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Monday, July 28, 2008

Fun with realignment ideas

File this one under "mostly just for fun..."

I enjoy thinking about league realignment. While I think the 3-division format has been very successful, I also don't feel like the various divisions (and leagues, really) have a lot of individual identity anymore. It also demonstrated that change can often be a good thing. And so, more and more, I've been thinking that constantly changing around leagues and divisions would bring a lot of excitement to the game. It would also help get rid of some of the inequities we're seeing between leagues these days--or, depending on how you do it, it might formalize those inequities in an interesting way.

Tango checked in with some new ideas about realignment recently. His idea is to take the top 6 teams over the past 4-year period and let them pick their division rivals (6 divisions, maybe across two leagues, but maybe not). Or, take the top-6 teams and assign other teams in groups of 6 based on geographic proximity. Then, after 4 years, toss out the old divisions and draw them up again based on recent performance. Sounds exciting and fun to me!

Here's a quick scenario along those lines, based on a combination of the past three-years' win totals (2005-2007; 4-years provided too much of a legacy effect for some teams). I'm going to combine Tango's idea with one from David Pinto and use five six-team divisions within one league. Each division will play two of the other divisions during a season, chosen on a rotating basis. This gets rid of the 16/14-team league imbalance we currently have, and has some other scheduling advantages as well as some exciting playoff scenarios. DH would be home manager preference, announced prior to the start of every series. And like Tango's proposal, I'm grouping teams in sets of five based on their win totals and proximity. I am keeping teams from the same metropolitan area away from one another so they don't interfere with each others' markets.
A B C D E
NYY ANA BOS NYM CLE
STL SDP PHI CHW MIN
ATL OAK TOR DET HOU
TEX SEA MIL ARI LAD
CIN COL WSN FLA CHC
TBD KCR PIT BAL SFG

And a map of the above divisions:
















You can get division ranges to be smaller if you allow teams in the same metro area to be in the same division, but this isn't too bad. Maybe not as tight as the divisions currently are, but certainly no worse than they were when the Reds were in the NL West.

And while this system does try to keep teams lumped by proximity, it also strives to keep the divisions balanced from a competitive standpoint. I think it does this really well. There are some divisions with teams on the rise and on the decline, but they often seem to balance each other out. The weakest division is probably "B," with San Diego, Oakland, Seattle, and the Rockies all apparently declining a bit this season. But even in that case, all of those teams have been playoff teams in recent years. Pretty darn solid. And, of course, it would get revised every few years to remain current.

Anyway, fun stuff. Again, I don't expect that something like this will actually happen, but I think it would probably be a good thing if it did.