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Thursday, September 22, 2022

The 2022 Regular Season Has Lacked Intensity

To quantify what’s at stake in the regular season, we can look to Championship Leverage Index (cLI), a metric developed by Dave Studeman and Sky Andrecheck a little over 10 years ago and now hosted on Baseball Reference. cLI aims to measure the impact of a particular game on a team’s chances of winning the World Series by simulating season outcomes for each game outcome, with the baseline of 1.00 calibrated to represent an Opening Day game in the two Wild Card playoff format.

The more critical the game is to a team’s chances of winning the World Series, the higher the cLI value. When the Blue Jays hosted the Yankees in the final week of a Wild Card race last year, the September 30 series finale had a 2.74 cLI for Toronto and a 2.18 for the Yankees. The Yankees’ win that day raised their playoff chances from 84.2% to 97.0%, while Toronto’s loss dropped their odds from 22.9% to 13.5%; their World Series chances were impacted accordingly.

On the other hand, teams that know they won’t make the playoffs – as well as teams that are relatively certain of their playoff position – have less at stake on any given regular-season day. With extremely comfortable playoff positions, neither this year’s Dodgers nor Astros have played a game with a cLI higher than 1.00 since before the All-Star Break.

Between the new playoff format, which has drawn criticism for a number of reasons, and the way wins have been distributed this season, 2022 is shaping up to have featured the lowest-leverage average regular season game since the playoff format switched to a two Wild Card format in 2012. The average team-game this year has had a cLI of .68 (including games played on or before September 19), down almost 20% from the same point in last year’s season (.81). In the nine full seasons of the two Wild Card era, the average regular-season cLI through this point in the season ranged from .78 in 2019 to .93 in ’14.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 22, 2022 at 09:50 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pennant race

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   1. JJ1986 Posted: September 22, 2022 at 01:17 PM (#6097511)
It has been extremely intense from my vantage point of really following only the Mets closely.
   2. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: September 22, 2022 at 02:02 PM (#6097520)
More playoff slots and less parity does not make for a particularly memorable September.
   3. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: September 22, 2022 at 02:53 PM (#6097533)
It's pretty clear that baseball has moved to a model where the playoffs are what it is all about, like the NBA and NHL models. The NFL is now the only one of the Big Four sports where the regular season is still its own big draw.

I've been checked out of MLB games for a few months now, and I'll next check in if and when we get a Final Four that looks something like NYY-HOU and LAD-NYM. If the World Series is either NYY vs NYM or NYY vs LAD, that will be a happening.
   4. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: September 22, 2022 at 03:56 PM (#6097538)
It has been extremely intense from my vantage point of really following only the Mets closely.
Agreed, but no other division race is neck-and-neck and it's an increasingly safe bet the Orioles and Brewers won't snatch the final wildcard spots.
   5. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 22, 2022 at 04:42 PM (#6097543)
More playoff slots and less parity does not make for a particularly memorable September.
Pretty high stakes for getting at least the 4th seed (1st WildCard). The path is so steep for the last two WildCards that teams shouldn’t settle for that.
   6. Baldrick Posted: September 22, 2022 at 06:53 PM (#6097554)
As a Mariners fan, it's been fairly intense--especially when you consider that I have always assumed they'd go into a tailspin in the final weeks and so have never really trusted their margin over the Orioles.
   7. John Northey Posted: September 22, 2022 at 09:21 PM (#6097570)
As a Jays fan this has been intense - even though they are pretty much a lock for the playoffs now. The AL East is a beast. I could get fans of teams in the Western divisions being bored as Houston has had the AL West locked up for a LONG time, as have the Dodgers in the NL West. Without the Wild Card Seattle and SD would've had nothing to cheer for this year (like the Angels, Rangers, A's, Giants, Diamondbacks, and Rockies have had zip to look forward to outside of kids).

The NL Central has been dull (Cards in control, Brewers fighting for a shot at the playoffs), the AL Central semi-interesting (was a 3 team race for awhile but now Cleveland pretty much in control) but likely to be one of the first teams eliminated in the playoffs.

