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The Perfect Length of a Baseball Season?

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#1 amjgt

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 08:46 AM

So Twitter got me thinking... What's the perfect length of baseball season? And then what's the perfect playoffs to be paired with that season.

 

I've enjoyed the 60 game season, other than not being able to go to games, but 60 in a normal year is just too short and is obviously not what's going to happen going forward. But man, it's going to be tough to go back to 162, having seen a) The best teams still bubble to the top with 60, b.) the increased importance of each game.

 

The only downside of this 2020 package is that the number of playoff teams and seeming indifference between being seed 1 and seed 8 hasn't been great, although the NL is sure interesting going into the last weekend.

The most likely thing is that we will go back to 162, because that's the easy button, and it seems like the easy button always wins. People don't want to make less money (players and owners) and 162 brings things back to normal.

 

But this thread isn't about normal. This thread is about making things better. But at the same time coming up with a solution that both sides might just agree to (read: they don’t make less money)

 

So what the number?

For me its 124 games with 7 playoff teams in each league.

 

I’ll talk about the playoffs first. Playoff expansion is inevitable and the good thing about the 2020 expanded playoffs, if it was implemented going forward would be the reduction in the tanking we’ve seen a lot of in the last decade or so. There were always a couple really crappy teams, but the last couple years it’s gotten a little out of control. Expanding the playoffs is also an important source of additional revenue to offset the loses of dropping to a 124 game schedule.

 

So, how does 7 playoff teams work?

3 Division winners (seeds 1-3) and 4 wild cards (seeds 4-7)

Overall 1 seed gets a bye
2 vs 7 in a best of 3 series, but #2 only has to win 1 game (#7 has to win 2 games)
3 vs 6 in a best of 3 series, but #3 only has to win 1 game (#6 has to win 2 games)
4 vs 5 in a regular 3 game series

Round 2 – Reseed and play best of 5
ALCS – Best of 7
WS – Best of 7

 

I know this is confusing at first, but I really think it draws a clear delineation in the seeding and would mostly do away with the attitude that is occurring some this year of “does it really matter what seed we get.” Being the best team gets you a bye. Being a division winner gets you a clear advantage over the wild cards. Being a top 2 wild card is clearly important because you get a “real” series. And getting a 6/7 seed gets you in the playoffs, but it’s a tough hill to climb (eventually one of these 6/7 seeds would make a big run and it would be a great story).

 

Now for the regular season. 124 games. How would that work?

I’m going to steal from the NFL just a little and do away with this notion that is pervasive in MLB which is, everything has to be as equal as possible. Baloney.

 

Regular season runs from around Late April to mid September

Intra-Division: 48 games. 12 vs each of the other 4 teams
Intra-League: 55 games. 5/6 games vs the other 10 teams
Interleague: 21 games. 3 games against each of the 5 teams in “that’s years” opposing division (rotating like how it works now). But also 3 games against each of the 2 teams that finished in the same divisional ranking as you did the previous year. So, using a “normal” 2020 as an example, the Twins would play 3 games against all of the NL Central teams and 3 games against the Dodgers (since they won the NL West in 2019) and the Braves (since they won the NL East in 2019).

 

So, yeah, that leads to a bit of an unbalanced schedule, but who cares? The NFL has been doing that for ages and it creates some of the most marquee matchups of the year. It GUARANTEES good matchups.

 

Obviously dropping 38 regular season games is a hit to revenue, but I feel like at least some of that gets made up with a) expanded playoffs, b.) better attendance at the 62 home games that remain, and c) a negotiated TV contract for these in-season marquee matchups (ala Sunday Night Baseball).

 

Does anyone have Manfred's mailing address?

 

 

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#2 4twinsJA

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 12:37 PM

I am not opposed to shortening the season, but 124 will not happen. By the way, I believe in NFL 1 in each division plays 1 and 4, 2 plays 2 and 3 from other divisions within conference, making it a little more equitable. 6 divisional games, 6 games against other 3 divisions in conference, and 4 same division from other conference.


