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  1. curious–how would the addition of a 2-3 WAR DH to an NL team traveling from the NL to the AL change the NL team’s expected pythag?

    obviously, because salary devoted to that new position comes from somewhere, it’s not just a “free” addition.

    also, if you gain 2-3 WAR from a DH, how much WAR do you expect to lose in moving your pitching staff from the NL to the AL. more or less than that value?

    Comment by joshcohen — October 7, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  2. But part of the reason the NL is poor is the Astros themselves – should they not be excluded from your stats to create a fairer analysis (i.e. would they be better off with the 14 AL teams or the other 15 NL teams)?

    Comment by Aaron (UK) — October 7, 2011 @ 11:29 am

  3. Huh?

    Comment by Mitch — October 7, 2011 @ 11:41 am

  4. Selig has grapefruits to ask a team with 50 years of history in the NL to change leagues, when the Rox and DBacks both have far less of a legacy to impair.

    Comment by Mitch — October 7, 2011 @ 11:43 am

  5. Off-topic here, but can anyone direct me to where I can find the league average for the advanced stats like FIP, SIERA, etc.?

    Comment by bada bing — October 7, 2011 @ 11:53 am

  6. I don’t see why the owner should have any say, whatsoever. It’s not like Ted Rogers got to say “sure, I’ll buy the Jays, but only if they get moved to the AL Central,” or if the original owners of expansion teams got to choose their divisions.

    It’s not like it’s going to matter the division anyways, the Astros are not going to make the playoffs for a very, very long time. Besides, moving to the Al West would give them more games against Texas, their “rival,” so perhaps even more ticket sales.

    Comment by Matt Defalco — October 7, 2011 @ 11:56 am

  7. That would be a sampling bias.

    Comment by Demi — October 7, 2011 @ 11:59 am

  8. Dear god I hope this doesn’t happen. The last thing baseball needs is more interleague play. Out of division teams in the same league are already practically strangers, with a measly 6 meetings per year.

    Comment by squads — October 7, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

  9. The Rockies have been exuding an AL vibe for nearly 2 decades now.

    Comment by Choo — October 7, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  10. Interleague play year-round doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more of it.

    Comment by Notrotographs — October 7, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

  11. Froman owner’s perspective, the cost is that the American League top to bottom is less marketable than the National League. Granted, the AL has the two clubs with the highest marquee value in allof baseball, but Houston fans have no special history with the Red Sox and Yankees, who won’t be in the AL West anyway. They’d get the Rangers, who they already have 6 interleague games with, but lose the Cardinals and Cubs.

    After Boston and NY there’s a huge drop off in the curb appeal of AL
    teams. Of the 10 weakest MLB franchises by attendance, 8 are in the AL. Baseball’s upper middle class of franchises is overwhelmingly in the NL — Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies, Mets, Giants, Dodgers.

    Replacing that group with lower tier attractions like White Sox, Orioles, Mariners, Rays, Blue Jays, Angels, A’s, etc. is a significant loss in marketability. That’s the real reason it’s impossible to find an NL franchise willing to switch to the AL.

    Comment by Candlestick Parker — October 7, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

  12. I find it interesting that the Brewers are not mentioned in this scenario?? Oh yeah, the Brewers were Seligs’s team!!

    By the way, since the only teams that exist are the Yankees and Boston, wouldn’t that add revenue to any team that gets to play them on a regular basis?? A lot more than a DH would cost.

    Comment by Hurtlocker — October 7, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

  13. Assuming all pitchers are equal hitters (which is probably mostly true), couldn’t you exclude AL home games from interleague play data to determine the true impact of the average DH in AL superiority?

    NL rosters aren’t built to have a quality hitter to plug into the DH spot when playing in the AL (although some teams are lucky enough to have that guy). If an NL team that moves to the AL adds a (cheap) DH only type hitter in the 9 spot there would be at least a slight improvement to their expected win-loss record.

