stage 1 plays a one game playoff against the second place team from stage two, at the home of the team with the better cumulative record. The loser must play in the relegation bracket. The winner advances to the LCS, where all 5 games are played at the home of the first place team. (See C)
C)If the first and second place teams are the same for stage 1 and stage 2, The second place team plays all 5 LCS games at the home of the first place team.
The 7 game World Series is played between the two LCS winners, 4 home games (home field advantage) awarded to each league on alternating years.
Brutal Relegation Tournament: (to be played before the LCS) Division one: The 8 teams in each league which take NO part in the LCS are seeded 1-8 into the relegation bracket based on cumulative record. Single elimination tournament style play begins. The losing team advances to the next round. The team that loses three times is automatically relegated to division two. The team that loses two times advances to the relegation series. The games are played at the home of the higher seeded team. (To risk relegation, relatively good teams would have to lose at least twice at home, against lesser ranked teams, to avoid relegation, horrible teams need to win on the road against higher ranked teams)
Edit: Perhaps it’s not such a great idea to have relegation based on single elimination. Any team can have a bad 3 games. I’d change it to 3 game series, though this would possibly push the World series into Novermber.
Division two: In each league, the first place team is automatically promoted to division one. The second place team qualifies for the Promotion Series.
Promotion Series: A 3 game series played at the home of the division one representative in each league. The winner gets to be in division one, the loser must be in division two.
——- Tiebreakers Any ties between two teams in their regular season record are to be decided by a one game playoff if and only if the winning team advances to the post season and the losing team either is demoted to relegation games, or is not included in the post season. (example, a tie for 2nd in division two, a tie for first in division one.)
Edit: Am I speaking English here? This much time devoted to tiebreakers?
Any ties that pertain to seeding or home field advantage (Example, a tie for fourth in cumulative record in Division one)are to be decided by:
1. Average stage results Example: Team A got 3rd place in stage 1, 5th place in stage 2 = avg of 4th place; Team B got 4th place in stage 1, 3rd place in stage 2 = avg of 3.5th place. Team B wins the tiebreaker.
2. Common games (Team A played team B 18 times during the year, and Team A won 10 of those, thus Team A wins the tiebreaker.)
3. Run differential: Team A scored 850 runs and gave away 700, their RD is 150. Team B scored 860 runs and gave up 800, their RD is 60. Team A wins the tiebreaker.
4. Runs scored: Team A scored 950 runs and gave up 800 (RD 150) Team B scored 700 runs and gave up 550 (RD 150) Offensive baseball is encouraged, so Team A wins the tiebreaker by virtue of having more runs.
5. Wins by starters: Logic: Superior team has better starting pitching.
6. Saves: Logic: Superior team shut the door in close games.
7. Wins within 9 innings: Logic: Superior team would go to extra innings fewer times.
8. Walk off wins: Logic: Superior team wins dramatically at home more often.
9. Run differential in common games
10. Runs scored in common games
11. Wins by starters in common games
12. Saves in common games
13. Wins within 9 innings in common games
14. Walk off wins in common games
15. Then a coinflip. Logic: the very liklihood that a tiebreaker would come this far is minimal at best. When this is being used to decide something as insignificant as seeding, stop bitching and call heads or tails. ——–
This is good because it’s a situation where crappy teams still have something to play for. In order to avoid being relegated, horrible teams can’t trade away their best player to a contender and give up on the rest of the season. Mediocre teams still have reason to improve immediately or risk being seeded low in the relegation tournament. This way, having tons of cash won’t necessarily allow you to use the crappy teams as your farm system, making your offseason that more important. There will be no such thing as a rebuilding year for division one teams. The division two teams meanwhile have no chance to win the championship that year, and they never will win until they get out of division two. The chance to be promoted to division one should attract fans at the end of the season.
Edit: That seems overly complicated… let me simplify it for you. I am writing the following on May 28, 2013:
1. For the 2014 season organize the league so that the 5 worst teams from the AL and the 5 worst teams from the NL are relegated into a respective second divisions. These 2nd divisions are still Major League Baseball teams and retain control of their minor league farm system.
2. For division one teams, there will be no interleague play and a balanced schedule. For division 2 teams there will be interleague play but they will play more games against their own league than from the other league.
3. Division one and Division 2 teams never play each other except in the promotion-relegation series. (see 6)
4. The winners of each league in division 1 advance to the World Series.. (we can add playoffs if necessary)
5. The 10th place team of division 1 is automatically relegated. The 1st place team in division 2 is automatically promoted.
6. Promotion-Relegation Series: The 9th place team in division 1 must play a 3 game series vs the 2nd place team from Division 2. The winner gets to spend the next season in Division 1, and the loser must be in division 2.