How the Schedule Impacts Every Relevant MLB Team Down the Stretch

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterAugust 27, 2021

How the Schedule Impacts Every Relevant MLB Team Down the Stretch

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    The Padres are struggling, and the road ahead is hard.
    The Padres are struggling, and the road ahead is hard.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    As contenders across Major League Baseball careen down the stretch toward the playoffs, nothing matters more than how much talent they have to work with.

    Well, except for maybe their remaining schedules.

    We've taken a closer look at the road ahead for each of the teams—we count eight in the American League and nine in the National League—with eyes on the postseason.

    With help from FanGraphs, this naturally involved weighing the strength of the competition. It also meant singling out potentially important road trips and homestands. In all, the idea was to assess just how hard or easy teams have it from here on out.

    We'll go division by division, starting with the AL East and ending with the NL West.

American League East

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    1. Tampa Bay Rays: 79-48

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 35 (17/18)

    Remaining SoS: .516

    The Rays are undeniably a good team, but the one aspect of their success that they'd probably rather not have discussed is that they've played the easiest schedule of any AL East team.

    That will be corrected in the coming weeks, as more than half (19, to be exact) of Tampa Bay's remaining games are against winning teams. Those include seven against the Boston Red Sox and three against the Toronto Blue Jays, though only three against the New York Yankees.

    Those three against the Yankees, however, will cap a season-ending six-game road trip that will begin against the AL West-leading Houston Astros on Sept. 28. Better buckle up, Rays fans.

              

    2. New York Yankees: 75-52

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 35 (17/18)

    Remaining SoS: .502

    The Yankees have indeed had it tougher than the Rays this year, and they've handled it well by going 42-33 against .500 or better teams. Of late, such wins account for eight of their 12 straight victories.

    It gets a little easier for the Yankees going forward, specifically to the extent that they still get to play the utterly bad Baltimore Orioles six more times. Also on tap are three games against the lowly Texas Rangers and three each against diminished Cleveland and New York Mets squads.

    What the Yankees should not take lightly, however, are seven games versus a Blue Jays team that they're only 6-6 against. Three of those will complete a six-game road swing that will begin in Boston on Sept. 24. It's a difficult test ahead of New York's final showdown against Tampa Bay.

              

    3. Boston Red Sox: 73-56

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 33 (14/19)

    Remaining SoS: .492

    Based on their relatively few remaining games and weak strength of schedule, the Red Sox seem to be in for a soft landing. Best of all is that they have six games apiece against Baltimore and Cleveland, the latter of which is a dismal 22-40 against winning teams.

    On a less bright side, the Red Sox still have to play the Rays seven times. Though they're 5-7 against them, the Rays have won three out of the four series and seven of the last nine games.

    Much of Boston's remaining schedule also takes place on the road, where it'll notably have to make a difficult six-game trip through the Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners from Sept. 10 to 15.

                 

    4. Toronto Blue Jays: 66-60

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 36 (18/18)

    Remaining SoS: .495

    More so than the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, the Blue Jays' remaining schedule looks like a mixed bag.

    The good? They still have 10 (yes, 10 as in one-zero) games against the Orioles plus seven against the Minnesota Twins and three opposite the Detroit Tigers. That's 20 games against three of the AL's worst teams.

    The bad? Out of those 20 games, 11 are on the road. And with seven games against the Yankees and six versus the Rays, Toronto still has 13 games that it simply can't afford to lose.

American League Central

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    1. Chicago White Sox: 74-55

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 33 (16/17)

    Remaining SoS: .465

    The White Sox boast a nine-game lead in the AL Central and, according to FanGraphs, a 99.9 percent chance to win the division. So, they're playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

    To this end, it's obviously a good thing that eight games against the Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds comprise the entirety of the White Sox's remaining contests against contending teams.

    There is one downside, however, and that's an 11-game swing through Texas, Detroit and Cleveland that, because of a double-header in the latter, will happen over just 10 days from Sept. 17 to 26. If the White Sox stumble there, home-field advantage could slip away.

