Give Me Strength… of Schedule

Lots of links to catch up with, as it was a four-article week for me at Baseball Prospectus, so I’ll break it into two posts. First up, I revisited the strength of schedule methodology I used a couple times earlier this year for a two-part look at the contenders’ remaining schedules, using the Hit List Factor — the average of each team’s actual record and various Pythagorean-based records from our Adjusted Standings report — which I call upon every week for the BP power rankings (more on that next post).

For each team, I computed opponents’ strength of schedule, both for the games played through August 24 and for the balance of the schedule beyond that:

Instead of plugging in the Hit List Factor uniformly, we’ve again applied historically-derived adjustments to account for the home team winning 55 percent of the time, and for the AL winning 58 percent of interleague games. Using the log5 method, this boils down to a 25-point (.025) bonus or tax applied based on whether the opponent is at home or on the road, and a 40-point (.040) one applied for interleague play. To apply some revisionist history to our Big Apple example—indeed, ongoing strength-of-schedule calculations are the definition of revisionist history—when the Yankees (.604) played the Mets (.460) at Yankee Stadium, the latter’s adjusted winning percentage was recorded as .460 – .025 – .040 = .395. When they play at Citi Field, it was recorded as .460 + .025 – .040 = .445. From the Mets’ point of view, the Yankees were a .669 team (.604 + .025 + .040) in the Bronx and a .619 (.604 – .025 + .040) team in Queens.

Both leagues have eight teams apiece with nominal chances at reaching the postseason. Here’s how the AL contenders stack up (BP/ESPN Insider), along with their chances of reaching the postseason from our Playoff Odds report (through Wednesday):

            Leftover Previous  Overall   Playoff
Team Schedule Schedule Schedule Odds
Orioles .542 .516 .521
Blue Jays .532 .508 .513
Royals .521 .497 .503
White Sox .517 .484 .491 13.6%
Rays .517 .498 .502 24.6%
Athletics .510 .517 .515
Rangers .509 .496 .499 34.7%
Mariners .507 .503 .504
Yankees .503 .501 .502 98.7%
Angels .501 .503 .502 79.5%
Red Sox .501 .507 .506 59.2%
Tigers .496 .491 .492 64.1%
Indians .485 .498 .495
Twins .480 .495 .492 22.1%

In the AL, the next five weeks feature the contenders playing each other about half the time; the White Sox play 23 of their remaining 35 games against other contenders, including the one they played against the Yankees tonight. For the Yanks, it’s 18 out of 35, including nine of their final 12. The Twins, who have the easiest schedule remaining, play just 16 out of their final 35 against contenders — but they’ve also got Carl Pavano. Push.

Turning to the NL (BP/ESPN):

            Leftover Previous  Overall   Playoff
Team Schedule Schedule Schedule Odds
Nationals .525 .504 .509
Padres .520 .514 .515
D'backs .515 .503 .506
Mets .508 .509 .509
Brewers .506 .489 .493
Giants .505 .501 .502 12.2%
Astros .499 .493 .494
Reds .496 .493 .493
Pirates .491 .494 .493
Marlins .485 .508 .503 8.8%
Rockies .483 .502 .497 75.7%
Braves .479 .502 .497 9.0%
Phillies .477 .500 .495 93.6%
Cardinals .471 .481 .479 97.3%
Dodgers .467 .505 .496 98.7%
Cubs .460 .494 .487 4.5%

Despite having eight contenders, the Senior Circuit has a lot more stratification, with three teams nearly locks for the playoffs and the Rockies heavily favored for the Wild Card (though as I write this, the Giants’ Tim Lincecum is shutting out Colorado while the Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez yielded a solo homer to Pablo Sandoval). Not only that, but most of the contenders will only play about a third of their remaining games against each other. From that group, the Giants have the toughest schedule by 20 points, and they play 18 out of 34 against contenders, while the Dodgers play just nine.

In all, it definitely looks as though the NL will see a lot of September scoreboard watching interspersed with a handful of meaningful series, while the AL will see a lot more head-to-head action with playoff implications.

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