FanPost

If MLB had relegation

Matthew Lewis

Relegation/promotion is a feature of European soccer/football leagues, but has never taken hold in the US. In a recent discussion, I commented on how amusing it would be to demote the perpetually struggling Royals and let their successful Omaha AAA affiliate take a crack at MLB. This got me thinking, what would MLB look like any given year if a relegation system were in place?

Using data from Baseball Reference, I set up the following grid, deciding that the easiest way to model MLB relegation would be to annually drop the worst team from each league and replace them with the best team from the two AAA leagues (PCL & IL). I didn't try to model what would happen each subsequent year, just treated the seasons as stand-alone events, all that was practical for this level of fun. Below, you see the relegated teams & their records, along with the AAA league champions that would have replaced them that year. Because this is a Royals blog, I also included a column showing where the Royals finished in the AL each year. I started in 1985 because I had to start somewhere, it was a reasonably stretch of time, and again this is a Royals blog.

year

NL

AL

Royals

IL

PCL

2013

MIA 62-100

HOU 51-111

86-76, 7th

Durham

Omaha

2012

HOU 55-107

MIN 66-96

72-90, 11th

Pawtucket

Reno

2011

HOU 56-106

MIN 63-99

71-91, 11th

Columbus

Omaha

2010

PIT 57-105

SEA 61-101

67-95, 12th

Columbus

Tacoma

2009

WSN 59-103

BAL 64-98

65-97, 12th

Durham

Memphis

2008

WSN 59-102

SEA 61-101

75-87, 11th

SWB

Sacramento

2007

PIT 68-94

TBD 66-96

69-93, 13th

Richmond

Sacramento

2006

CHC 66-96

TBD 61-101

62-100, 13th

Toledo

Tucson

2005

PIT 67-95

KCR 56-106

relegated

Toledo

Nashville

2004

ARI 51-111

KCR 58-104

relegated

Buffalo

Sacramento

2003

SDP 64-98

DET 43-119

83-79, 8th

Durham

Sacramento

2002

MIL 56-106

TBD 55-106

62-100, 12th

Durham

Edmonton

2001

PIT 62-100

TBD 62-100

65-97, 12th

Louisville

?

2000

CHC 65-97

MIN 69-93

77-85, 10th

Indianapolis

Memphis

1999

FLA 64-98

MIN 63-97

64-97, 13th

Charlotte

Vancouver

1998

FLA 54-108

TBD 63-99

72-89, 11th

Buffalo

New Oreans

1997

PHI 68-94

OAK 65-97

67-94, 13th

Rochester

Edmonton

1996

PHI 67-95

DET 53-109

75-86, 11th

Columbus

Edmonton

1995*

PIT 58-86

MIN 56-88

70-74, 8th

Ottawa

Colorado Springs

1994*

SDP 47-70

CAL 47-68

64-51, 4th

Richmond

Albuquerque

1993

NYM 59-103

OAK 68-94

84-78, 7th

Charlotte

Tucson

1992

LAD 63-99

SEA 64-98

72-90, 12th

Columbus

Col Springs

1991

HOU 65-97

CLE 57-105

82-80, 10th

Columbus

Tucson

1990

ATL 65-97

NYY 67-95

75-86, 11th

Rochester

Albuquerque

1989

ATL 63-97

DET 59-103

92-70, 2nd

Richmond

Vancouver

1988

ATL 54-106

BAL 54-107

84-77, 8th

Rochester

Las Vegas

1987

SDP 65-97

CLE 61-101

83-79, 6th

Columbus

Albuquerque

1986

PIT 64-98

SEA 67-95

76-86, 10th

Richmond

Las Vegas

1985

PIT 57-104

CLE 60-102

91-71, 3rd

Tidewater

Vancouver

Surprisingly, the Royals would only have been relegated twice, in 2004 & 2005. They just missed it four more times (1997, 1999, 2006, 2007). But look at all those 10th, 11th, and 12th place finishes. The Royals since 1985 have basically proved the Office Space theorem: they've been just good enough not to be relegated.

Other items of interest that I noted: Houston gets the award as the only team to be demoted from both leagues, Minnesota leads the AL (5), and Pittsburgh leads the NL (6), at least going back to the arbitrary 1985 endpoint.

Discussion questions:

1) In reality, relegation would play higgledy-piggledy with MLB's minor-league affiliate system and the draft. What do you do with draft picks? Does the 2nd-worst team now get the 1st pick? Does the newly promoted MLB team get it? Who becomes whose farm team?

2) Geography also becomes a mess. Where do you slot the new teams in? It wouldn't have been so hard in 2013, slotting Omaha in for Houston and Durham in for Miami, but have fun replacing the Phillies or Tigers with Edmonton after 1996. It gets harder after 1994, when MLB moved to three divisions. What's the worst replacement combination you can see?

3) How many relegated teams have since made the playoffs (but not the Royals)?

4) Which promoted teams would have had the best or worst chance of staying in MLB? Which MLB teams would never have made it back?

5) Determining AAA promotions, it would be more European to use best end-of-season record rather than playoff champion. I did it the latter way to save time. If someone wants to put together the comparative list of the former, go for it.

6) In 1988, Baltimore would have switched places with its AAA affiliate in Rochester, which I noticed because I grew up in WNY following the Red Wings. Are there other cases where an MLB team would have been replaced by its own affiliate?

Have some fun with this, it's fun to think about. And I fully expect some knowledgeable EPL fans to give us some team comparisons.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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