M’s Travel Most, White Sox Travel Least Among AL Teams in 2013

The 2013 MLB schedule was released last week. On Thursday, my colleague Alex Remington addressed several issues raised by the schedule, most notably how season-long interleague play may affect how American League teams use their designated hitter. Alex also touched on the unbalanced schedule issue; that is, that teams within each division will play each other 19 times, thus resulting in an easier schedule for the American League Central teams, if you believe that the American League Central will be as weak in 2013 as it has been in 2012.

The American League Central has another advantage, born of the proximity of its teams to each other, at least geographically. None of the teams in the Central will travel more than 30,000 next season, while every other team in the league — save for the Orioles — will travel more than 30,000 miles. And the disparity between the least-traveled team (the White Sox) and the most-traveled team (the Mariners) is startling: Chicago will travel only 22,695 miles in 2013 while Seattle will travel more than double that, at nearly 53,000 miles.

I calculated the approximate mileage each American League team will travel in 2013. This was no easy task, as I had to, first, chart out the travel schedule for each team, and then look up the mileage between each city. I used the Flight Distance Calculator on worldatlas.com and rounded up or down to the nearest five miles. So, for example, if the distance between two cites was 827.2 miles, I rounded that down to 825 miles. And so on.

I assumed that each team started from its home city, and either began the season at home or traveled to its first road series from home. I didn’t include any mileage for the All-Star Break.

Here’s how the numbers break down, by division. In addition to the total mileage, I’ve also noted how many three-city road trips each team will take in 2013. You’d expect there to be relationship between the two and there is. Teams in the Central travel the least and, overall, have more three-city road trips than teams in the East or West.

American League East

Team Total Mileage Number ofThree-City RoadTrips
Orioles 28,050 4
Yankees 30,615 3
Blue Jays 32,980 3
Rays 35,010 3
Red Sox 35,930 3

American League Central

Team Total Mileage Number ofThree-City RoadTrips
White Sox 22,695 5
Tigers 24,755 4
Royals 26,960 4
Indians 26,985 4
Twins 28,725 3

American League West

Team Total Mileage Number ofThree-City RoadTrips
Astros 38,100 4
Rangers 42,390 2
A’s 49,395 1
Angels 50,330 1
Mariners 52,760 3

Overall, these numbers aren’t terribly surprising. They look quite similar to the numbers Dave Allen found when looking at travel schedules from 2005-2011. I was surprised to find the Astros with the least demanding travel schedule among the American League West teams, because Houston has to make trips to Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles. On the other hand, Houston is closer to teams in the Central and the East.

But it’s the disparity in the number of three-city road trips that really stands out.  Why would the White Sox, who play so many games against teams relatively close to Chicago, play 5 three-games road series while the A’s only play one? The A’s start the season at home, then take a two-city trip to Houston and Los Angeles, then a home stand, then a trip to Tampa/St. Petersburg and Boston, then a home stand and then a trip to New York, Cleveland and Seattle. The A’s head back to the East Coast at the end of the season to play Baltimore, and then Detroit. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the A’s to travel to the East Coast just twice a season, instead of three times? And the same for Mariners and the Angels?

Later this week I will look at the travel schedules for the National League and discuss several studies that have looked at the effect of travel on performance in baseball.

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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.

36 Responses to “M’s Travel Most, White Sox Travel Least Among AL Teams in 2013”

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  1. Ian says:

    The Orioles start the 2013 season in TB and usually they go straight from Sarasota to St Pete. Not sure if you could account for that for all 30 teams, but that shaves about 900 miles off the Orioles’ regular season travel schedule.

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    • TKDC says:

      I think most teams don’t travel home before going to the first series (the Braves, for instance, almost always play an exhibition game at Turner Field with some team that is on its way North right before the season). It would be better to just assume each team will go from Florida or Arizona to the first series. Doubt this makes much of a difference in the thrust of the post.

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  2. Matty Brown says:

    If my home park was Safeco and I was a batter, I’d gladly travel all the time.

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  3. ettin says:

    The West coast teams continue to be screwed by the MLB schedule. This is just a continuation of a long-standing problem.

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    • The Ted, Section 437 says:

      Equitable solution: Every year, each team gets rotated to a new home city. Mariners trade home parks and schedules with the White Sox. Less travel for that particular group of players, variety for the fans, and occasional division titles in Canada!

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    • Ian G. says:

      No, the west coast teams continue to be screwed by geography, specifically, the fact that they sit on the opposite side of massive mountains and deserts from the majority of the US population.

      Not sure what can be done about the fact that Chicago is close to Minneapolis, Kansas City, Detroit, and Cleveland, while Seattle is close to…nothing, aside from Vancouver. Until we start relocating MLB teams to places like Bellingham or Olympia, it’s likely to be a problem forever.

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      • Johnhavok says:

        I think an eventual solution is what alot of people have been proposing in recent years. Eliminate divisions and align the AL and NL better with regards to geography. Take the Seattle, Oakland, Angels and move them into the same League as all the other west coast teams and take 3 back to the other league. Then play equal games against all League opponents and some interleague. I haven’t calculated any distance savings but on the surface it would appear to save those 3 teams probably 10-15K miles per season in travel.

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      • harmony55 says:

        Adding another AL West team two time zones away exacerbates the travel woes of the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners.

