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Pennant Race Baseball–2011

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

The 2011 Pennant Race Baseball season is upon us.  As in the past, we will be following it game by game.  Standings and results will appear daily in the Pennant Race Gazettes.  For those who are not familiar with how it works, I’ll give a brief account of what the set-up is.

There are no wild cards in the Pennant Race League.  The “Wild Card League”  has wild card competiton as a major ingredient of regular and post-seasons.  As a matter of fact, the wild card and three divisions per league was primarily created so there could be an extra ”tier” of playoffs:   Division Series;  Championship Series; and World Series.  The general effect of the wild cards, three divisions, and Division Series has been negative. 

This is true because these components have had an adverse affect on Major League Baseball’s(MLB) two biggest assets:  Season long pennant races; and a post -season which focuses attention on the World Series.  And now the Commissioner is talking about expanding baseball’s post-season, because the orginal wild card was a good idea?  Has anybody noticed what has been happening to baseball’s regular and post season ratings. (Check out:  “Division Series or “Killing the Goose”;  Division Series or ‘Killing the Goose’-Update”;  and “Wild Card,  League Division Series, and MLB’s Postseason”  found here under “Commentary”.)  We’re told that ratings don’t count.  But this reminds me of a famous line from The Wizard of Oz:  “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”.  Of course, everybody knew how important it was, and is, to always pay attention to the men behind the curtain.

I have been studying the effects of the wild card system on MLB for many years; and I have divised a way to reveal and experience the “hidden” pennant races that play themselves out during baseball’s long 162 game schedule.  With this new set-up, the American League is no longer divided into three divisions.  There are now two division:  one with 8 teams; and one with 6. Two Divisions, without a need for a wild card winner, are better suited to produce pennant races.  Wild cards just muddy up the water.  The same is true in the National League, where there are two divisions of 8 teams each. 

By having two divisions instead of three (and no wild card), the Division Series is eliminated.  Both regular seasons and post-season are strengthened.  This is true because: season long pennant races are stronger than wild card races;  pennant races in September are better than Division Series for end-of-season action;  and an uncluttered October puts fan attention where it belongs—on the World Series.

To replace the wild card competition, I’ve substituted a new “Tier” system.  Pennant races are aided by having teams play as many games as possible against Division rivals (Teams competing for the same “Division Pennant”).  Tier play provides season variety; and an extra incentive for season-long team competition and fan interest.  This is true because part of a team’s season schedule is determined by how high or low  they finish in the previous  year’s Division standings. 

 In the American League, the 4 teams that finish in the 1st Tier in the East play the 3 teams that finish is the 1st Tier of the West.  The same is true of the teams that finish in the 2nd Tier of the American League East and West.  This also applies in the National League, where the top 4 teams in each Division play each other; while the same is true of the bottom 4.

Let’s look at last year’s Final Standings so we can get a clearer picture of this new set-up.

Final Pennant Race Baseball Standings-2010

American League

East                              W      L        GB

  1. Tampa Bay        70    44      —
  2. New York           63     51        7
  3. Boston                60     50       8
  4. Toronto               60    54      10
  5. Cleveland            45    51       16
  6. Kansas City         41    48       16 1/2
  7. Detroit                 42    51       17 1/2
  8. Baltimore             40   72       29

West                                W       L         GB

  1. Minnesota            46      31        —
  2. Texas                   53      47          4 1/2
  3. Oakland               52       47         5
  4. Los Angeles         49       48          7
  5. Chicago                40      40          7 1/2
  6. Seattle                  38      63        20

National League

East                                   W        L          GB

  1. Philadelphia           68     48          —
  2. Atlanta                    62    54              6
  3. Cincinnati                47    40              6 1/2
  4. Florida                     59     57              9
  5. Houston                  41     47           13
  6. Washington             53     64           15 1/2
  7. New York                 52     63           15 1/2
  8. Pittsburgh                29     62           26 1/2

West                                   W       L            GB

  1. San Francisco          66     50           —
  2. San Diego                 67    51            —
  3. St. Louis                    47   42               5 1/2
  4. Los Angeles              60   56               6
  5. Chicago                     52   49               6 1/2
  6. Colorado                    60   57               6 1/2
  7. Milwaukee                 46   44                7
  8. Arizona                      47   47             20 1/2

  The 1st Tier in the AL East is:  Tampa Bay;  New York Yankees;  Boston; and Toronto.  This year they only play the teams that finished in the AL West’s 1st Tier, which is:  Minnesota;  Texas;  and Oakland.  The 2nd Tier in the AL East is:  Cleveland;  Kansas City;  Detroit;  and Baltimore.  They will play the teams that finished in the 2nd Tier of the AL West:  Los Angles Angels;  Chicago White Sox;  Seattle.

