Monday, April 6, 2009

The International League & AAA Baseball

Just a little bit of the basics of what we’re seeing at the DBAP -- a sort of “Who are these teams?” introduction.

There are 30 major league baseball teams, 14 in the American League and 16 in the National League. Each of them has a AAA team in their farm system. Thus, there are 30 AAA minor league baseball teams. (Who said I couldn’t do basic arithmetic?) Then we have two AAA leagues: The International League with 14 teams and the Pacific Coast League with 16 teams. So that sort of makes sense, so far.

The 14 teams in the International League are matched up with major league teams in the eastern and midwestern part of the country without regard to whether the parent club is in the National League or the American League. The IL has teams affiliated with Boston, New York (Yankees and Mets), Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago (White Sox), and Minnesota. That gives the IL 8 American League and 6 National League affiliates.

Hey! What about Florida and Milwaukee and that other Chicago team? Got me. Their AAA teams are in the Pacific Coast League. Go figure.

Logic would say that since AAA is the next step down from the majors, the teams would like to be in close proximity to each other. Sometimes that’s true. Toledo is linked to Detroit, Pawtucket is the AAA team of Boston, and the new home of the Braves AAA club is just a long taxi ride away. On the other hand, Charlotte is a pretty far from Chicago and Durham/Tampa Bay distance is a good bit more than average.

Obviously all the teams in the “International” League are in the US, but up until recently there was a team in Ottawa. That gave us the chance to sing along to “O, Canada” four times a year. Which sort of leads me to how the schedule works. Bear with me. The IL has three divisions, North (6 teams), West (4 teams), and South (4 teams). For the most part each team plays the teams outside its division 8 times (four at home and four away) and the teams inside its division 21 or 22 games in home and away series. Usually a series is four games, but there are exceptions. Unless you’re really into math, please don’t try to fit that model into 144 games, it’ll give you a headache. Also, usually, the Bulls play 8 games at home and 8 games away. Obviously a rainout outside the division complicates things, but, hey, it’s baseball!

Last piece of trivia before wrapping this up -- What about the designated hitter rule? In the International League the only time pitchers bat is when both clubs are National League affiliates. That means that no Durham Bull pitchers will go to the plate this year (except in the very weird circumstance where a pitcher could go to the plate as a pinch-hitter -- not likely, but possible).

Divisions and Affiliations

North Division
Buffalo Bisons - New York Mets
Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs- Philadelphia Phillies
Pawtucket Red Sox- Boston Red Sox
Rochester Red Wings- Minnesota Twins
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees - New York Yankees
Syracuse Chiefs - Washington Nationals

West Division
Columbus Clippers - Cleveland Indians
Indianapolis Indians- Pittsburgh Pirates
Louisville Bats - Cincinnati Reds
Toledo Mud Hens- Detroit Tigers

South Division
Charlotte Knights - Chicago White Sox
Gwinett Braves - Atlanta Braves
Norfolk Tides - Baltimore Orioles
Durham Bulls - Tampa Bay Rays

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