The White Sox Dominate Interleague Play. Why?

Mark Teahen, Omar Vizquel, Juan Pierre, and Brent Morel of the Chicago White Sox celebrate their victory against the Oakland Athletics at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Athletics 5-4. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

As the Chicago White Sox prepare to play the Chicago Cubs in the rubber game of a three-game series, STATS provides us with this fascinating fact via Twitter:

#WhiteSox can win their 17th straight interleague series by beating #Cubs today. ChiSox are #MLB-best 44-18 since 2008 in interleague play.

The last interleague series the White Sox lost was a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs from June 20-22, 2008 at Wrigley Field.

So how are they doing this? The White Sox did make the postseason in 2008, winning a division tiebreaker with the Twins to get in, but including the 2008 season, the Sox are 192-170 through yesterday, a .530 winning percentage that would translate to 86-76 over a 162-game season. That's good, but it's hardly 44-18 (.710) good.

The answers can be found in the vagaries of the schedule. For the first six years of interleague play, teams stayed within their own "division" -- East played East, Central vs. Central, West against West. A rotation began in 2003, with "rivalry" games retained (Cubs vs. White Sox, Yankees vs. Mets, Angels vs. Dodgers, etc.).

But over the last couple of years, although teams usually play certain divisions in interleague action each year (the White Sox technically are facing the NL West this year), seemingly random series are posted for most teams. Thus, even though the Sox are supposed to play the NL West, along with two series vs. the Cubs, they will play the Nationals this weekend.

And beginning in 2008, the White Sox have played the Pirates and Dodgers during low periods for those franchises nine times each (8-1 vs. Pittsburgh and 6-3 vs. Los Angeles), the Giants before Tim Lincecum & Co. got good and the Rockies in their only losing season since 2006.

It's not as if the White Sox haven't been a good team. They have been. And they bookended losses to the Cubs around an 11-game winning streak in 2010, their longest in 50 years, all against National League teams. There's also a small asterisk around the "winning series" fact; in 2009, they split a pair of games with the Cubs at Wrigley Field -- the third was rained out. When it was made up on September 3, 2009, both teams were floundering around .500 and the Sox called up Carlos Torres from Triple-A to start the game. The result, as it often seems to be for Cubs teams facing a pitcher they've never seen before, was a 5-0 White Sox victory.

So for those who would like to see different interleague scheduling to make things more "fair" for everyone involved, this is a good argument in your favor. The White Sox have dominated interleague play for the last three and a half years -- but maybe more because of who they've played than who they are.

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