The 1st Tier finishers in the NL East were:  Philadelphia;  Atlanta;  Cincinnati;  and Florida.  They will only play the 1st Tier teams from the NL West that included:  San Francisco;  San Diego;  St. Louis; and Los Angeles Dodgers.  Just as in the American League; the 2nd Tier teams in the NL East play only the 2nd Tier teams in the NL West.  That would be:  NL East:  Houston;  Washington;  New York Mets;  and Pittsburgh;  and the NL West:  Chicago Cubs;  Colorado;  Milwaukee;  and Arizona.

You’ll notice that the standing do not reflect a 162 game season.  This is because I don’t make MLB’s schedule.  Theirs is determined by the fact that there are 3 rather than 2 divisions per league,  wild card competition;  and even Interleague play (BTW this is another weakness in MLB’s current structure.  Interleague games are not played between rivals for the same  Division Pennant,  nor does it include competition between rivals for the same Wild Card.  Therefore, Interleague play is nothing more than  a glorified Exhibition Games).  Pennant Race Baseball’s schedule is made up of all the games played between Division rivals and 6 games each played against Tier rivals.  All other games are not counted (This is reflected in each day’s Pennant Race Gazette, as all MLB results are listed.  Games not counting in Pennant Race Baseball’s standings are crossed out).

If I were named Commissioner of Baseball (Ha!!Ha!!), I would work with the owners and players union (I would also figure out a way to bring fan’s in on the conversation), to make some changes.  The first thing I would suggest is that MLB eliminate the wild card and Division Series.  I would further suggest it be replaced with the 2 Division per League,  plus “Tier” structures, described above.  Furthermore,  to even things out, I would suggest that MLB expand one final time to cities that could be placed in the AL and NL East.  This would balance out the league; with one team going from the NL West to AL West (Arizona?).   Discusses of this new MLB set-up is welcomed.

 MLB would end up with 4/8 team divisions.  The schedules would look like this:  Each team in a Division would play the 7 teams in their Division a total of 18 times, for a total of 126 games.  The other games would be made up by having each Tier rival play each other 9 times.  4×9=39;  126+39=162.  The regular season would not be contracted; and with the elimnation of the Division Series, the regular season would not need to start in March;  nor extend into November. 

 Real pennant races in September will more than substitute for the Division Series as they peak both fan and media mogul interest.  After exciting pennant races in 4 Divisions, fans will be ready immediately for the great competition that will occur in the Championship Series and revived World Series. Last years ALCS would have been between Tampa Bay and Minnesota;  the  NLCS  would have matched up Philadelphia and San Francisco.  How could we go wrong?

Posnanski Named Inaugural Writes of the Year by BBA

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

3/28/11:

“The Baseball Bloggers Alliance today named writer Joe Posnanski the winner of the inaugural Writer of the Year Award, honoring the top internet writer.  Posnanski, who writes for the print version of Sports Illustrated as well as maintaining his own log and Twitter account, was the overwhelming selection from the BBA.

Posnanski received 218 points, including 35 first place votes from the 110 ballots cast.  Bob Neyer, formerly of ESPN and now at  SB Nation, was second with 12 first place selections and 136 points overall.  Rounding out the top three was former Boston Globe writer Peter Gammons, now working at MLB Network and MLB.com with 135 total points and  20 first place votes.  ESPN writer  Buster Olney and Hardball Talk blogger  Craig Calcaterra were the only other nominees to tabulate ten percent of the total vote.”

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Day: December 10, 2010

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Today is Baseball Blogger Alliance Day, an organization started in 2009 to help promote baseball blogging throughout the  country.  There are currently 230 bloggers representing all teams except the Atlanta Braves.  There are chapters devoted to general discussions of the sport, history, fantasy, and miscellaneous; of which this blog is a member.

