MLB Team Travel

One interesting aspect of the proposed realignment is the effect it will have on team travel. As Dave Cameron noted without division there would be fewer games between geographically close teams, and more between teams farther way from each other — travel will increase. Last Thursday On the Forecheck, a hockey blog, posted the total distance each NHL team will travel in the upcoming 2011-2012 season (hat tip Tango). That made me think that, in light of realignment, it would be interesting to see how much teams are already traveling — and how much variation is there between teams — as a baseline for the current system.

I wanted to get a broad picture of travel distances for each team under the current system, so rather than use just one year’s worth of data I looked at all seasons from 2005 (when the Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals) to 2011. I counted how many miles each team traveled and also the number of miles traveled on trips taken without a travel day (i.e., back-to-back games). Since this no-off day travel should be especially grueling. Here are the results averaged over the seven years, thanks to retrosheet for the data:

Team Miles BTB Miles
Milwaukee 25,341 16,513
Cincinnati 26,050 18,375
Chicago (N) 26,394 18,835
St. Louis 26,490 19,230
Chicago (A) 26,589 17,387
Cleveland 27,962 18,340
Washington 28,175 19,091
Minnesota 28,323 20,169
Kansas City 28,730 19,676
Detroit 28,879 20,698
Atlanta 29,680 19,090
Pittsburgh 29,722 18,442
Philadelphia 30,352 20,096
Baltimore 30,457 21,248
New York (N) 31,214 19,201
Toronto 31,342 22,475
New York (A) 31,841 19,935
Colorado 32,054 19,912
Houston 32,641 20,352
Arizona 34,366 19,563
Boston 34,474 21,505
Florida 36,003 20,626
Texas 37,229 22,305
Tampa Bay 37,998 22,621
Los Angeles (N) 38,084 17,471
San Diego 39,314 18,550
San Francisco 39,713 19,042
Los Angeles (A) 46,570 22,423
Oakland 46,659 20,829
Seattle 49,007 23,970

The ordering of the list is not terribly surprising. Teams in the center of the country, and center of their division, have the least travel. While those at the extremes of the country or their division have the most. Also since the NL Central plays the most intra-division games and the AL West the fewest, they are well represented at the top and bottom, respectively, of the list. There is a fair bit of spread, with Seattle traveling almost twice as much as Milwaukee. And the three west-coast AL West teams all travel nearly 7,000 miles more than the next team.

Finally I thought it would be cool to see what one season’s worth of travel looks like for a MLB team. For comparison here are travel maps for the 2011 teams with most and fewest miles traveled: the Seattle Mariners1 and Cincinnati Reds (though the Brewers had the least travel averaged over the seven years the Reds had the least in 2011).

Craig Robinson made similar — and much better looking — maps comparing travel of the 2009, 1959 and 1886 Kansas City Royals/Athletics/Cowboys. My maps were made with the help of Nathan Yau’s great circle tutorial. Line thickness denotes number of trips.

1. I used the actual travel not scheduled travel, with the Mariners playing in Seattle this past weekend for an ‘away’ series against the Florida Marlins. The Mariner’s league leading travel was reduced slightly — though they still came out on top. They went from Washington D.C. to Seattle and will stay in Seattle for their next series, 2,325 miles, rather than 3,633 miles going Washington D.C to Miami to Seattle. Florida gained travel distance going from Miami to Seattle (instead of staying in Miami) to Oakland for a total of 3,400 miles rather than 2,570. (Return to place in text)

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.