The 2 easts though should provide 3 playoff teams each. Very entertaining battles.

What kills things is the teams that don't try - Oakland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, KC, Washington all seem to have given up pre-season and decided to fight for draft picks instead. Thus why I'd like all non-playoff teams to have equal odds for top draft picks. You lose 120 or you just miss the playoffs by 1 game you have an equal shot at the top pick. Removes all incentive to tank as the only reward is saving payroll.
   8. SoSH U at work Posted: September 22, 2022 at 09:28 PM (#6097572)
You lose 120 or you just miss the playoffs by 1 game you have an equal shot at the top pick. Removes all incentive to tank as the only reward is saving payroll.


The NBA did that with the draft lottery. Then they kept modifying it, because not every team that's really bad was doing it on purpose, and it made it tougher to get better.

And FTR, I don't think Detroit or KC were trying to be bad. They just weren't any good at being good.

   9. Dolf Lucky Posted: September 22, 2022 at 09:38 PM (#6097575)
Removes all incentive to tank as the only reward is saving payroll.


Speaking for Cincy, if we can still save money no incentives have been removed.
   10. Mike A Posted: September 22, 2022 at 10:32 PM (#6097582)
It has been extremely intense from my vantage point of really following only the Mets closely.
As a Braves fan, the NL East race has been kinda fun but ultimately feels a bit hollow. Sure, you get a decent playoff advantage by winning the division, but it's not do or die.

In other words, it's nothing like 1993 where every game down the stretch was intense. Whether that's good or bad for baseball, I'm not entirely sure. It admittedly always bothered me a bit that a 103-win team went home.
   11. John Northey Posted: September 23, 2022 at 11:06 AM (#6097630)
Wonder what things would look like with the old systems and some basic assumptions...

Pre 1969 (league champs only): Houston up by 7 over the Yankees, everyone else 14+ behind. NL LA Dodgers up by 9 1/2 over the Mets. Both very dull races.

1969-1993 (4 divisions): Houston up by 16 on Seattle in the AL West, Yankees by 7 1/2 on the Jays in the AL East. Dodgers by a mile in the NL West, Mets by 1 1/2 in the NL East (assuming Atlanta still in East not West as they were pre 1994) If Atlanta still in NL West then Mets up by 7 on St Louis.

1994-2011 (1 WC): AL Houston-NYY-Cleveland all in easily, Jays have WC but up by just 1 over Tampa, 1 1/2 over Seattle so the WC would be a dogfight. NL All set with Dodgers, Mets, Atlanta, St Louis - everyone else making winter plans.

2012-2021 (2 WC): AL same as above but a 3 team race for 2 slots. NL: Same but 2nd WC a fight between SD/Philly (1/2 a game between them) with Milwaukee on the cusp (3 back of SD).

So really, we'd be in worse shape for races in most cases it seems outside of the 2 WC pre 2022 method with the NL being dull under all but 2+ WC situations. Plus with fewer playoff slots the incentive to tank completely would be stronger as you'd need to build a killer team to have a shot (95+ wins needed).
   12. Nasty Nate Posted: September 23, 2022 at 11:37 AM (#6097632)
So really, we'd be in worse shape for races in most cases it seems outside of the 2 WC pre 2022 method with the NL being dull under all but 2+ WC situations. Plus with fewer playoff slots the incentive to tank completely would be stronger as you'd need to build a killer team to have a shot (95+ wins needed).
I feel like this way of looking at it is missing something. The last 1/2 month of the season isn't the only portion that should qualify as a pennant race, in my opinion. Some of those hypothetical races you describe may be concluded now, but it wasn't necessarily so in August or in July and earlier. With fewer playoff spots, you could have "big" games/series in terms of races in June/July/August and you often knew what race was at stake. Now, those "big" games/series are far fewer, even if we maybe haven't lost much in terms of final-week drama.
   13. BDC Posted: September 23, 2022 at 01:12 PM (#6097643)
With fewer playoff spots, you could have "big" games/series in terms of races in June/July/August and you often knew what race was at stake. Now, those "big" games/series are far fewer, even if we maybe haven't lost much in terms of final-week drama