    I’d like to see this data with NL home game only pythagorean data from interleague play to see how much the DL influences the win %.

    Comment by Evan — October 7, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

  14. No…

    NL teams are built to pinch hit for the pitcher while AL teams aren’t. So parallel considerations give NL teams an advantage at home.

    Furthermore, an AL team that has spent a lot of money on DH and 1B probably plays without one of their better players while playing in a NL park.

    Comment by philosofool — October 7, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

  15. Leageu FIP is standardized to match league ERA. wOBA is matched to league OBP.

    Comment by philosofool — October 7, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

  16. The NL would lose viewers in Texas. Seems to me that’s a bad idea. For people not in Houston or Dallas they currently can choose to follow NL or AL (or both) and still support a Texas team. If the Astros move to the AL then who in Texas is going to follow the NL.

    NY, LA, Chicago, Florida all have 2 teams split between AL and NL. If it’s good for them, why isn’t it good for Texas?

    Comment by Bruce — October 7, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

  17. Interesting point… I wonder if moving the Rockies (or the D-backs) to the AL West, and then moving the Astros to the NL west, would be a more equitable way to go?

    Comment by gonfalon — October 7, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  18. It is, but the central has six teams and the NL west has four the Astros are the easiest fix. Now a better solution might be to move an NL West team (D-backs or Rockies) and then move the Astros to the NL West. But Selig has a hard time demanding anything of owners. And he feels a new owner will be easier to pressure.

    Comment by Preston — October 7, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

  19. Conversely, Pennsylvania has two NL teams, but both of them predate the AL.

    Not that I don’t think it’s a bad idea–it is–but that’s not necessarily the best reason why.

    Comment by Phrozen — October 7, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

  20. Not buying it, the AL team has a significantly better hitter available to pinch hit on the bench than the NL team does in the NL park by virtue of their DH. They still have an advanatge.

    Using NL park only data would be a much better way to analyze the talent of AL vs. NL teams with the caveat that the AL will always have the advantage of one more quality hitter on their roster.

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — October 7, 2011 @ 1:10 pm

  21. of course it would, gonfalon. That is the correct way to do this.

    and to those saying more interleague play is bad, why?

    Comment by Mitch — October 7, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

  22. @ evan i agree with philosofool that the sample you’re suggesting is a good start, but it doesn’t really satisfactorily evaluate the issue, which relates to roster construction more than just having “any” hitter go out 162 times rather than the SP.

    @ philosofool it’s interesting, i actually didn’t think about if there is a sort of selection bias that exists with a type of hitter in the AL. i guess the idea is that AL teams are able to make more attractive offers (esp relating to total years) to a certain type of hitter (ie prince fielder) because they realize that at some point they’ll need to DH.

    Comment by zimmerman — October 7, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  23. Yes on days you played the Yankees and Sox they’d make more money. But ask the Orioles if they’d like to draw more fans everyday by actually being in contention or just sell out on the days the two Super Powers come to town.

    Comment by Preston — October 7, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

  24. Out of all the teams in the NL to move to the AL, why not move Milwaukee back to the AL?

    Comment by Mike D — October 7, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

  25. Because it’s Bud Selig’s former team.

    Comment by Preston — October 7, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  26. For me, it’s that I grew up rooting for a team in the NL and prefer the style of baseball that’s played in the NL. The concept of playing more DH-ball is scary from a competitive standpoint. My team will have to invest resources/probably overpay (because there will be more demand than supply) a mediocre DH next year, giving AL teams with DH with longterm deals an edge. Second, my team may have been evaluating/drafting prospects with league-specific needs in mind. For instance, is Jesus Montero as sexy a prospect if he’s a minus-defense C/1B for an NL team?

