This past Monday, prior to the start of the Yankees series with the Twins, William Juliano, proprietor of the excellent “The Captain’s Blog”, tweeted the following:
It’s been 139 games since Yanks played Twins. Can’t confirm without programming, but that has to rank among longest spans between meetings.
This intrigued me, so I did some of the aforementioned programming, and here is what I found and how I found it. Using the Retrosheet gamelogs from 1871-2011, I sorted the ”home” and “visitor” columns of each game and grouped the specific pairs of “home” and “visiting” teams. If, for example, the Yankees (NYY) and Red Sox (BOS) played nine times in each team’s park in 2001, I assigned all 18 games the code “BOS-NYY”. I then added up the “game #” for both teams during each of those 18 games. Say Boston played their 43rd game of the year facing the Yankees in their 41st game of the year, their “matchup game total” was 84. I then calculated the difference in “matchup game total” from each of their 18 games in that particular year.
Turning back to William’s specific question, prior to Monday, the Yanks last played the Twins on Thursday, April 19. It was each team’s 13th game of the season (a “matchup game total” of 26). The contest on Monday, September 24 came in the Yanks’ 153rd game and the Twins 154th game (a “matchup game total” of 307). Therefore, the matchup game difference here would be 281. That’s what we need to compare with the gamelogs from 1871-2011.
What is the largest possible difference one could expect to see? In a 162-game season, Let’s assume that the same two teams meet for a three-game series to start the year (games 1-3 for each team, meaning a “matchup game total” of 6 in their final contest), then don’t see each other until the final three games (games 160-162 for each team, meaning a “matchup game total” of 320 for the first of that final series). The matchup game differential would therefore be 314. This scenario would most likely happen between interdivision or interleague teams that would only face each other once in each other’s park each season. Intradivision foes, with three or more series in each other’s parks, would have a much lower matchup game differential potential.
Anyhow, let’s get to the list of largest differentials. There have been five pairings with differentials of at least 300, all of them occurring in the last ten years. The Expos and Reds faced off in the second series of 2002 (ending in game 6 of the year) and didn’t meet up again until the last three games of the year (starting in game 160). The Braves and Cubs did the exact same thing in 2004. The Pirates were involved in two of the top five, in 2002 against the Mets (307 difference) and 2004 against the Phillies (306). The Royals and Yankees are the only AL pair on this list, at 302, that coming in 2009. The most recent matchup (excluding any other matchup in 2012) to exceed the Twins/Yankees 281 was the Astros and Phillies, with 285 (first series ending with each team’s third game), next meeting starting in the Phillies’ 144th game and the Astros’ 147th game: