Giants Travel Most, Reds Travel Least Among NL Teams in 2013

MLB announced its 2013 schedule last week. On Monday, we looked at the mileage each American League team will log next season traveling from city to city. The Chicago White Sox will have an advantage, as the schedule will require less than 23,000 miles in travel. The Seattle Mariners will be at a disadvantage, as the schedule calls for them to log more than 52,000 miles next season.

In the National League, the disparity between the most and least-traveled teams in 2013 isn’t quite as large as in the American League, but it’s close. Again, the compact geography of the Midwest gives a distinct advantage to teams in the NL Central. The Cincinnati Reds will log only 22, 505 miles next season, while the St. Louis Cardinals will go only 500 more. The San Francisco Giants, on the other hand, will travel just over 45,000 miles, more than double the Reds’ total. The teams in the NL East fall somewhere in between.

Here’s the total mileage for each team, by division:

National League East

Team Total Mileage Number of Three-City Road Trips
Nationals 24,720 4
Phillies 26,440 4
Mets 28,120 5
Braves 29,900 2
Marlins 35,040 4

National League Central

Team Total Mileage Number of Three-City Road Trips
Reds 22,505 5
Cardinals 22,555 5
Brewers 26,910 3
Cubs 27,675 4
Pirates 29,615 4

National League West

Team Total Mileage Number of Three-City Road Trips
Rockies 30,690 5
D’Backs 36,755 4
Padres 39,090 3
Dodgers 39,900 3
Giants 45,150 3

As with the American League schedule, we see a disparity not only in miles traveled but in the number of three-city road trips taken by each team. And again, we have to ask why the Reds and the Cardinals — who play so many games against teams in relatively close proximity — have five three-city road trips, while the Giants, Dodgers and Padres — who are geographically the furthest from the rest of the National League — only have three three-city road trips.

Indeed, the Colorado Rockies will travel only 30,690 miles in 2013, despite   the fact that Denver is located more than 500 miles from every other city in the majors. The Rockies will make three trips to the East Coast next season, and will stop in three cities on each trip. That scheduling trick, alone, saves the Rockies more than 5,000 miles in travel. Colorado will also have two other three-city road trips to visit three of their four NL West rivals, saving even more time in the air.

A few months ago, my colleague Eno Sarris surveyed the available research on the effect of long-distance travel on athletic performance and concluded: “There’s enough blood in this water to call it: long-distance travel can affect your play on the field negatively.” This isn’t really much of a surprise, given what most of us have experienced when traveling cross-country or across the world. Jet lag leaves us tired, dehydrated and out of sorts.

As many noted in the comments to the American League travel story, the most effective way to cut down on travel for all players is to align all thirty teams geographically. Absent that radical change, however, the scheduling gurus at MLB should expand the number of three-city road trips for teams on the West Coast, and decrease those longer roadies for teams in the Midwest. That small change would go a long way toward a more equitable travel schedule for all thirty teams.




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Wendy's baseball writing has also been published by Sports on Earth. ESPN.com, SB Nation, The Score, Bay Area Sports Guy, The Classical and San Francisco Magazine. Wendy practiced law for 18 years before beginning her writing career. You can find her work at wendythurm.pressfolios.com and follow her on Twitter @hangingsliders.


23 Responses to “Giants Travel Most, Reds Travel Least Among NL Teams in 2013”

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  1. Kumar says:

    This seems like a sneaky big issue.

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  2. Eminor3rd says:

    I don’t know, it seems weird trying to intentionally provide a tougher schedule for certain teams. I mean, there’s no way it doesn’t make logical sense that the teams in the middle of the country have less distance to travel to the edges. I think it’s just one of those things that can’t be helped.

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  3. nsacpi says:

    The other thing about jet lag is that travelling east from your accustomed time zone is harder to adjust to than travelling west. Another intrinsic disadvantage for teams on the west coast.