    Also, since MLB seems to evaluate it’s popularity through gate attendance, I think there may be a diminishing return to the gate that comes with increased interleague play. In the first few years, teams that you never see might draw better. But after a while, fatigue might set in. Is that offset by added revenue of barnstorming the Yankees/Sox? Maybe. But as a phillies fan, I’d much rather see the dodgers or the giants come to philly an extra series each year than see the phillies take on the As/Mariners IMHO.

    Comment by zimmerman — October 7, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

  27. Quite a few holes in this so far, but I am optimistic they’ll be addressed in what comes next. In particular, I hope you’ll address the TV issue at much greater length.

    Comment by Richie — October 7, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

  28. … and that means what?

    Milwaukee moved to the NL in ’98 when Bud Selig was commish then too.

    Comment by Mike D — October 7, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  29. I don’t agree. The Yankees and Red Sox have strong national brands and perennially have among the largest road draws. Gaining additional home dates against these teams is a plus. Another advantage for Houston switching is more head-to-head matchups with the Rangers, which presumably draw larger crowds.

    Some of the AL advantage is setoff by the Astros losing the Cubs and Cardinals as road draws, but I still think it’s a net win for them to switch.

    Comment by Ken — October 7, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

  30. Great point – the gap between the leagues will close the minute the astro’s move.

    A more creative title to the article might have been “How much is having the Astros in the NL worth to the Cardinals.” (or any other NL Central wild card contender)

    Comment by Jason — October 7, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

  31. Also, most teams have a “natural” interleague rival they play every year. For Houston, that’s currently Texas. If you move Houston to the AL, you might well see, say, Astros-Cardinals every year anyway. The Royals might object, but it could be done.

    Comment by Brendan — October 7, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

  32. I have doubts about this whole article given that they’ve used a sample size that is tailor made to emphasize the AL’s dominance. There’s no reason to use irrelevant data from 2002-2008 unless you’re trying to include the period when the AL really mopped up the NL. None of that data is relevant because its so attenuated. If you do the regressions for the last two years its a totally different result.

    I also agree with those above that the DH rule favors the AL. Only 1 team was actually hurt when they lost the DH- the Red Sox. The others either didn’t have a superstar DH (there really aren’t many anyway) or they let their normal DH play the field.

    Comment by stan — October 7, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  33. I used 2009, 2010, and 2011…

    Comment by Reed MacPhail — October 7, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

  34. Don’t forget that NL teams have to devote a lot more roster space and payroll to relievers since their pitcher’s spots come up in key situations and they need to pinch hit. NL rosters are fundamentally different than AL ones for that reason

    Because of that roster crunch NL teams also can’t carry a pinch hitter deluxe because they only have 3 or 4 bench spots available and all those guys have to play multiple positions.

    In NL parks that doesn’t particularly matter but in AL parks the NL is at a disadvantage because they don’t have a decent option for a DH. The bigger advantage though is that it allows AL teams to devote more money to their line-ups because they bench players and relievers play so much less.

    Comment by stan — October 7, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

  35. Richie,

    I wasn’t planning on going into any more detail on the potential for lost viewers. But I’ll take a look at that this weekend. Do you know of a place where I could find data on viewership changes?

    Comment by Reed MacPhail — October 7, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

  36. It appears from those graphs that 2002 to the present were considered. I see that you only discussed 2009-11 so if I misunderstood I apologize.

    Comment by stan — October 7, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  37. Ya, you do need to account for the fact that the Astros play a tougher schedule than say the Brewers. That’s what I tried to account for with the modifier, and that’s part of the reason that the Astros’ winning percentage decreases the least.

    But the issue isn’t really the gap between the leagues, the issue is the change in the quality of opponents a team would play. And the true talent level of teams in the American league is not affected by the presence or absence of the Astros.

    Comment by Reed MacPhail — October 7, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  38. Just moving the Lastros to the AL strengthens the NL.

    Addition by subtraction.

    The AL’s strength, IMO, is the pressure of keeping up with NYY and BOS.

    The NL could have the same kind of thing with PHL and NYM, except only one of those franchises is really solid.