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      • jfree says:

        No the west coast teams are screwed by the schedulers. Nothing can be done about the distance/mileage but the schedulers could EASILY ensure that the West Coast teams get even the same scheduling treatment as the East Coast teams — ie when they cross the country they get more games in on their road trip without sitting on planes constantly. EG – two big market teams with plenty of stars (LAA and NYY) who obviously get treated differently by schedulers anyway

        Angels have two three-city road trips — one is @Seattle, @TB, @MIL; the other is @Tor, @HOU, @OAK. In both cases, those road trips are a complete dog’s breakfast – one team in each major section of the country with long flights in between each plus the long flight at beginning and end.

        Yankees have three three-city road trips — one is @BAL, @TB, @NYM; one is @SEA, @OAK, @LAA; one is @LAD, @SDP, @CWS. ie one of them is only really a two-city plus a subway ride. And the other two only involve two jet-lag type flights at the beginning and end.

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      • jfree says:

        The scheduling solution is for the West Coast teams to have at least one four-series road trip each. That would cover a series in the middle, two series on the east coast, and a series in the middle on the way back. And combine that with one longer home stand as well

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      • harmony55 says:

        What can be done is to reduce the wide disparity between the five three-city road trips of the Chicago White Sox and the single three-city road trips of the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels.

        AL West teams will always be burdened because of geography but the 2013 schedule only worsens the problem.

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    • bill says:

      No matter what, West coast teams will travel further, because they are on average further from other cities. This long-standing problem is largely a function of physical geography.

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  4. Other Bill says:

    @500 mph, 30k miles translates to 60 hours of travel or appx a 1/2 hr per day difference between Chicago and Seattle in commute time during the season, or a 2% time loss per day, or 3% of normal awake hours in season (assuming 8 hrs sleep).

    That certainly don’t make it any easier for the Mariners to compete.

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  5. Steve says:

    If only MLB players had some means by which they could travel in relative luxury and convienice.

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  6. rlc says:

    Interesting – when Boeing relocated their headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001, one of the rationales they gave was that it would decrease travel for their clients.

    I don’t know if that was the excuse Selig gave when he moved the Pilots from Seattle to Milwaukee…

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  7. jfree says:

    Rockies will blow the doors off your mileage charts when you do the NL since there is no MLB team within 500 miles of Denver.

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  8. Paul B says:

    I’m surprised by the Angels. They really get hosed to end up with almost the same number of miles as Seattle,.

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  9. Ron says:

    If this is a problem then the solution is to realign the divisions based on location. This will still not be fair but if the west coast teams were all in the same league and division this might not be a problem. Then of course you would have to play an unbalanced schedule to take advantage of this. Not going to happen soon but it should
    A different approach to this might be to look at travel expenses. Compared to salaries I would think this could be small but since the Mariners travel over twice as much as the White Sox what are their costs? Fuel for the charter flights is probably not cheap or paying the pilots among other expenses. Do some teams spend more on accomadations (CBA requires first class travel if I remember correctly), Do some teams spend more nights on the road? If so how does this affect the bottom line? Is the travel disadvantage enough of a difference to cause teams to have to cut costs in free agents? I am guessing no but I still think it might be interesting to know.

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    • jfree says:

      Those night hours on the plane are a much bigger problem than raw mileage. There’s a huge difference between a night game followed by even 3 hours of travel v 1.5 hours of travel followed by a game the next day. Rolling into a hotel at even 1am is gonna create a real disadvantage for that team. That’s where the West Coast teams are at the real disadvantage since their eastbound flights also change timezones. If they are doing that 30 times per year v 2 or 3 for an eastern team, that’s big.

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    • Fletch says:

      I agree. I kinda like what the NBA does in this regard. There are Eastern and Western conferences, and each team primarily plays within its own conference (and plays something like a game or two per year against teams in the other conference). I wonder (1) if this kind of setup does actually significantly reduce travel time and (2) if such a thing would be feasible in MLB.

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  10. TheoK says:

    If the divisions we realigned to be based more on geography, East Coast teams would benefit far more than West Coast teams, because East Coast teams would be traveling much less than they do now compared to West Coast teams.

    I mean look at the Yankees; if you trade Toronto and the Rays for the Mets and the Phillies, you cut out thousands of traveling miles. Playing the Mets 19 times a year would completely eliminate travel for 19 games.

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    • Ludwig von Koopa says:

      To compensate for this, the Yankees and Mets players should be forced to take the subway when playing a game in the other team’s park. I assume one would need to change trains a couple times to get from New Yankee Stadium to Citi Field.

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  11. beastwarking says:

    I purpose that the MLB move the two worst teams in baseball to Hermiston, Oregon and Butte, Montana in an effort to create parity for the now 5 geographically challenged teams.

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  12. U-God says:

    Did everyone forget how bad the White Sox had it when they were in the AL West?

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  13. Erik says:

    It’s kind of amazing that when you consider all geographic advantages of the east coast, not to mention the extra financial resources, the AL East still can’t keep up with the AL West.

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  14. wahooo says:

    I’m a bit surprised that it is so few miles. The White Sox wouldn’t even qualify for elite status–I find that very surprising. I’ve flown more miles some years than most of these teams and I don’t feel like I travel that much.

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  15. It’s very food if we consider geographic advantages of the east coast, we find it amazing and interesting.

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  16. Uncle Remus says:

    Frequent flyer miles and benefits: New market inefficiency?

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  17. Bill G. says:

    If we accept that there is a negative effect of long distance travel on performance, and we also like to think that the AL Central is less talented division than the other two AL divisions, then doesn’t that mean that our estimate of the Central’s talent level relative to the other divisions (which doesn’t usually take into account travel distance) is biased upwards? i.e. if every team had the exact same talent level, then the AL Central should end up the best division in terms of its record (at least the expectation of its win percentage) since it has the easiest travel schedule.

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