July 20, 2009
Prospectus Hit and Run
With the possibility of a Roy Halladay deal still lingering, there's little question that the Blue Jays' actions where he's concerned will have an major impact on the rest of the 2009 season. Not only would any trade give his new team a significant boost in their race for a playoff spot, but the vast majority of the Jays' remaining games-53 out of 69-are against the eight American League contenders, those AL teams with records above .500. A revised look at our strength-of-schedule rankings shows that Toronto is tied with the Orioles for the most difficult second-half schedule. If the Doctor is in, the Jays are primed to play spoiler. If he's out, not so much.
Our initial look at strength of schedule used pre-season PECOTA projections as the basis for calculating the opponents' winning percentages for all 30 teams, not only for the whole season, but also by month and by half, the better to identify the schedule's contours. With over half the season in the books, we've dispensed with the PECOTAs in favor of each team's Hit List Factor, the average of their actual winning percentage and their various Pythagorean-based winning percentages from our Adjusted Standings page-the stuff of our weekly power rankings.
Instead of plugging in those winning percentages uniformly, we've once again applied two adjustments based on data from the last three years, one to account for the home team winning 55 percent of the time, and the other for the AL winning 58 percent of interleague games. Using the log5 method similar to that used by Clay Davenport in the Playoff Odds report, 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. Thus when the Yankees (.579) play the Mets (.487) at Yankee Stadium, the latter's adjusted winning percentage is recorded as .487 - .025 - .040 = .422. When they play at Citi Field, it's recorded as .487 + .025 - .040 = .472. From the Mets' point of view, the Yankees are a .644 team (.579 + .025 + .040) in the Bronx and a .594 (.579 - .025 + .040) team in Queens.
Here's how the 30 teams rank by second-half strength of schedule (all ties listed alphabetically):
Team Season 1st 2nd Blue Jays .514 .497 .536 Orioles .522 .510 .536 Royals .505 .494 .518 Yankees .508 .500 .518 Rays .504 .496 .515 Athletics .518 .521 .514 Rangers .503 .495 .513 Red Sox .504 .498 .512 White Sox .497 .485 .512 D'backs .503 .497 .510 Astros .494 .485 .505 Indians .505 .504 .505 Tigers .495 .488 .503 Giants .497 .493 .502 Mariners .502 .502 .502 Padres .512 .523 .499 Angels .505 .510 .498 Reds .491 .490 .492 Nationals .504 .516 .489 Pirates .492 .495 .488 Braves .494 .499 .487 Twins .494 .499 .487 Phillies .490 .495 .485 Marlins .496 .507 .483 Rockies .497 .508 .483 Cubs .489 .496 .482 Mets .496 .508 .481 Cardinals .483 .486 .480 Brewers .492 .504 .477 Dodgers .489 .499 .477
As you might expect, it's a tossup as to which AL East contender would benefit the most if Halladay were traded out of the division, thus significantly weakening the Jays. Barring a trade, and based upon an every-fifth-day usage pattern, all three teams would likely face him three times after the July 31 trading deadline. If no trade is consummated by this coming Friday, the Rays will add a fourth start against Halladay, one of the dozen games they have remaining against the Jays (six at home, six on the road). The Yankees, meanwhile, have 11 games remaining against Toronto (five home, six road), all after the deadline. The Red Sox have just nine games left against Toronto (six home, three road), but after being beaten by him on Sunday, they're probably rooting the hardest for a trade.
The Yankees have the toughest remaining schedule of any AL contender, a function of the fact that they've got 10 games apiece against the Sox and Rays, both of whom outrank them on the Hit List. Seven of their 10 against the Sox are at home, where they're only 0-2 against their foes this year, as compared to 0-6 at Fenway.
As for the teams outside the AL East, here's an oversized handful of take-home points:
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .