So the news just came in that the Astros will be sold by November and they will move to the American League at some point after 2012. This move has a few ramifications:
- The Cubs will no longer have the luxury of being ahead of the Astros for dead last in the NL Central (but hopefully Theo Epstein changes that dead last thing around anyway).
- The American League and National League will now have the same number of teams and each division will have five teams to become more balanced so we don’t have a four-team AL West and a six-team NL Central.
- There will be interleague play all year long.
The year-round interleague play is kind of interesting and we’ll get into that later on. Since there are no plans to modify the 162-game schedule we can assume that the same number of games will be played going forward. That means we need to figure out how they will cram all the in-division and in-league games as well as an interleague set into the schedule. I’m really disorganized and I can’t set up a schedule for a beer softball league of 10 teams and 10 games, much less 30 teams and 162 games, but let’s give it a shot…I’m not going to bother figuring out when those interleague series will be played though as the other in-league matchups go on.
Each division now having five teams means that divisional matchups will pit one team against four possible opponents. Let’s say they have to play 15 games against each division rival, for a total of 60 games.
Each league having 15 teams means that there are 10 in-league teams outside the division. Let’s say they have to play 7 games against each non-division rival, for a total of 70 games. That leaves us 32 games for interleague or you can stick a couple of games into either the division or the rest of the league as it wouldn’t make sense to unbalance the interleague schedule.
Maybe we should reverse course and look at interleague first. During the regular season, with 162 games, that comes down to 54 possible 3-game series (we won’t count off-days or anything because that hurts my brain). So if you continue to want every team to play almost every day, and there are only 14 other teams in the same league, then it seems that each team will have to play at least four interleague series throughout the year, so at least 12 games (they’ll have to play more than that to even out the schedule but I suck at math). Since MLB continues to insist on those rivalry matchups in interleague, we can assume the Cubs will have to play 6 games against the White Sox, the Yankees have to play the Mets, etc. Maybe MLB decides to do a revolving schedule as they’ve been doing now and as the NFL does to set up their regular season schedules, so in addition to playing their rivals, each team has to also play a series against the five teams of an out-of-league division. So we’re looking at anywhere between 18 and 32 games of interleague per team depending on how they decide to rig the in-division and in-league schedule. That doesn’t seem like much and since it’s barely a fifth of the schedule, it might not do that much to upset competitive balance.
There’s also the issue of whether both leagues will eventually play by the same rules, which means either the AL kills the designated hitter or the NL adopts it, but that’s another story for another day. But all-year interleague sounds pretty cool to me.