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    • placidity says:

      Maybe for a day game. Since most series start with night games though, I would think that it would be easier for a west coast team to travel east and play from 4-7PM west coast time than for an east coast team to travel west and play from 10PM-1AM east coast time.

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      • Mario Mendoza says:

        NOT TRUE. My coworkers and I travel a lot, and an eastbound jet lag is a lot easier than a westbound one.

        Consider a 9-5 job. Starting your workday at 6AM (on your body clock) and ending at 2PM isn’t too bad. Now consider waking up at your normal body clock time, but then working noon to 8PM. You will flag hard in those late hours, harder than the early hours going east.

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      • Mario Mendoza says:

        oops, meant to reply to nsacpi

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      • jfree says:

        This really is a much fairer travel schedule than the AL. So much so that mileage differences themselves are rendered almost irrelevant. Amazing what well-planned 3 city stops can do.

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      • PlanetArtest says:

        There have been studies on this in the NFL (and just on work performance in general) and it fairly clearly demonstrates that there is a distinct advantage for West Coast teams traveling East for night games. Not much of an advantage either way for day games.

        Study applied to football gambling found here: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/08/circadian-rhythms-and-the-nfl.html.

        Anecdotally, after spending 10 months working on a project in Phoenix and living in Chicago, I can say that it was VASTLY easier to go East, then to come West for work.

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      • PlanetArtest says:

        Grammar edit: ‘then’ = ‘than’ in last sentence

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      • jfree says:

        PlanetArtest – An NFL study – or even a study of 9-5 job folks isn’t particularly relevant. NFL only plays once a week and they travel a couple of days before the game. They have long adjusted to any jet lag by then.

        Similarly 9-5 job — even if you leave after work the day before and fly. Your flight time is generally only going to take up your post-dinner relaxation time anyway. People don’t tend to go to sleep at 7pm if they are working a 9-5 job. Rather they wake up just before work. A long flight east is the one most likely to interfere with sleep because you lose hours – but for most people that’s their return home.

        Long flights east and west going on the road in baseball are probably equally tiring that first day. For different reasons. A team flying east is basically taking a red eye flight starting the night before and is losing a night’s sleep which drags jet lag recovery out. A team flying west is probably flying out early the next morning so everyone has rested in their own bed. But they are playing that first road game before they’ve had a chance to sleep in the new timezone. So the first game is tough.

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  4. chuckb says:

    The implicit conclusion you’re assuming is that fewer three-city road trips are worse than more three-city trips. Fewer three-city trips obviously requires more trips and, presumably, more hours in the air but more three-city trips involves longer trips away from home where teams are less likely to play well. It would seem to me to be more difficult to end a losing streak, for example, with a longer road trip.

    You may be correct in your assumption that more three-city trips are better than fewer three-city trips but I think the jury is still out. I think it’s false to just assume that it’s true as if it’s some sort of fact that everyone knows. It’s certainly worthy of argument and discussion. Right now, I’m not convinced which is worse but I can tell you that, as a fan, I get more concerned with long, 10-day road trips than I do with 6-day road trips. I’m not on the planes, obviously, so it may be worse for the players to take more of those shorter trips but I don’t think the answer is as obvious as you seem to imply.

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  5. Kyuji says:

    It would be interesting to poll the players and coaches on this issue. I’ve always thought that three-city road trips were hard on teams, especially later in the season when players are worn down. I distinctly remember back in 2009 when the Giants were flirting with the playoffs they had two separate three-city road trips that ended in Colorado. The Giants went 2-5 in those Colorado games and finished with an 88-74 record.

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  6. PaulS1954 says:

    Giants travel the most even though they play the Mets and Yankees in same series in Sept. It’s a week at the same Hotel, so they did get that break.

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  7. Chris from Bothell says:

    Sorry to beat this dead horse some more, but the answer is one set schedule, year over year. Figure it out once, with only some minor variations thanks to interleague, and be mostly done.

    Teams should march west to east over the course of the season, systematically, and be hitting the indoor stadia and warmer climates in the early part of the year. Dumping the trips to Japan, abbreviating spring training and having year-round 30-man rosters might also help a bit.