And the more-balanced all-play-all schedule in 2023 means even fewer such key matchups: you simply play fewer games against the league teams you're competing with for playoff berths, and distinctly fewer against rivals for the division title. Next year, the Rangers don't play the Astros between 4/16 and 6/30. I know, as if they'd be competitive next year to start with. But it's the same for any team. There's that thrilling two weeks in May where Texas plays the Braves, Rockies, Pirates, Orioles, and Tigers and basically … who cares. And there's the first two weeks of August for the Cardinals: Twins, Rockies, Rays, A's.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: September 23, 2022 at 03:33 PM (#6097659)
Between the new playoff format, which has drawn criticism for a number of reasons, and the way wins have been distributed this season, 2022 is shaping up to have featured the lowest-leverage average regular season game since the playoff format switched to a two Wild Card format in 2012. The average team-game this year has had a cLI of .68 (including games played on or before September 19), down almost 20% from the same point in last year’s season (.81). In the nine full seasons of the two Wild Card era, the average regular-season cLI through this point in the season ranged from .78 in 2019 to .93 in ’14.

Great, now we've quantified boredom.
   15. Karl from NY Posted: September 23, 2022 at 03:42 PM (#6097662)
Pre 1969 (league champs only): Houston up by 7 over the Yankees, everyone else 14+ behind. NL LA Dodgers up by 9 1/2 over the Mets. Both very dull races.


Pre 1969, Houston was in the NL. LA would be up by 5 over them, so a borderline interesting race.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: September 23, 2022 at 06:45 PM (#6097683)
The effects flow through to other previous sources of "excitement." If, say, LA and Houston were in the pre-69 structure or the NLW (which they used to be ... On July 22, Hou was 62-32 and LAD were 62-30. If they need to win the division, those teams are desperate to make a big deadline deal. Or Yanks were 65-30 in a tight race with the Astros for the AL lead. Now we all know that Atlanta's natural alighment is the NL West but suppose they were in the NLE with the Mets, that was a 1.5 lead.

So, other than the Mets, those teams didn't have an actual race so no strong need to make a big move and the Mets were still a shoo-in for the playoffs. At the 2021 deadline, battling the Giants, the Dodgers got Turner and Scherzer; this year it was just a lost Gallo (who found himself cuz they're the Dodgers). At the other end of the competitive teams, they've got to decide if the chance of a short playoff (at least not just one game) is worth the cost of a big move.

Of course this has all been true for years and the genie's never going back in the bottle.
   17. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: September 24, 2022 at 02:48 PM (#6097759)
The NFL is now the only one of the Big Four sports where the regular season is still its own big draw.

That's what happens when you only play one game a week: every NFL game is an event.
   18. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: September 24, 2022 at 02:54 PM (#6097762)
I think that what this article mostly demonstrates is that this is not an area that yields to this kind of analysis.
   19. John Northey Posted: September 24, 2022 at 04:48 PM (#6097793)
Hmm... imagine if baseball was like the NFL - one game a week, unlimited substitutions.
You'd have a set of 9 pure hitters, 9 pure fielders, a few speedsters to run the bases, and maybe 3-5 pitchers. Starting pitchers would be like quarterbacks and critical to their teams success - just 30 starting pitchers in baseball, 30 closers, and 60 or so other pitchers to eat innings when the starter just doesn't have it. Boy would that change things a LOT. Every time at bat would be critical, we'd see crazy specialization for fielding and for hitting - no more guys who can't hit their weight, but with the improved pitching things would be drastically different. The value of a Verlander would be so much higher than it already is.

Just a fun thought exercise - I'd never want it for real. I'd be happier with double headers every Sunday plus games every other day of the week.

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