Being a Yankee and Met fan I enjoying visiting the sites devoted to those teams.  I get involved in discussions of current activities and appreciate being able to keep in touch with other fans.  I also like commenting on sites when I get the opportunity to talk about the pennant race league and how their teams might be faring.

BBA  has different activities that I enjoy participating in.  All-Star squads are voted on, end of season awards are handed out, and Hall of Fame recommendations are made.  They are also involved in charity work.  “Pitch in for Baseball” is an organization that donates lightly used baseball equipment to economically disadvantaged youth.  BBA has helped promote their resource mobilizattion activities.   BBA also has a weekly radio show at Blog Talk Radio and an iPhone app.

If you are a baseball lover you should check out the sites on my blogroll; and if you have a baseball blog or are thinking of starting one I suggest you  BBA at www.baseballbloggersalliance.com

The Wild Card, League Division Series, and MLB’s Postseason

Monday, November 8th, 2010

The wild card, three divisions, and the League Division Series they create have had a profound impact on Major League Baseball’s regular and postseason. The 2010 postseason and how they did with regard to TV ratings is examined here.  Two important factors that affect ratings are the market size of the teams involved and the number of games played.  6 and 7 games series give a chance to attract more viewers.-1  Competition for viewship by college football and the NFL also influences MLB’s postseason ratings.  Wikipedia discusses the Nielsen Rating system developed by Nielsen Media Research as measuring audiences in two ways: rating points/shares.  Each rating point equals 1 % of the total TV housesholds. “Share is the percentage of TV sets in use tuned to a program.-2

The League Division Series on TBS  lost ratings  this season.  For 15 games the average rating was 2.8, compared to 3.1 for 13 contests in 2009.  These statistics showed both the postive side of series length( Texas v. Tampa Bay, the LDS’s 1st game 5 since 2005 had a 4.1 share) and the negative impact of competition with the NFL and college football.  Game 4 on Sunday afternoon drew a 1.5 rating.  This was the lowest rating since TBS’ cablecasts started in 2007.-3  On Oct 9, a game between LSU  and FLA on ESPN nosed out NY vs. MIN on TBS 3.1 to 3.0.-4  The average rating for 2010 was even with 2008, but the average viewers were up slightly, 4.434 million to 4.282 million.-5

It is worth noting that when MLB reported the ratings for the LDS they lumped it together with the ALCS (which was also on TBS) that went 6 games and also featured the ratings powerhouse New York Yankees. They report a combined 9% jump over last year.-6     When taken as a seperate entity, the LDS does not have the strength to impact positively on the rest of baseball’s postseason.

As was stated above, the ALCS was on TBS this year.  The NLCS  was on FOX.  Game 2  of the ALCS between New York and Texas was the 2nd most watched program in TBS history with 11.9 million viewers.  Number 1 was the 2008 ALCS  Game 7 between Boston and Tampa Bay (13.4 million).-7   MLB reported that the 6 game ALCS in 2010, with ratings juggernaut New York, did 29% better than 2010.-8  TBS’ 2009 match up was the NLCS between PHI and LAD and went 5 games.-9  MLB’s problem when competing with the NFL was further illustrated, when a mediocre match-up between Tennesee and Jacksonville on Oct 18, beat out the Yankees and Rangers 7.2 to 6.5.-10

While information is sketchy on this years NLCS between San Francisco and Philadelphia on FOX (Blackout of games in New York probably gave FOX and MLB little to brag about),  the two games that were reported show the contrast of the LCS’s positive and negative sides.  Game 2 on Sunday October 17 again pitted the LCS against the NFL and the numbers were not good.  Football at 13.2/20 doubled baseball’s 6.5/10.-11  On the other end, Game 6 was able to hold its own against college football, beating Oklahoma at Missouri among the all-important 18-49 age group, 3.0/9 to 2.1/7.-12

Overall the addition of wild cards, and the LDS that comes along with it, has not fulfilled the promise of making MLB competitive with the NFL  in October.  Furthermore, the percentage of ratings important 6 and 7 game LCSs has declined with the addition of the LDS, going from 67% to 59%.  The best series of all, the full 7 game series, has dropped from 33% to 25%.-13   Once again, baseball can do better.