#3 JoshDungan1

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 02:09 PM

I think this is a very interesting idea. Honestly, if baseball were any other sport, I think there's a chance they might have actually thought about trying to implement this for the 2021 season. I say that because the two bigger sports that were really thrown off their schedules, basketball and hockey, are now going to have to try and reset themselves into something resembling a normal schedule over the next year or two, and it's going to take a little while. But baseball still has the ability to implement its normal offseason (at least for now), so like you said, it's probably not going to be happening.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. -Frost


#4 blindeke

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 02:14 PM

154, like it was back in the day.

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#5 denarded

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 03:15 PM

I'm actually for limiting the games to 7 innings. It would stop at least 1 pitching change per side in a game and most starters are only pitching 4 plus (or is that just the twins outside of Maeda? I like going to sleep near an hour earlier.

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#6 amjgt

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:23 PM

 

I am not opposed to shortening the season, but 124 will not happen. By the way, I believe in NFL 1 in each division plays 1 and 4, 2 plays 2 and 3 from other divisions within conference, making it a little more equitable. 6 divisional games, 6 games against other 3 divisions in conference, and 4 same division from other conference.

No. 

 

Its 6 divisional games.

4 games against an entire division in your conference (Rotating)

4 games against an entire division in the other conference (rotating)

2 games against the teams in your same conference that finished in the same divisional position the previous year.

 

I am 100% certain of that

 


#7 spycake

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Posted 25 September 2020 - 05:57 PM

 

Obviously dropping 38 regular season games is a hit to revenue, but I feel like at least some of that gets made up with a) expanded playoffs, b.) better attendance at the 62 home games that remain, and c) a negotiated TV contract for these in-season marquee matchups (ala Sunday Night Baseball).

I don't think this would boost regular season national TV broadcasts much, if at all. It's just the nature of the sport -- the best pitchers only throw every 5 days, and the best hitters only come to the plate 4 times a game and only have a big impact once every couple of games. Shortening the season from 162 to 124 doesn't change that. (And MLB seems to be doing just fine in the recently announced national TV deals, so I'm not sure there's room to leverage much more.)

 

 

And while getting rid of April games won't affect attendance too much, I think those games still make a decent amount of money through season ticket / suite sales and also local TV.

 

Expanded playoffs will generate more revenue, but they don't need the rest of your plan to do that. :)

 


#8 Nine of twelve

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 06:01 AM

Choosing a number is not just arbitrary. One must consider the mathematical mechanics of a schedule proposal.

First, consider the regular season. Ideally it should be set up so that every team has the same schedule, which means the same number of games against each team within the division, the same number of games against each team in the other two divisions in the same league, and the same number of games against each team in the other league, with an equal number of home and away games against each opponent. That requires an even number of games against each team. How could this work?

Regarding interleague play, the current arrangement of playing each team in one of the three divisions in the other league, rotating each year, is probably the best that can be hoped for. I think the so-called rivalry series should be eliminated. The novelty of the Cubs playing the White Sox, the Yankees playing the Mets, etc., has worn off, IMHO. The probable best option is to have 20 interleague games, two home and two away against each team.

Next, regarding intraleague extradivisional opponents, let's set 8 games per team. Since there are 10 such teams that's 80 games. That brings the total of games so far to 100.

Then, regarding intradivision games, 14 games per opponent is 56 games. This makes 156 games, which to me sounds about right.

Regarding the postseason, I think advancing 5 teams from each league is the best option and I like the current format. Many will say that a 1-game elimination series for the two wild card teams makes it more unlikely that the better team will advance, and that point is well taken. However, the strong reason in favor of the current format is that it gives a team more incentive to win its division. That said, I wouldn't oppose making the wild card series a best-of-three if the regular season is reduced to 156 games. 

