Numbering minor league baseball teams

El Paso Chihuahuas team logo
Last week I wrote about how to number MLB teams so that the number n told you where they are in the league hierarchy:

  • n % 2 tells you the league, American or National
  • n % 3 tells you the division: East, Central, or West
  • n % 5 is unique within a league/division combination.

Here n % m denotes n mod m, the remainder when n is divided by m.

This post will do something similar for minor league teams.

There are four minor league teams associated with each major league team. If we wanted to number them analogously, we’d need to do something a little different because we cannot specify n % 2 and n % 4 independently. We’d need an approach that is a hybrid of what we did for the NFL and MLB.

We could specify the league and the rank within the minor leagues by three bits: one bit for National or American league, and two bits for the rank:

  • 00 for A
  • 01 for High A
  • 10 for AA
  • 11 for AAA

It will be convenient later on if we make the ranks the most significant bits and the league the least significant bit.

So to place a minor league team on a list, we could write down the numbers 1 through 120, and for each n, calculate r = n % 8, d = n % 3, and k = n % 5.

The latest episode of 99% Invisible is called RoboUmp, a show about automating umpire calls. As part of the story, the show discusses the whimsical names of minor league teams and how the names allude to their location. For example, the El Paso Chihuahuas are located across the border from the Mexican state of Chihuahua and their mascot is a chihuahua dog. (The dog was named after the state.)

The El Paso Chihuahuas are the AAA team associated with the San Diego Padres, a team in the National League West, team #3 in the order listed in the MLB post. The number n for the Chihuahuas must equal 7 mod 8, 111two, the first bit for National League and the last two bits for AAA. We also require n to be 2 mod 3 because it’s in the West, and n = 3 mod 5 because the Padres are #3 in the list of National League West teams in our numbering. It works out that n = 23.

How do minor league and major league numbers relate? They have to be congruent mod 30. They have to have the same parity since they represent the same league, and must be congruent mod 3 because they have in the same division. And they must be congruent mod 5 to be in the same place in the list of associated major league teams.

So to calculate a minor league team’s number, start with the corresponding major league number, and add multiples of 30 until you get the right value mod 8.

For example, the Houston Astros are number 20 in the list from the earlier post. The Triple-A team associated with the Astros is the Sugar Land Space Cowboys. The number n for the Space Cowboys must be 6 mod 8 because 6 = 110two, and they’re a Triple-A team (11) in the American League (0). So n = 110.

The Astros’ Double-A team, the Corpus Christi Hooks, needs to have a number equal to 100two = 4 mod 8, so n = 20. The High-A team, the Asheville Tourists, are 50 and the Single-A team, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, is 80.

You can determine what major league team is associated with a minor league team by taking the remainder by 30. For example, the Rocket City Trash Pandas has number 77, so they’re associated with the major league team with number 17, which is the Los Angeles Angels. The remainder when 77 is divided by 8 is 5 = 101two, which tells you they’re a Double-A team since the high order bits are 1 and 0.