This year’s World Series between San Francisco and Texas with an average rating of 8.4 and a share of 14 was the lowest rated  in history.  While part of the problem may be attributed to Cablevision’s dispute with FOX in New York,  things did not pick up after getting back on the air for Game 3.-14  The series also lacked the money-making 6th or 7th game.  MLB has not avoided lethal competition with football in primetime, as there are now college games on Friday and Saturday, and the NFL on Sunday night.-15  2010′s Game 4 drew a 10.4 rating while the Steelers and Saints had a 11.8.-16

The fact that this year’s series was the worst in history should not be a surprise.  Wikipedia has listed all rating and share results for the World Series starting in 1984.  Of those 26, the worst 5 are all since 2005 (26th 2010: 8.4/14;  25th 2008: 8.5/14;  24th 2006: 10.1/17;  23rd  2007:  10.7/18;  22nd 2005: 11.1/19).  Even the game’s last 6 and 7 game World Series, in 2009 and 2002 respectively, could not escape the bottom of the list.  The 2009 series was 21st at 11.7/19; and 2002 was 20th at 11.9/20.  Conversely, the top 5 rated series all took place before 1991 (1st 1986: 28.6/45;  2nd 1985: 25.3/39;  3rd 1988: 23.9/39;  4th 1987: 23.8/40;  5th 1991: 23.7/39).  Big market teams could be found in the top 5 (New York, Boston, St Louis, and Los Angeles) and the bottom 7 (Philadelphia, St. Louis, Boston, Chicago,  New York, and Anaheim ).-17

While MLB and TBS can point to major gains in this year’s ALCS, the  picture in general, and the World Series in particular, does not point to a situation that favors the status quo.  Interesting division races between Tampa Bay and New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta, and San Francisco and San Diego did not translate into positive rating growth throughout the postseason.  Competition between baseball and football on many dates is still a major problem.   Improving competition with football in September and October was a major reason for changing MLB’s structure in 1994. 

The lack of real season long pennant races that climax in dramatic fashion in September deprives baseball of a strong product to compete with college football and the NFL.  Baseball believes when they allow more individual teams into the postseason it increases fan interest. In reality, this piecemeal strategy leaves MLB without a strong national product.  It decreases October viewers as their teams drop out of contention.  The Division Series has cut into baseball’s ability to provide its fans with ratings critical 6 and 7 game World Series (see this blogger’s “The Division Series or ‘Killing the Goose’ ” October 8).  When baseball fails to capitalize on it best products, pennant races and the World Series, it fails to broaden out its fan appeal in September and October.  Is it any wonder they end up losing the ratings war to more popular regular season football games? 

With talk of MLB adding teams and games to the postseason, now is the time to discuss alternatives that would improve baseball’s entire season. Season long pennant races that build through September will increase rather than decrease TV audiences;  and keep building  ratings throughout the postseason.  Baseball executives would be wise to explore expanding its August and September coverage with its broadcast partners.  By designating a package of 10-15 games emphasizing pennant race action, baseball will augment viewership for the game’s final months.  This package would replace the LDS and become baseball’s unique answer to the 1st round of baseball’s postseason. 

In these hard economic times, MLB’s entrepreneurs should take the risks necessary to add value and provide  a better product for all baseball fans.  By letting baseball be baseball that risk will pay off with a growing fan base.  Quality teams that have been followed all season will replace large markets as a reason for higher postseason ratings.  A rejuvinated World Series will regain its importance as the sports world’s premier event.  Just what the doctor ordered to increase ratings; and revenues for players and owners alike.