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#9 Nine of twelve

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 11:10 AM

The following is a post by jiminy, made on the "MIN 7, CIN 3: Arraez and Shine" thread. IMHO what s/he posted is worth reading and belongs here as well. For those who may not have read it there I'm copying and pasting.

 

 

In defense of Houston, remember that teams played zero games against the other AL divisions. You can't compare records from one division to the next; they might as well have been in different leagues. Taking the top two from each division plus two wild cards only fair. If Houston made it instead of Cleveland or Chicago, I might say that was unfair, but that didn't happen, because of the wild cards. If the second best team in the west got bumped by the fourth place team in the East or Central, however, that would not be fair. They literally didn't play ANY of the same teams, so their records are not comparable. If you have to pick 8 teams, I think this is a good solution.

Whether taking 8 teams from each league is a good idea, however, is another question entirely.

In a short season with no interdivisional play, it makes sense, because the results haven't reliably filtered out the best teams. If Minnesota could still finish from 1st to 7th on the last day, the rankings are still too volatile to mean much. Abs dive we never played most other teams,rankings based on records are dubious anyway.

But if they do this next year, I think it would be terrible. It would make both the regular season and the playoffs virtually meaningless.

Take the AL Central race for instance. Three really good teams battling it out till the final day should have been incredibly dramatic! Instead, it was irrelevant, and felt that way. We've all known for months that all three would make the playoffs. If you have to have a losing record not to make the playoffs, it turns the regular season into a snooze.

This was okay during a pandemic--I had plenty of stress already and didn't mind not having to worry about whether the Twins wouk make the playoffs. But during a normal year, it would be like watching spring training for 162 games. Six months is a long time to wait for meaningful competition to begin!

Worse yet, when the playoffs finally do start, half the teams get eliminated before the real first round even starts, in a virtual coin flip!

Subjecting the best team in baseball to a 3 game series against some rando that shouldn't even be in the playoffs makes a mockery of both the regular season, and the playoffs. You haven't winnowed out the best teams in either.

That's not all bad, if it keeps a team like the Giants or Mariners from bailing on the season halfway through, trading away their best players, and leaving their fans a hollow shell of a team to root for. It definitely makes the season more exciting for teams like that, and could reduce tanking. And as a midmarket team ourselves, we would probably benefit from that more often than we would be hurt by it.

But I still don't like it. Maybe it is just because we have finally put together a legitimate contender; but after waiting so long to see a team that can go toe to toe with anybody, would we want to watch them lose in 2 to a third place team and never get a crack at ending the Yankees curse? That would be horrible.

And while it was nice for Giants fans that they weren't eliminated until the final week, whay if they had made it, and the Dodgers lost in 2 to a Giants team with a losing record in the play-in round? Would anyone really feel like winning a world series meant you were the best team anymore? Would anyone really care who won a joke of a tournament like that, except the two finalists? It reduces every playoff game to instantly forgettable instant gratification.

What is uniquely great about baseball is the vast mental construct of meaning hovering around every event. Each pitch is a battle between pitcher and batter. But that battle is much more dramatic when seen in context of the full at-bat. A borderline pitch is much more exciting with 2 strikes, or 3 balls. The courage, and potential cost, of a pitcher throwing a 3-2 slider that drops out of the strike zone, knowing the batter has to protect the plate, is what makes it so interesting. And the drama of each at-bat in turn depends on knowing where you are in the inning, whether there are men on base, and how many outs there are. And that, in turn, depends on what inning it is, and the score. And knowing it is just one game in a 3 game series adds further narrative context.

But the tension and meaning of all these games within a game get ramped up exponentially by a pennant race. The excitement of two teams that have been dogging each other for months finally facing off in September adds another whole layer of meaning and drama. Which the long wait only increases. And the context guess well beyond the season. A September game against Cleveland is much more meaningful knowing they are the defending champs, here been for years. Rivalries can extend for decades. When the Twins finally beat the Yankees in the playoffs it will be the culmination of a 20 year struggle. And we will feel the weight of all this history and context on every single pitch! That is what makes baseball so special. People complain that not much happens. But in no other sport is so much happening in your head.

