Why a nine team schedule is a bad idea

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The biggest change in the KBO this year has been the addition of the NC Dinos as the league's 9th team. This addition has led to many changes accross the league, first and foremost is scheduling. In past seasons, with an even number of teams, every team was able to play every scheduled game day, but with an odd number of teams there will always be one team taking the day off. This has led to a reduction in the total number of games played per team from 133 last year to 128 this year, and due to the series nature of the schedule each team will have a number of four day breaks spread throughout the season. Many have wondered what affect this will have on play, and what sort of advantages and disadvantages it might give.

There are two fairly obvious teams which have an advantage in this scenario.

  1. A team that is playing their last set of games before entering a break will be able to use up all of their pitchers, knowing that they will have several days of rest before their next games.
  2. A team that is playing their first set of games coming back from a break will be fully rested.

And which teams have a disadvantage? Those would be any opponents of teams 1 and 2 above.

This leads us to many questions about whether the schedule is fair or not. As the Korea Times reported several months ago when the schedule was announced, some teams are not entirely happy with the schedule. As the article points out, Lotte will play 12 series this year against teams that are returning from breaks (highest in league) while Samsung will play only one (lowest in league).

Beyond this, an article from 일간스포츠 points at another unique trend in the way that teams are using the 9-game schedule to their advantage. LG sent starting pitcher Woo Kyu-Min to the Futures League (minor league) yesterday. Woo was coming off a complete game performance on Sunday where he allowed only five hits and zero walks, leading LG to an 8-0 victory over Hanwha. He is not injured and there are no problems with his pitching. Why is he in the minors? To free up an additional roster spot as LG heads into their series with KIA this week before taking a break over the weekend. League rules state that a player sent to the Futures League must stay there for at least 10 days. In the past, this was enough to prevent any day-to-day roster shuffling, but with teams now regularly taking four day breaks in the middle of the season, it suddenly makes sense.

Here's how it works:

  • April 14: Woo Kyu-Min pitches complete game against Hanwha
  • April 15: standard Monday off, Woo is sent to Futures league
  • April 16-18: LG plays three games against KIA in which Woo's spot in the starting rotation wouldn't come up anyway.
  • April 19-22: LG takes four days off
  • April 23-24: LG plays first two games of series against Samsung, all starting pitchers fully rested
  • April 25: Woo rejoins team, able to start third game of series against Samsung

This allows LG to call up an extra relief pitcher for their series against league-leading KIA.

Doosan did the same thing last week, demoting starting pitcher Kim Sun-Woo in order to call up reliever Hong Sang-Sam before their series with Lotte. Did it work? Doosan didn't lose, winning two games and one ending in a tie. It would be hard to say that Hong was the difference maker, but there's no question that it gave Doosan's bullpen a slight advantage, and a slight bullpen advantage is often enough to win a close game, with two out of the three games in the series going to extra innings.

Is this going to become standard procedure this year? Should teams do it? Is it fair? Should the league alter rules in order to prevent this? Share your thoughts.

 

In another scheduling oddity, today marks the first time since 1986 that there are no games scheduled to be played in the Seoul area (수도권) on a regularly scheduled game day (not including playoffs, end of season rain-out make up games, etc). LG, SK, and Nexen are all playing away games while Doosan takes the week off. With four teams based in and around Seoul, what does it mean if a guy can't find even one game to attend on a Tuesday night in the biggest city in the country? The schedule is broken.

The good news is that we only have to put up with this mess for two seasons, as the league plans to expand to 10 teams in 2015.