Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Modern MLB schedule

When I make a schedule I tend to gravitate in the absence of contrary specifications (and maybe sometimes in spite of them!) to a form very similar to that of modern Major League Baseball (MLB) schedules for parameters not specific to league structure.  What I mean by modern is basically the last several years when I have been making schedules, though not much has changed across the wild card/interleague era going back to the mid-1990s.  Maybe "current" is a better term, but I am using "modern".

This is probably the sort of schedule with which more people, at least in the US and Canada, are more familiar than any other.  I suspect that even if the specifics are not consciously known, many people have a good "feel" for many of the parameters.  Unless something is specified otherwise I will generally make the assumption that someone requesting a schedule is figuring on parameters similar to current MLB.  From that mindset initially when I first got into this some of my creation techniques became geared more toward making schedules with resemblance to modern MLB.  That in turn leaves me more inclined in that direction, which over time leads to a preferred style.

Now I will describe and discuss some of the parameters of the modern MLB schedule.  Feel free to comment on any you may like or not like.
Mostly 3-game series with some 4-game series and possibly a few 2-game series

Series will get their own full post soon.  For a brief summary, with two series per week both being 3-game means one offday, and one being 4-game means no offday that week.  I have developed methods specific to such a scheme.

Monday through Sunday "baseball week"

Most people probably know MLB series are almost always ending on Sundays.  Sometimes series will wrap around to Monday, especially in some cases with Monday holidays.  But as a rule of thumb we can say series end Sundays.  Working back from that those series started either on Thursday (if it was a 4-game series) or Friday (if it was a 3-game series).  The early part of the week also gets a series.  Depending on the weekend series, the early-week series may be 4 games (Mon-Thu) or 3 games (Mon-Wed or Tue-Thu).

That is the usual pattern for MLB and what I aim to do whenever possible.

3-4 day All-Star Break slightly after mid-season

The break begins 1 week after the approximate mid-point in terms of games, so that teams typically go in having played about 87-88 games.  With the All-Star Game on Tuesday the break is Monday through Wednesday at least, with teams playing a 3-game Fri-Sun series coming out of the break off Thursday also.

I generally follow that pattern for 162-game schedules.  For fewer games I will tend to push the All-Star Break closer to the end of the season to allow for more games to be played.  For example, a 100-game schedule would have the All-Star Break after about 55 games if at the same relative point as MLB, but I would probably put it after 60-70 games.

Offdays on average about one per 10 days (i.e., two per three weeks)

MLB currently plays 162 games across 182 days from the first Monday in April to the Sunday a few days before or after October 1st.  Or at least that is what I consider it by ignoring things like a single game Sunday night on national TV before most other teams start the season the next day or games in Japan several days before.  That means 20 offdays total across 26 weeks, but again 3-4 of those occur during the All-Star Break.

Also offdays fall differently for different teams.  At any given time even without real world postponements one team may have played a few more games than another.  I like that.  I like regularly seeing half-games in the games back column of the standings.  I like when opposing pitching rotations do not exactly align.  I can understand reasons people may have for wanting all offdays the same for teams, and that is easier to do as a rule.  But I prefer a schedule that is "messier" with the offdays like MLB has.

Maximum of 20 consecutive days without offday

This is a regulation within the collective bargaining agreements between MLB ownership and the players association, as many schedule parameter rules are.  It means no more than 2 consecutive weeks without an offday.

Sometimes requests leave no need to worry about this with gamedays being much less common than offdays, and occasionally offdays may be prescribed to be rarer.  But whenever possible I do make a point to adhere to this guideline.

Homestands and road trips limited to about 3 series maximum

Ideally for player travel considerations there are not too long road trips and homestands are not generally too short so that teams have too much coming and going.  The MLB schedule will tend to be dominated by homestands and road trips with length of two series (6-7 games).  Some extend to three series (9-11 games), but few will be only 1 series (3-4 games).

My standards are somewhat more relaxed.  My goals are no homestands or road trips longer than 14 games and trying not to exceed some amount of single-series homestands and road trips.  Avoiding too-long takes precedence over limiting the number of too short.  If everything else is satisfactory I will not work to try to eliminate further single-series homestands and road trips.

No doubleheaders

The regularly scheduled doubleheader has now disappeared from the MLB schedule.  I do not use doubleheaders unless specifically requested because my process is just a bit cleaner and easier without them.

Unbalanced with division opponents played above twice as often or slightly more than other league opponents

This degree of imbalance has developed as the ratio of division opponents to other league opponents has decreased.  Obviously before the divisional era schedules were balanced, and even during the divisional era MLB had time with balanced schedules.

League structure and amount of interleague play are important factors in shaping exactly how unbalanced to make a schedule.  If the desire is to play all non-division opponents in two series, one home and one away, then the rest of the games (ignoring or besides any interleague) must be division games.  Playing 162 games that way with two divisions of 6 teams would mean about 25 games per division opponent with the 6 games per other league opponent, whereas two divisions with 10 teams it would mean only about 11-12 games per division opponent.

Both the 2:1 ratio of games per division opponent to games per non-division league opponent and a pair of 3-game series per non-division league opponent are common starting points for me in developing schedules when requests do not have exact specification of the imbalance.

Handful of interleague series in total

About 10 percent of games are interleague currently in MLB.  For similar sized leagues I aim for something similar, though for smaller leagues there figure to be higher percentages of interleague games.  MLB limits the interleague play to the first half of the season, not too early but not too close to the All-Star Break.  I am inclined to spread it out a little more and have some series after the All-Star Break.  With 6 series across a schedule with a span like MLB, I may put the interleague in 2 series in late May, 2 series in mid-June, and 2 series in early August.

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