That is what MLB is throwing away for a few extra days of playoff excitement. By expanding the playoffs so much, they are trivializing the meaning of both the regular season AND the playoffs.

I would happily trade the "excitement" of a three game playoff series against a team with a losing record -- a series that has a very real chance if costing us our chance at redemption against the Yankees, and our first shot at a title since 1991. I would much prefer the actual, ongoing excitement of a tension-filled, season-long race against Cleveland and Chicago, which could have provided months of gripping entertainment, precisely because one or more of these proud and deserving teams would NOT make the playoffs! That's what it means for a game to mean something.

And if it can take years to build a team capable of playing meaningful games in September, that's what makes it mean so much when they finally do. That is what was lost this year, and quite possibly forever, if they expand the playoffs permanently.

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#10 bighat

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Posted 27 September 2020 - 12:12 PM

Expanded playoffs are great for leagues like the NFL and NBA. The league can make extra $$$ while also ensuring that the truly good teams are rewarded with winnable matchups. After all, a bad team in those leagues doesn't often beat a good team.

 

In baseball, a long season and a small playoff field is needed to give those truly good teams a chance to go for the title.

 

The worst team in baseball is the Pittsburgh Pirates. They could easily - without a doubt - win two games against a team like the Twins (we've seen it happen already this year) in a 3 game series. To put a division winner in a position like that is an absolute slap in the face. We've seen Wildcard teams win World Series titles in the past - including last year.MLB is expanding the playoffs this year to make a little extra $$$ due to all the lost time from Covid-19. But this should absolutely not be a part of the future of the game, and anyone who thinks otherwise probably puts ketchup on their steak while wearing a Loony Toons jean jacket. Let's not water this league down more than it already is.

 

 

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#11 cardsfan

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 01:43 AM

I've mailed the previous commissioner about this format for the season making the last 7 or 8 regular season games sold as a package before the season very relevant. This will work well with 8 divisions of 4.

At the end of 154 or 155 games the number 1 in the division plays number 2. Number 3 plays other number 3 in the same league. Number 4 does the same as they are the worse team and can bring up their minor leaguers for the last 7 or 8 games.

Only 1st place teams make playoffs. If tie then game 163.

Ok if 7 games left in season think of this scenario the 1st place team is ahead 3 games and plays number 2. If the second place team wins 5 out of 7 game 163 is played. The last 7 games are real pennant races with division winners going to the playoffs.

Now if Number 3 is say 2 games behind number 1 after 154 or 155 games it is possible to still win or tie for division title. Number 2 team wins four out of seven while the number 3 team wins 5 out of 7 and catches number 1. Could number 4 win all 7 games and tie for division?

Then for the playoffs the best division winner plays the worst division winner in first round giving incentives for home field advantage. Home field advantage in the second round to best record until the World Series where it alternates, but, if a World Series winner from the previous season is heading back to the World Series that team gets 4 home games if series goes 7.

Last 7 or 8 count as regular season games, but, can be differentiated as the final two weekends of hectic baseball. Its possible if number one is leading division by 5 games that number 2 wins 6 out of 7 we have a tie. Same if number 1 is leading by 7 and is swept all 7 games.

Very few will read this as my forum in St. Louis is dominated by trolls in a clique and just provoke responses with several probably using more than one alias with mental health problems. Here is moderated, but, I don't think baseball is your top love like in St. Louis or Chicago or L.A. or Boston or New York or at times Cincinnati. With a moderated Other Baseball you should be attracting fans from generations. I've been to 41 major leagues parks and need 5 more and am interested in a Monterrey, Mexico out of the country park when a team plays there since I've driven or ridden in a car 4 times 100's of miles in the country with the last in 2006.