    IMHO, one of the more interesting things to watch is how a developing Nationals franchise affects the competitiveness of the NL. If they develop into what people think they could, then the NL East of Phillies, Mets (if they get their poop together), Braves and Nats could really a similar effect of the AL East (although to a lesser overall degree).

    Teams in both Centrals can spend between 80-110M/y and be legit contenders.

    Interesting chapter on this in BTN.

    There’s also a question of whether there’s enough talent to spread around … or if “spending more” would just result in more players being overpaid. You can give Jayson Werth and Matt Holliday similar contracts, but that doesn;t give them similar performance or talent.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — October 7, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

  39. I just Googled ‘historical Nielsen ratings’, Reed, and it looks unpromising. Seems you’d have to pay Nielsen for the data.

    Since they’re the ones most discussing this, perhaps the Houston newspapers cite figures (and sources) for how much tv viewership typically declines as you move into the later pm hours.

    Comment by Richie — October 7, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

  40. I say stick two new expansion teams in the AL. One should obviously be in New Jersey (Newark my first choice). the other to be determined, but the wisest choice for the sport long term would be in Mexico City in my view. Mexico city has more total people than NYC. It roughly has 3 times as many households making over $50k per year than Miami, Tampa, Kansas City, and probably other MLB cities, but I am not sure many in the country would be ready for that right now, so perhaps another city until we become less Xenophobic a nation.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — October 7, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

  41. MLB will never go to Mexico, and that’s not because the US is “xenophobic.”

    Mexico makes no business sense, because it is not a developed economy, lacks political stability and transparency, and has a level of violence that is closer to being civil war than simple crime.

    If anybody in MLB thought there was money to be made by going to Mexico, they’d go there in heartbeat. But it won’t happen in any of our lifetimes.

    Comment by Candlestick Parker — October 7, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  42. The Brewers, who of course transferred from the AL, may have a better economic case to stay in the NL than anyone else, because it raises attendance significantly to have nine home games with the Cubs each year. It’s an easy drive for all the Cubs’ fans to make from the north suburbs. Houston is a decent transfer, but Colorado or Arizona would also work.

    Comment by baycommuter — October 8, 2011 @ 12:10 am

  43. The issue is the Texas Rangers. Fifteen years ago, the Rangers were promised a move out of the AL West, but that never happened. The Rangers got some extra shared revenue to make up for all the games on the West Coast, but they still weren’t happy about it. The idea is that by moving the Astros to the AL, then the Rangers will have an in-state rival and won’t have quite as many games on the West Coast. If you move the Diamondbacks or the Rockies to the AL, you’re giving the Rangers more late TV starts, not fewer.

    The fact that MLB controls the Astros fate right now just makes it easier.

    Comment by Josh — October 8, 2011 @ 2:18 am

  44. Since the National and American Leagues are no longer separate entities, I’m not sure why they’d care if the NL lost viewers in Texas.

    Comment by Josh — October 8, 2011 @ 2:27 am

  45. Because they don’t fit in the AL West. The Astros would have a travel partner with the Rangers. The Brewers would just mean more travel for the AL West, not less.

    Comment by Josh — October 8, 2011 @ 2:29 am

  46. All the more reason. The Brewers should never have been moved to the NL to begin with. Give Selig a choice- it’s either back to the AL or Buffalo.

    Comment by tigerdog1 — October 8, 2011 @ 2:40 am

  47. There are far too many games between teams within the same division. I’ll take more interleague play, or more games vs inter-divisional teams any day.

    Comment by tigerdog1 — October 8, 2011 @ 2:49 am

  48. Brewers would go back to the AL Central, Royals back to the AL west.

    Comment by tigerdog1 — October 8, 2011 @ 2:50 am

  49. Expansion could work if done properly. There would then be four divisions of four teams in each league, like the NFL. Clubs would have to be grouped with both financial and geographical considerations in mind, but fortunately, the two criteria seem to coincide nicely. Smaller market/ budget teams could compete if grouped in divisions with similarly situated clubs. Filling out the bracket in the AL East will always leave one or two teams at a disadvantage. MLB first needs to get its’ existing franchises on solid ground, and that may include some realignment or relocation as well.