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  8. DB Cooper says:

    Interleague play requires more than “minor” variations. In addition, teams want certain opponents on weekends, as opposed to weekdays, etc. Then you have football, concerts, and political conventions to deal with…

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    • Chris from Bothell says:

      Teams would need to make some concessions about what holidays and days of the week they get. At some point the fatigue issue and overall ability to play at peak level year over year, should be demonstrated to be more important than ensuring that a team gets Father’s Day at home, or the Nationals always get the 4th of July or something.

      And really, concerns about other major events going on at the same time in those cities tend to be one-off and not recurring. You can only do so much to work around poor public transit and roads and general traffic in a given city anyway.

      Lastly, what I mean about minor variations is that you can be visiting different interleague teams year over year, just make sure that when you do visit one it’s in the same time zone as others in your own league. Bouncing up and down the coast to do 2-here, 2-there for M’s Padres is one thing; bounding across the country to go, say, A’s, Marlins, Rangers on a road trip is another.

      The points you bring up are valid but I think they’re all solvable problems. That is, if as I said above, players eventually agree that the overall effect of travel is greater than your other points all taken together.

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  9. Mr Punch says:

    Since standings and strength of schedule are primarily based on divisions, I can’t see that this makes much difference to the teams (although it might affect individual stats, I suppose). Anyway, how could we address it? Make all central division teams travel by train?

    I find eastward travel easier than westward.

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    • jfree says:

      Homeward bound travel is always easiest. As are flight times that don’t interfere with sleep patterns. As are 1st day wake up times that don’t interfere with normal wakeup (but that latter probably doesn’t apply to any baseball games).

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  10. JayT says:

    “This isn’t really much of a surprise, given what most of us have experienced when traveling cross-country or across the world. Jet lag leaves us tired, dehydrated and out of sorts.”

    Most of us though have to fly in coach and fight for a glass of water. The times I’ve flown in business class I’ve gotten to where I’m going feeling fine. I’m guessing that a chartered plane is even nicer.

    I don’t doubt that travel is harder then staying home (if nothing else, I’m sure it throws the player’s routine off) but I’m not sure that it is the actual act of flying that is the problem.

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  11. Bill G. says:

    Just crunched Wendy’s numbers… average mileage for an AL team: 35045 miles. Average mileage for an NL team: 31004 (obviously a simple average might not be the best statistic, but go with me). If we accept that travel distance should have a negative effect on performance, be it individual player’s performance or team performance, and we also like to think that the NL is (currently) a less talented league than the AL, then doesn’t that mean that our estimate of the NL’s talent level relative to the AL’s (which doesn’t usually incorporate travel distance) is biased upwards? i.e. if both leagues had identical talent levels, then the NL should end up the better league in terms of its record (at least the expectation of its win percentage) since it has the easier travel schedule.

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  12. jfree says:

    I still think a (well planned) 4-city road trip is probably the best for West Coast teams. The 3 city road trip schedules can play havoc with making sure that Mon/Thu days off are spaced (and that teams can actually have an off-day rather than an all-travel day) and that weekend/day home games for the kids are spaced OK. A 4-city trip merely skips one of those in exchange for a longer home stand.

    I’d bet that one 2 week road trip per season is easier than two weeks of long distance two-city on-off travel.

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  13. hahvard kama says:

    I know jet lag leaves me tired, dehydrated, and out of sorts. Three city road trips deserve a serial comma; New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. At least that’s easier to read!

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  14. Baltar says:

    (1) Extremely interesting article, Wendy.
    (2) Even better than re-organizing the existing 30 teams geographically is to add 2 teams and re-organize into 4 8-team leagues. All 8 western teams would be in one league, drastically reducing their travel miles and time-zone adjustments.
    (3) Mario Mendoza doesn’t think any better than he hit. Having to wake up 3 hours earlier is much harder on your mental, emotional and physical abilities than getting to wake up 3 hours later.

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