You need more baseball fans especially after football is becoming or approaching a touch football league.

#12 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 07:59 AM

Over the years, I've become increasingly supportive of a 154 game season plus an additional postseason round, along with changing the DS round to seven games.

 

I don't like 16 postseason teams, that's absurd, but I can support 12-ish if they can find a way to make it work.

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#13 ToddlerHarmon

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 08:06 AM

Since you asked, here is my ideal setup for baseball, based mostly on wanting to see the entire league, and on having the regular season championships be meaningful (no wild cards!):

 

32 teams, with 4 four-team divisions in each league

 

1 3 game series against every interleague team (48 games)

2 3-game series against non-division league opponents (72 games)

4 3-game series against division rivals (36 games)

 

So a 156-game season, followed by:

 

playoffs with division champs only: LDS, LCS, and World Series, each 7 games

 

If you're really into a shortened season, then drop half the same-league, non-division games, and you have 120 games

 


#14 Shaitan

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 09:09 AM

365 days. They get a day off every Leap Year.

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#15 Shaitan

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 09:16 AM

I love the length of the schedule, but it gets too cold for outdoor games in many climates.

 

Cold weather and "minor league quality" September baseball are the biggest downsides, imo.

 

Shave off 10-20 games. Eliminate or severely reduce September callups by restricting it to the last 2 weeks of the season.


#16 Vanimal46

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 09:50 AM

The casual fans really seemed to enjoy the shorter season length. I did too to be honest. 60 wasn't enough this year, but 100 might be the perfect compromise. 


#17 amjgt

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 11:55 AM

 

Ideally it should be set up so that every team has the same schedule, which means the same number of games against each team within the division, the same number of games against each team in the other two divisions in the same league, and the same number of games against each team in the other league, with an equal number of home and away games against each opponent. That requires an even number of games against each team. How could this work?

 

 

I reject this premise for two reasons...

1) With as many games as MLB plays a slight imbalance seems fine.

2) The NFL only plays 16 games and they are incredibly imbalanced. 


#18 spycake

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 12:53 PM

 

I love the length of the schedule, but it gets too cold for outdoor games in many climates.

 

Cold weather and "minor league quality" September baseball are the biggest downsides, imo.

 

Shave off 10-20 games. Eliminate or severely reduce September callups by restricting it to the last 2 weeks of the season.

September minor league call ups have already been reduced -- the normal roster size in 2020 was supposed be 26, and only expand to 28 after Sep. 1st.

 

There are few problems with trying to make season length adjustments based on weather:

 

1. Bad weather games still generate revenue. TV revenue is unaffected (and may actually improve with poor weather, especially for good teams in September), and even if the park is mostly empty, season tickets and suite sales drive the revenue there.

 

2. Seasonal weather changes aren't predictable enough to produce a meaningful effect by shaving just a couple weeks off the front or back of the schedule. You'd probably have to shave off a complete month (September and/or April).

 

3. There may only be ~10 teams that are in true "cold weather" climates without domes. Even if cold-weather-season games were just break-even in those places (doubtful), MLB overall would be losing a lot more games in southern, coastal, or dome cities.

 

And speaking as a frugal fan, cold weather games are a great value proposition on the secondary ticket market! :)


#19 spycake

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 12:55 PM

 

The casual fans really seemed to enjoy the shorter season length. I did too to be honest. 60 wasn't enough this year, but 100 might be the perfect compromise. 

Hard to tell -- by the time July 2020 rolled around, casual fans were probably just desperate for a new entertainment option!


#20 Shaitan

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Posted 28 September 2020 - 01:02 PM

 

3. There may only be ~10 teams that are in true "cold weather" climates without domes. Even if cold-weather-season games were just break-even in those places (doubtful), MLB overall would be losing a lot more games in southern, coastal, or dome cities.

 

10 teams is roughly 1/3 of the league. That's a pretty significant number.