    Contraction seems to be a dead idea, but is another way to realign clubs. Problem is that the most contractable club- the Rays, is in the AL. Despite enormous talent and competitive performance, people in Tampa just don’t support baseball. There is also the issue of jobs, and the MLBPA wouldn’t go along with contraction unless those jobs were replaced, maybe by expanding roster size.

    Moving the Strohs to the AL is the easy answer to balancing things out, because Selig has some leverage to force the move as a condition of sale. He won’t have to stand up to another owner and tell them to move, even if that is the more logical solution.

    Comment by tigerdog1 — October 8, 2011 @ 3:01 am

  50. This! Plus balanced schedule

    Comment by DodgersKings323 — October 8, 2011 @ 5:40 am

  51. This! I know it makes sense now but stepping back i don’t want it to be the Astros with their history.

    Comment by DodgersKings323 — October 8, 2011 @ 5:44 am

  52. Time for two 15 team leagues

    Comment by pat — October 8, 2011 @ 8:58 am

  53. As an Astros’ fan, I can tell you that no one cares about a Rangers’ rivalry. No one cares about playing the Rangers in interleague, right now. That probably won’t change much if they are put in the same division–at least for a long time. Rivalries generally arise from teams playing signficant games (like division series, etc.), and I don’t see that happening in the near future. Currently I think the Cards and Cubs would draw better than the Rangers in MMP.

    Comment by CJ — October 8, 2011 @ 10:48 am

  54. What’s really unfair is moving the Astros to the AL after they trade Hunter Pence – that right there is the reason they’d have to go out and get a DH.

    Comment by Mr Punch — October 8, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  55. If you have a balanced schedule, having divisions makes no sense, except as a kind of screwball geographical “affirmative action plan.”

    Why not just give more money to the poor teams and have a single table?

    Comment by Paul Thomas — October 8, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

  56. Typical elitist AL snobbery bullshit. It’s amazing how such small sample sizes every damn year gets extrapolated out. Also interesting is the amount of bullshit mental gymnastics is required to perpetuate this myth.

    Every year it’s 2 or 3 starts for a starting pitcher and just barely 10% of a team’s total games played. THAT’S THE VERITABLE DEFINITION OF SSS jerkoffs!!!!!!

    Comment by MM = Overrated — October 8, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

  57. Crane has every right to demand compensation. He agreed to pay (overpay, IMO) $680 million for an established National League team. Then Selig comes in after the agreement and says “switch to the AL” which is going to cause revenue to decline (most of the Astros fan base *hates* the idea and many will boycott or find a new team to support) further and increase costs.

    If this were the business world, what Selig is doing constitutes fraud or, in street lingo, the old “bait-and-switch”.

    Excluding games with the Yankees and Red Sox, the gate will definitely suffer. The Astros are also starting up a new channel they will co-own with the NBA locked out Rockets and Comcast. How well do you think that channel is going to sell with a poor product, pissed off fans, blah opponents with no history and more 9 p.m. starts if there isn’t balanced scheduling?

    Oh, but we’ll get to watch Nolan Ryan in the front row more often! Big whoop.

    All the while, Crane is getting buried in the press as a racist, sexist war profiteering pimp without a word of support from anyone in the baseball community. I frankly don’t understand, other than possible legal action, why Crane hasn’t already shot Selig the bird and walked away from a horrible deal.

    MLB has bargained in bad faith. It reminds me of the opening scene from “National Lampoon’s Vacation” where Chevy Chase gets conned into buying a crappy car that was not anything like the one he ordered and paid for. All the while, car dealer Bud is blowing smoke up his butt about how this is actually a better ride.

