Wednesday, May 30, 2012

East Coast Bias

Everyone who checked the standings this morning was treated to a truly rare sight. Every team in the AL and NL East was above .500. For this to occur over 50 games into the season is astounding. Fans of teams in other divisions tend to get upset by the seemingly uneven coverage that the East teams get, but it's times like this that make it difficult to not step back and see it as completely justified.

The AL and NL teams are just better. The East Coast Bias doesn't create this, although it is definitely intertwined. Some of the largest media markets are represented by teams in the East divisions. Larger media markets equals more money, more money buys more talent (shutup Rays fans), and talent gets wins. Never has the apparent divide seemed more pronounced though, and I expect it to stay this way for quite some time. Anyone who told you at the beginning of the season that they thought the Mets and Orioles would be at the top of their divisions and the Red Sox and Phillies would be at the bottom is either a liar or a fool. Those teams will eventually regress closer to their true talent levels, especially as more games are played within the divisions, however their current positions mean we could see a lot of .500+ teams for a long time to come. The ZiPS projections released last week put the Orioles at the bottom of the AL East at the end of the season with a 81-81 record and the Mets as the only team under .500 in the NL East at 77-85. If teams maintain a linear pace between now and their projected records, the Mets shouldn't expect to reach .500 until they're 49-49. That's 48 games away!

The AL and NL East teams are just beating up on the rest of the league. The AL East is 40-25 against the AL Central and 32-27 against the AL West. Similarly the NL East is 48-35 against the NL Central and 39-26 against the NL West. Out of the 20 matchups the East teams have against teams from other divisions only 6 have losing records and 3 of those are by only one game. That isn't all that different from last year when the East teams went 410-334 against teams in their league outside of their division. Only this year most of the East teams got even better.

I think this makes it obvious why I bitched about the new playoff format a few months ago. A whole bunch of these teams are going to get screwed. Due to all the intra-divisional games it's even possible that the second wild-card comes from a team outside the division with a cushy schedule. if the playoffs were to start today the Indians would have the second wild-card spot. Forget the East Coast Bias. The east coast is getting screwed. There are maybe two other teams in baseball who could even compete in one of the East divisions right now but my guess is that somewhere between four and six teams from outside of those divisions will be making the playoffs, two of them with a guaranteed spot in the divisional round. At least Jays fans will be treated to more meaningful games between now and then.

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