Footnotes:

1- http://fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/why-mlb-postseason-tv-ratings-could-likely-to-be-down.com

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/wire?section=mlb&id=5682283  ESPN MLB “TV ratings down for baseball’s division series”  Associated Press

2-http://en.wikipedia.org  “Nielsen ratings”

3- see 1- espn

4- http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-12/u-s-cable-television-ratings-for-the-week-of-oct10.html Bloomberg “U.S. Cable Television Ratings for the week of Oct 10″ by Rob Golum Oct 12, 2010

5- http://www.sportsmediawatch,net/2010/10 SMW Sports Media Watch “Division Series Ratings Drop on TBS” Oxt 13, 2010

6, 7, 8, 9- http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20101023&content_id=15813716&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb “TBS postseason coverage ends on high note ALCS Game 6 most watched of season, 2010 rating up 9%” by Jane Lee/MLB.COM 10/23/10

10- http://www.usatoday.com/sports/2010-10-19  USA  Today “TV Ratings:NFL tops baseball despite Yankees’ playoff presence” by Michael Hiestand, USA Today

11- http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/2010/1019/sports0101/10190307  Democrat and Chronicle.com “NFL vs.MLB on TV? It’s no contest” by Bob Matthews Staff Reporter Oct 19, 2010

12- http://tvbythenumbers.com “TV Ratings Saturday: The Giants Win the Pennant! Missouri Knocks Off Oklahoma, Outlaw Drops” by Robert Seidman Oct 24, 2010

13- http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/postseason/mlb_ks.jsp

14- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/world_series_television_ratings

15- http://www.bizofbaseball.com “TV Ratings for Game 1 of 2010 World Series Strong, But DFown From ’09″ by Maury Brown Oct 28, 2010

16- http://content.usatoday.com/communities/thehuddle/post/2010/11 ”NFL’s Steelers-Saints beat MLB’s World Series in TV Rating”

17- same as 14

The Strength of Pennant Race Baseball II

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Since we last examined this topic, the season has progessed to September.  So let’s take another look at what is happening in the wild card and pennant race leagues.  First, let’s recap some of the factors in this important baseball strength characteristic.  These factors include: the number of teams played during the long regular season;  the number of divisions;  the number of teams that make it to the post-season; and the strength provided by a “pennant race only” focus.

In a league where the purpose is to create the conditions for season long pennant races, a team plays a concentrated number of games against the 7 teams in their division that are rivals for the same pennant.  The wild card league with interleague play has teams dissipatring their focus and energies by playing 19-21 teams each season.  They don’t even play a majority of their games against rivals for the same pennant.

A season’s energy is further spread out when 8 teams rather than 4 make it to the post-season.  By having three divisions rather than 2 per league and adding a wild card,  attention is weakened by the constant switching of focus betrween division and wild card competition.  The wild card is most destructive during the all-important month of September when the best teams are assured playoff positions and focus is transferred to the weaker wild card teams.  Wild Card League fans are also deprived of the strong energy that a winner take all climax adds to the season.

Let’s take a look at who is still in contention in the wild card and pennant race leagues.  Remember, being 7 games or less back of 1st Place keeps a team in contention.

Wild Card League:

Division Races:

East: NY (—);  TB  (2.5)//  Central:  MIN  (—);  CHI  (6)//  West:  TEX  (—);  OAK  (7)

East:  PHI  (—);  ATL  (1)//  Central:  CIN  (—);  STL  (5)//  West:  SD  (—);  SF  (2);  COL  (4)

Wild Card Competition:

TB  (–);  BOS  (6.5)

ATL  (—);  SF  (.5);  COL (3.5);  STL  (5.5)

There are a total of 13 teams competiting for 8 playoff positions.  62 % go on; only 38 % go home.

Pennant Race League:

East:  TB  (—);  NY  (4)//  West:  MIN  (—);  OAK  (5.5);  TEX  (7)

East:  PHI  (—);  ATL  (1);  CIN  (1.5);  FLA  (4.5);  HOU  (6)//  West:  SD  (—);  COL  (3.5);  SF  (3.5);  LA  (7)

There are 14 teams competiting for 4 playoff bids.  29 % go on.  72 % go home.

Wild Card proponents like to say that there league is better because more teams are in contention longer into the season.  This analysis does not seem to stand up to the facts, as the pennant race league has MORE teams still in contention than the wild card league. 

The evidence shows that all wild card and three divisions does is add 4 teams to the post-season and one week of playoffs.  As has been shown these additions seriously detract from pennant races and the World Series, baseball’s two strongest features.  A clear example of “more” actually being “less”.

