Mar 14, 2023, 06:27AM

Nay to MLB’s “Balanced” Schedule

It helps teams like the Red Sox this year, but sucks intensity out of game.

1412e750c017c88f55ed5e452b5ac9fd.jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

The Boston Red Sox will have an easier schedule this year. As a Sox fan, however, it’s a bittersweet change. The Sox no longer have to play the other four American League East teams 19 games per season. Major League Baseball changed its scheduling for the 2023 season, decreasing the number of divisional games per season from 76 to 52. Now, they’ll play each AL East team 13 times.

Instead, the Red Sox will have more interleague games. Each MLB team will play each other in 2023, which has never happened before. While it sucks that the Sox will play the New York Yankees six fewer times this season, it also helps their chances of succeeding. In 2022, the AL East was likely the best division in baseball. Although other divisions had 100-game winners—and the National League East had two teams win more than 100 games—the AL East was balanced. Every team except for the Sox had a winning record in 2022, including the Baltimore Orioles, who had several miserable seasons beforehand.

Thanks to this tough division, the Red Sox finished at 78-84. They went 26-50 in AL East games last year, indicating they were better than their record showed. If they played in a different division, the odds are they would’ve had a better record. Or, if they played fewer divisional games, they would’ve enjoyed more success.

The Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, and Orioles combined averaged 90.25 wins last season. The average MLB team wins 81 games in a season—nine fewer than the AL East teams other than the Sox. That means that in 76 games last season, the Sox played teams that won 55.7 percent of their games. Meanwhile, the average team only wins 50 percent of their games. Therefore, an AL East team, excluding the Sox—last year won, on average, 4.3 more games over 76 games than the average team. It also means if the Red Sox played in the median division last year, they likely would’ve had a winning record. And all of the other AL East teams would’ve had better records if they played outside of the division, playing against weaker teams; this means that the Sox would’ve likely done better than an 82-80 finish if they played outside of the AL East, despite all of their flaws.

However, the Red Sox still are part of the AL East. Beating up on the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins won't put them closer to winning the AL East because the Yankees and Blue Jays also get to play those lesser teams. It could, however, help AL East teams in the wildcard race, given that the AL Central, perpetually a below-average division, may have to play some more challenging opponents. Only one AL Central team, the Cleveland Guardians (92-70), had a winning record last year.

Yet, the Red Sox will face a few strong National League teams. With the exception of the Nationals and Marlins, the National League East is a tough division. The Atlanta Braves and New York Mets won 101 games each last year, while the Philadelphia Phillies won the National League pennant. The Sox have a combined 10 games against those teams. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers won 101 games last season. However, the NL had less parity than the AL last season. It had three 100-game losers: the Nationals (55-107), the Cincinnati Reds (62-100), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (62-100); the Red Sox play those three struggling franchises a combined nine times this season.

Even though MLB made these scheduling changes, the Sox are still a mediocre MLB team. Catcher Reese McGuire, who remains unproven, has a strong throwing arm but a below-average bat; he’s never caught more than 89 games in an MLB season. Meanwhile, rookie first baseman Triston Casas, who hit .197 with five home runs in 27 games last year, has potential despite his struggles in making contact. All-Star third baseman Rafael Devers is the strong point of the team's lineup, and Masataka Yoshida could help their otherwise so-so outfield. Yoshida was an excellent contact hitter in Japan, but it remains unclear how well those skills will transfer to America. Losing All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts to free agency also hurts the lineup, especially since the team didn’t sign or trade for a player of his caliber to replace him in the lineup.

The Red Sox pitching staff is also suspect. The injury-prone Chris Sale will be their ace if he can stay healthy. If Sale performs well, and other starters remain injury-free, maybe the Sox have a decent season. If not, the team will have to use Triple-A starters. That went poorly for the team’s injury-ridden pitching staff last year; their 4.53 team ERA was the second-worst in the AL. Former Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is a nice pickup, but keeping Ryan Brasier (5.78 ERA last year) is a mistake.


Register or Login to leave a comment