American League West

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    1. Houston Astros: 75-52

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 35 (15/20)

    Remaining SoS: .485

    Already with a 5.5-game lead in the division, the Astros' remaining strength of schedule makes it look like the coast is clear for them to nab their fifth straight playoff berth.

    Astros fans shouldn't rest too easy, however. In addition to most of their remaining games being of the road variety, 18 of the Astros' 35 games are against winning teams.

    Those include six each against the Mariners and A's. Those Oakland tilts will all come within a nine-game stretch in which the Astros will also play the Rays to finish the season.

              

    2. Oakland Athletics: 70-58

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 34 (16/18)

    Remaining SoS: .512

    With nine losses in their last 11 games, the A's are already slipping in both the race for the AL West title and that for the AL's second wild-card spot.

    It doesn't get any easier. Most of Oakland's remaining schedule is on the road, and 12 games against the Tigers, Rangers, Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels account for their only remaining contests against sub-.500 clubs.

    To cap things, Oakland's last 13 games will be against Seattle and Houston. The last six of those will be on the road, where the M's and 'Stros are hard to beat. So if the A's make the playoffs, they'll have earned it.

               

    3. Seattle Mariners: 69-59

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 34 (18/16)

    Remaining SoS: .530

    Maybe the worst news regarding the Mariners' remaining schedule is that they're done playing the Rangers, against whom they're 13-6.

    Despite the difficulty of Seattle's strength of schedule, its situation is otherwise the inverse of Oakland's. Most of the remaining games are at home, and there are only 16 contests against winning clubs.

    Plus, the Mariners' seven remaining games against the A's aren't as scary as the six against the Astros. Whereas Seattle is 5-8 against the latter, it's 8-4 against the former.

National League East

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    1. Atlanta: 68-58

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 35 (18/17)*

    Remaining SoS: .495

    Atlanta will mostly stick close to home down the stretch, but what flights the team does have left won't be short ones.

    Brian Snitker's club has not one but two West Coast trips remaining. That's where it'll encounter three contenders in the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres—plus another team that plays like a contender at home. Whereas they're 15-47 on the road, the Colorado Rockies are 43-22 at Coors Field.

    Fortunately for the club, Atlanta will also face the Rockies at Truist Park as part of a nine-game homestand against losing clubs from Sept. 7 to 16. It also helps that the team has only three head-to-head matchups remaining against its closest pursuer within the NL East.

    *This does not include the suspended game from July 21 that Atlanta and San Diego will finish at Petco Park on Sept. 24.

              

    2. Philadelphia Phillies: 63-64

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 35 (17/18)

    Remaining SoS: .459

    What the Phillies lack in direct chances to gain ground on Atlanta, they'll more than make up for with games against inferior competition.

    Of their 35 remaining games, a whopping 29 are against teams with losing records. Those include seven at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Rockies, who are the only teams in the NL with road win totals in the teens.

    Philadelphia obviously can't downplay its three games against Atlanta, nor its trio of contests at the Milwaukee Brewers. But in general, it has a golden opportunity to rack up wins.

               

    3. New York Mets: 61-66

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 34 (18/16)*

    Remaining SoS: .487

    With only six wins in 24 games in August, the Mets may not still qualify as a contender. They have less than a 5 percent chance to make the playoffs.

    On the plus side, most of their remaining games will be at Citi Field, where they're 36-26. Nine of the 19, however, are against contenders in the Yankees, Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals. Those all come from Sept. 10 to 19 and are immediately followed by a road trip through Boston and Milwaukee.

    Throw in a season-ending three-game set at Atlanta, and there don't seem to be any scenarios in which New York will be able to back into a playoff spot.

    *This does not include the suspended game from April 11 that the Mets and Miami Marlins will finish at Citi Field on Aug. 31.

