Evaluating the bye week

Posted on Aug. 25, 2014 by CJ Siewert (updated 8/26, 3:30 p.m.)

Earlier today I asked our Twitter and Facebook followers if they thought the bye week for Class C region champions is actually a disadvantage rather than a benefit, or if it doesn’t matter.

The response yielded a great conversation – one that I feel warrants a column.

This past weekend, teams that received a first round bye for winning their region finally got back to action after two weeks without a meaningful game. The end result for the majority of the No. 1 seeds was not in their favor. Only five of the 16 region champions made it through the round of 32.

That’s a two-team drop off from the previous two years. In 2012 – the first year the Class C tourney increased from 32 to 48 teams – the region champs went 7-9. The 2013 tourney produced the same 7-9 record for the teams with first round byes, resulting in a 19-29 overall record for region champs in their first game.

Facebook commenter Colby Pack had the most popular response to the question of whether or not the bye week is an advantage.

“Is it really an advantage to have two weeks off when you have probably been playing 2-3 games a week all summer?” Pack said. “Lots of times the better teams are going to win, but wouldn’t it be an advantage to the region champs if they got to play the runner ups playing their 2nd game of the weekend and facing number 2 pitcher? That to me is an advantage.”

Jeffery Amann, who doesn’t believe the bye week is the issue, made another popular comment.

“It’s the one game per weekend thing in my book,” Amann said. “When your #1 can throw 3 games in a row before all of a sudden you play 4 games the final weekend. Seems kind of a goofy set up.”

Nick Rost, the third baseman for the New Market Muskies, knows what it’s like to have a bye as well as play the first weekend of state. This year, New Market is a No. 4 seed and won its first two games, advancing to the round of 16. Last season, the Muskies had the bye week as region champs and lost their first game.

“When we had the bye last year I think a hard part was staying in ‘baseball mode,’” Rost said. “It’s the end of the year and you have been playing multiple times a week for a few months. As excited as you are for tourney, it almost feels like the season ends then you have to pick back up and play a game two weeks later.”

Although the majority of the Facebook commenters felt the bye week is a disadvantage for the No. 1 seeds, there were some valid points made by those who feel the bye week is beneficial.

Steve Beckman, the second baseman for the Jordan Brewers – a No. 2 seed with two wins to start the tourney – said the advantage of the bye week is getting to the final 32.

“Upsets happen but it’s not like the #1 seed was the favorite in more than half of the games this past weekend,” Beckman said. “There are a LOT of good class C teams, no reason to assume that 1 seeds should win their game.”

Another argument can be made that the bye week doesn’t create a disadvantage if you look back at the four years prior to increasing the field by 16 teams, when there was no bye week. From 2008-11, all four Class C champions were the #2 seed out of their region (2011 – Isanti, 2010 – Midway, 2009 – St. Cloud Ortho, 2008 – Elko). In those four years, region champs went 32-32 in their first round games (2011: 8-8, 2010: 9-7, 2009: 9-7, 2008: 6-10).  

When you piece apart this year’s bracket and the first two rounds, each region tells a different story. Here is the breakdown with region and team records:

Region 1 (1-2): #1 Sartell (1-0), #2 Mora (0-1), #3 Hinckley (0-1)

Region 2 (1-2): #1 New Ulm (1-0), #2 Hanska (0-1), #3 Lamberton (0-1)

Region 3 (5-1): #1 Faribault (1-0), #2 St Patrick (2-0), #3 St. Benedict (0-1), #4 New Market (2-0)

Region 4 (0-3): #1 Blue Earth (0-1), #2 Hampton (0-1), #3 Cannon Falls (0-1)

Region 5 (1-2): #1 Waseca (0-1), #2 Owatonna (1-1)

Region 6 (3-2): #1 St. Peter (0-1), #2 Jordan (2-0), #3 Belle Plaine (1-1)

Region 7 (4-2): #1 Waconia (0-1), #2 Green Isle (2-0), #3 Plato (0-1), #4 Winsted (2-0)

Region 8 (7-0): #1 Lastrup (1-0), #2 Nisswa (2-0), #3 Fort Ripley (2-0), #4 Sobieski (2-0)

Region 9 (0-2): #1 Dumont (0-1), #2 Montevideo (0-1)

Region 10 (2-1): #1 Bemidji (0-1), #2 Ada (2-0)

Region 11 (1-3): #1 St. Augusta (0-1), #2 Kimball (1-1), #3 Luxemburg (0-1)

Region 12 (3-3): #1 Maple Lake (0-1), #2 Loretto (1-1), #3 Howard Lake (2-0), #4 Delano (0-1)

Region 13 (3-2): #1 Jackson (0-1), #2 Luverne (1-1), #3 Fairmont (2-0)

Region 14 (0-2): #1 Long Prairie (0-1), #2 Detroit Lakes (0-1)

Region 15 (0-4): #1 St. Martin (0-1), #2 Spring Hill (0-1), #3 New Munich (0-1), #4 Richmond (0-1)

Region 16 (1-1): #1 Fergus Falls (1-0), #2 Pelican Rapids (0-1)

There are five regions (6, 7, 10, 12 and 13) where the #1 seed lost its first game, while at least one of lower seeds in the same region advanced to the round of 16. On the other side of the coin, there are three regions (1, 2 and 16) where the #1 seed won its first game, while all the lower seeds in those same regions lost their first game.

In the past three years since going to the 48-team field, it’s proven that the lower seeds have a better shot at advancing to Labor Day weekend (lower seeds are 29-19 in the second round over the past three years).

I don’t think we’re to the point where next year teams will purposely lose after clinching a state berth to avoid the bye week, but the losing record for #1 seeds in their first game over the past three state tourneys is an interesting trend to follow and one I’m sure the state board will evaluate over the offseason.

Stay tuned.  

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