Pennant Race Schedules

Friday, September 17th, 2010

The pennant races are alive and well in the pennant race league.  Here are the games remaining in September and October between pennant race rivals in each division.

East:  Tampa Bay/New York:  Sep13-15 @ Tampa Bay;  Sep 20-23 @New York

West:  Minnesota/Texas Sep 3-5 @ Minnesota;  Minnesota/Oakland Sep 17-19 @Minnesota;  Texas/Oakland Sep 23-26 @Oakland

East:  Atlanta/Philadelphia: Sep 20-22 @Philadelphia; Oct 1-3 @Atlanta;  Atlanta/Florida: Sep 3-5 @Florida;  Sep 27-29 @Atlanta   Philadelphia/Florida:  Sep 6-8 @Philadelphia;  Sep  13-15  @Florida

West:  San Diego/Colorado:  Sep 3-5 @San Diego;  Sep 13-15 @Colorado;  San Diego/Los Angeles:  Sep 6-8 @San Diego;  Sep 21-23 @Los Angeles;  San Diego/San Francisco:  Sep 9-12 @San Diego;  Oct 1-3 @ San Francisco;  Los Angeles/San Francisco:  Sep 3-5 @Los Angeles;  Sep 14-16 @San Francisco;  Los Angeles/Colorado:  Sep  17-19 @Los Angeles;  Sep 27-29 @Colorado;  San Francisco/Colorado:  Aug 30-Sep 1 @San Francisco;  Sep  24-26 @Colorado

LiveBaseballChat.com

Monday, September 13th, 2010

www.LiveBaseballChat.com is the 1st project of Live Chat Concepts envisioned by three guys in their quest to change how fans view live sports events.  They provide live chat rooms for each MLB game starting 30 minutes before game time and extending for 30 minutes after.  The chat rooms are an excellent way for fans of a given teams to communicate with each other during live action team play.  Exchanging expert commentary is instantaneously enhanced.

LIVEBASEBALLCHAT IS BETTER than team forums and Twitter. While team forums are more like “blogs”, LiveBaseballChat.com gives fans a chance to converse during a game.  Twitter also does not work as well as LiveBaseballChats.com in promoting back and forth conversation.

IT’S EASY TO JOIN a Live Chat room by using your browser to go to www.LiveBaseballChat.com and register a username and password.  There’s nothing to download or any executable to click. Just confirm your email and view the schedule page.

OTHER FEATURES:

  1. Invite a friend by email and use of CHurl.  Or use it with Twitter or Facebook.
  2. Know who’s chatting by clicking “Who is Here” button.
  3. Learn more about users by clicking “User Name” in “Chat Panel”  or “Who is Here Panel”.
  4. Auto log in post to Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Buddy Alerts through your Email.
  6. New Features in “Quick Tips” box.
  7. Live Chat Concepts “Badge” system
  8. Team Walls for finding users with same favorite teams.

CHECK THEM OUT and experience a new way to share your favorite team’s games with other team fans!!

The Strength of Pennant Race Baseball

Friday, September 10th, 2010

The strength of pennant race baseball can be found in several charateristics that have been greatly diminished by the wild card system.  These factors include the number of teams played against during a season, the number of divisions leading to the number of teams getting  to the post-season, and the strength of a “pennant race only” focus.

Pennant race baseball creates  structures designed to give season long pennant races between rivals for the same pennant the primary focus.  This leads each team to give a concentrated effort competing with 7 teams.    In contrast, the wild card league thins out its schedule by having its teams play between 19 and 21 teams.  As objects spread out they become thinner and weaker, subject to the wear and tear of time. 

It was often said, before the wild card was introduced, that baseball could not go back to the days when there were two leagues with a regular season that ended with the playing of the World Series. This was true because with expansion  there were just too many teams.  This “no division” set-up is exactly what baseball resembles with its spread out wild card schedule. Baseball might as well finish the proess by creating two 14 and 16 team leagues with no divisions. Have the top 4 teams in each league play in the post season.  By adding interleague play, baseball has thinned out its schedule even further.