    No other ownership offer has ever come with the condition that the team had to switch leagues. This one shouldn’t either and it is telling that no other NL team wants to switch leagues. Bud has to *force* a team to move because any businessman realizes that such a switch is going damage his investment.

    Comment by Bob Hulsey — October 8, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

  58. Part of this mess was created by Selig when he moved the Milwaukee Brewers from the AL to the NL. Just send them back!

    Comment by RetroRob — October 9, 2011 @ 3:21 am

  59. 1. Move Colorado or Arizona to the AL West, and move Houston to the NL West. Move Oakland to San Jose. For now. You would have two leagues of fifteen teams each. In the fairly near future:

    2. Move Tampa Bay to one of a number of places (New Jersey, Carolina, Nashville, San Antonio/Austin, Portland, Indianapolis, Salt Lake). You might have to rejigger the divisions, depending on where they move to, and stick Cleveland in the East and/or Texas in the Central. After a couple more years:

    3. Expand by two teams, one per league, and divide each league into two divisions, eight teams each, East and West. Each division winner goes to the playoffs, along with four wild cards per league.

    Comment by Juancho — October 9, 2011 @ 4:37 am

  60. MM, I was enjoying the civil, thoughful discussion of this issue – until you came along. Your foul-mouthed rant doesn’t even make sense.

    Comment by Joel — October 9, 2011 @ 11:23 am

  61. Anyone who thinks Tampa can/will move are fooling them selves. So many things stand in the way of that, and the simple fact is, there isn’t another area that could support the Rays. Yanks/Phils/Mets wouldn’t let them move anywhere near PA, Rangers wouldn’t let them in TX, and the rest of the markets can hardly support the teams that are there in other sports, or the area isn’t a baseball area. Tampa’s mayor is talking with them anyways, a “secret” buyer bought up a huge plot of land in the downtown area. Giving the area time, especially after this season, is the best thing for them.

    One of the smarter ideas I heard was get rid of the NL/AL idea and move teams like they are in the NHL. Split it off East/West, then section off by regions. That way it’d also keep the teams in smaller markets together and give them a bit of a fairer chance, the Rays throw off that model, but it’d end up giving teams more of a chance to play a wider array of teams. The thing is though is that would definitely get rid of the pitcher hitting. As often happens, a bias towards Yanks/Sox, they’d end up giving in and all teams would probably get a DH and get rid of the pitcher batting.

    Comment by Bammo — October 9, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

  62. dont forget, when the NL pinch hits, we dont know what position will be occupied by the PH next inning. He ph’d for the pitcher, yes, but he is a 1b, a 2b/ss, an of, what.. NL has more versatile players as a result, AL has more DH/1b as they are typically the big boppers. Also, the DH is ok for the first ph appearance, but the second, who does the AL turn to from the bench?

    Comment by Cidron — October 9, 2011 @ 9:21 pm

  63. poor teams exist in both leagues, as do good teams.. gotta keep em to get a full analysis

    Comment by Cidron — October 9, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  64. 1, brewers are recent NL, from AL
    2, brewers along with the rest of the div (cubs, pirates, cards, reds) make a nice geographical great lakes ohio river area div. easy to see in many ways.

    Comment by Cidron — October 9, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  65. can you say “players smuggling controlled substances”? I thought you could !

    Comment by Cidron — October 9, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

  66. to many moving parts.. that is the big issue of the Astros going AL. One part moves, solution.

    Comment by Cidron — October 9, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

  67. Baseball was a game designed to be played by 9 players not 10. Do away with the DH and the AL advantage would be gone and we would be back to baseball instead of arena ball. Most managers like the National League better. More stategy has to be used, games move
    quicker. As you have seen from the Cardinals-Brewers series, you don’t have to have a DH to score runs. I had much rather see a 3-2 game than a 9-8 game like the Yankees and Red Sox play.

    Comment by Gary McGahee — October 11, 2011 @ 10:41 am

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