National League Central

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    1. Milwaukee Brewers: 78-50

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 34 (16/18)

    Remaining SoS: .499

    If the Brewers' 8.5-game lead in the NL Central doesn't already seem safe enough, just know that the Cincinnati Reds can't directly gain ground on them down the stretch. The season series between the two is complete, with the Brewers having won 10 of the 19 games.

    This is not to suggest it's all good for Milwaukee. It still has to play four games against the Giants and three against the Dodgers. All seven of those contests will be on the road.

    If the Brewers—who, to be fair, are 42-21 away from American Family Field—handle those games well and also make the most of their 10 remaining games against the Cardinals, they will have a shot to nab the No. 2 or even No. 1 seed for the NL playoffs.

             

    2. Cincinnati Reds: 70-59

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 33 (16/17)

    Remaining SoS: .461

    The Reds may be out of chances to directly gain ground on the Brewers, but their remaining schedule is about as soft as it gets.

    Out of Cincinnati's 33 remaining games, only 11 are against teams with winning records. The Cardinals account for six of those, and the Reds have already shown they can handle the Redbirds to the tune of an 8-5 record.

    Speaking of teams the Reds have handled well, they are also 9-1 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It's therefore very much to their advantage that the clubs still have nine head-to-head matchups.

                 

    3. St. Louis Cardinals: 64-62

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 36 (16/20)

    Remaining SoS: .515

    The road hasn't been kind to the Cardinals this season, as they're only 29-32 away from Busch Stadium. Simply to this extent, it doesn't bode well that away games comprise the bulk of their remaining schedule.

    What's more, the make-or-break portion of the Cardinals' campaign is upon them. Once they leave Pittsburgh after this weekend's series, they will begin a 13-game stretch consisting of three at the Reds, three at the Brewers and then a seven-game homestand against the Dodgers and Reds.

    Even if the Cardinals acquit themselves well, they will still have seven games against the Brewers and another three against the Padres. In a word: yikes.

National League West

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    1. San Francisco Giants: 83-44

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 35 (20/15)

    Remaining SoS: .520

    Starting with the good: The Giants indeed have 20 games to play at Oracle Park. That's where they're an MLB-best 42-19.

    But if anything, their remaining strength of schedule undersells the road ahead. That figure doesn't capture how hard it is to win in Colorado, which is something the Giants will try to do six times.

    If we were to count those as six games against a contender, then the Giants actually have 29 such games left. The only exceptions are three-game series opposite the Chicago Cubs and Diamondbacks. They'd therefore better keep their foot on the gas if they want to maintain their lead in the NL West.

             

    2. Los Angeles Dodgers: 81-47

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 34 (18/16)

    Remaining SoS: .501

    It's both a blessing and a curse that the Dodgers have only three head-to-head matchups against the Giants. That means few games against MLB's best team—but also few chances to gain ground directly.

    On the other hand, it is a plus that the Dodgers have to go to Coors Field only one more time for a three-game series. That set is part of their 12 remaining games against the Rockies and D-backs, against whom Los Angeles is 21-5.

    Those are, however, also the only games the Dodgers have against losing teams. Of the other 22 contests, the standouts are certainly the nine they will play against the NL's division leaders, with three each against Atlanta, San Francisco and Milwaukee.

             

    3. San Diego Padres: 68-61

    Remaining Games (Home/Away): 32 (11/21)*

    Remaining SoS: .538

    The Padres have been in a free fall for a couple of weeks now, having gone 8-16 over their last 24 games. They're basically out of the NL West race and wouldn't even be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

    This is where there could be good news about San Diego's remaining schedule, but...well, it's not pretty. On the contrary, it doesn't get any more difficult than what the Padres are up against.

    Of the games they have left, three against the Diamondbacks and four against the Angels are the only ones the Padres will play against losing teams. The other 25 are all against contenders, and only nine of those will be at Petco Park. Not ideal considering that's where the Padres do most of their winning.

    *Once again, this does not include the suspended game from July 21.

           

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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