Pennant race baseball by taking three divisions and merging them into two has the effect of concentrating baseball playoff energy from 8 teams into 4.  The diffused energy of 8 is like a light bulb; the 4 is more like the power of a laser.  Diffusion also  occurs as baseball teams and fans ping-pong their attention between division and wild card competition during the long season.  Pennant races begin the 1st day of the season and continue until its climactic ending, when a pennant winner is crowned.  Finally, the lose of energy in the wild card league can be seen in September when the leagues best teams pull in their reigns in preparation for the playoff.   They leave the stage for the weaker division and wild card  competitors.

Let’s take a look at how this plays out by looking at the pennant race and wild card leagues as they’re competing today. By listing teams who are within 7 games of top (7 games would still put them in contention during the last week of the season), we can see the teams who are still in contention.

Wild Card League Division Races:

East: NY —;  TB .5;  BOS  6     Central:  CHI  —;  MIN  1.5     West:  TEX  —    

East:  ATL  —;   PHI  2     Central:  CIN  —;  STL  .5     West:  SD  —;  SF  2

Wild Card Races:

TB  —;  BOS  5.5;  MIN  6.5

SF  —;  STL  1.5;  PHI  1.5;  COL  5.5;  LA  5.5

Note the 6 teams who show the conflict in the system, as they are competing for both division and wild card. 

Pennant Race League Competition:

East:  TB  —;  NY  3.5     West:  MIN  —;  TEX  .5;  OAK  2.5;  CHI  3.5;  LA  6

East:  CIN  —;  ATL  1;  PHI  1.5;  WAS  3;  FLA  5     West:  SD  —;  SF  3;  LA  3;  STL  5;  COL  5.5;  MIL  7

In the wild card league we have 13 teams that are competing for 8 post-season positions.  62% will go on, while only 38% will go home.

In the pennant race league there are 18 teams competing for 4 post-season berths.  22% will go on, while 78% go home.

This all displays the concentrated energy of pennant races and the dissipating activity of the wild card.

Just Don’t Call Them Pennant Races!

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Call them wild card races.  Call them division races.  But what ever you do, don’t call them pennant races!

Pennant races happen when most, if not all, of a season is made up of games played between rivals for the same pennant.  They go on until one team has won enough games to ensure that they will have won the most games when the regular season is over. Sometimes pennant races last until the last game of the regular season.  And sometimes post-season play is necessary to crown a victor.  Pennant races provide great competition between the best teams in the league or division.  They are also accompanied by great intensity because only one team goes on, while all the rest go home.

Does this sound like what is going on now in the wild card league!  If you compare what has been observed about pennant races above, the response must be a resounding, “NO!!”

The intensity and competition of a pennant race is sorely lacking.  You can finish 2nd in the wild card league and still go on.  As a matter of fact, it’s even worse than that.  In the playoffs, not only can a team beat a team that finished !st, they can also beat the team that finished 1st in THEIR DIVISION!  This second chance would never happen in a pennant race as the 2nd place team goes home!  The 1st place team takes its rightful place as contender for the World Championship. 

Furthermore, the intensity and competition of pennant races is achieved as only the two best teams in the league go on to the playoffs.  With wild cards four teams per league go on.  This  leads to a focus on lesser quality teams. In September while the best teams prepare their rosters for the post-season, the wild card races feature the leagues’ 4th, 5th,  6th (and less) best teams.  Wild cards also provides less intensity over the course of 162 game schedule and in September, when pennant races heat up to a dramatic climax.

Finally,  the most important element of pennant races is lacking in the wild card league.  This element is the season long competition that takes place between rivals for the same pennant.  Before baseball expanded in 1969, and split each league into 2 divisions, every  regular season game was played against  rivals for the same pennant.  Beginning in 1969 teams played 56% 0f their games against division rivals;  and  44 % of its games against teams competing for the other division’s pennant.  Currently, with 3 divisions, the wild card, and interleague play, those numbers have flipped.  Teams play division rivals only 44% of the time; and play 56% of their games against non-division rivals.  The numbers just don’t add up for what happens now to be called pennant races!

Teams that finish 2nd making the playoff, and beating pennant rivals in the post-season.  Twice as many teams going on.  Less competition and intensity.  Less than 50 % of their games played against rivals for the same pennant.  There are definitely wild card races.  You can even make a weak case for calling them division races.  But please! Just don’t call them pennat races!