Second Half Schedule - In Arizona's Favor?

The post-season is not out of reach for Stephen Drew and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If somebody had told us in the beginning of the season that 40% of Arizona's second-half games were against the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, we probably would've said "Great, a team we went 5-and-13 against last season and a team who led the NL West for 5 months." But that's why you play the games, and with the Diamondbacks in 2nd place in the NL West and the Dodgers and Padres eight and nine games back respectively, the second half of the season starts to look up for Arizona fans.

Let's take a look at the rest of the Diamondbacks schedule and see how it looks to play out over the next two and half months.

Because the season started a few days early, everybody reached their true halfway point of the season about two weeks ago. In the NL West, everybody but the Rockies have played 92 games thus far, with the Rockies one fewer at 91. In a 5-team division, normally 72 of a team's 162 games (44%) are going to be played against intra-division foes (assuming 18 games per team). The Diamondbacks have only played 26 games against NL West opponents, which means 46 of the remaining 70 games - nearly two-thirds - will be against the NL West. Here's how the schedule works out.

NL West Foe Games Remaining
San Francisco Giants
9
Colorado Rockies
9
Los Angeles Dodgers
15
San Diego Padres
13

 

We then have 11 games against NL Central teams (Houston, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh) and 13 against the NL East (Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Washington - no more Florida Marlins for the rest of the year).

So I wanted to calculate an approximate Strength of Schedule for the Diamondbacks' remaining games. I'm still not entirely sure I did this right, but huge thanks to Justin from Beyond the Box Score for his help and explanations of his Strength of Schedule article from last year. I calculated a Strength of Schedule based on how many games we have against each team and their winning percentage so far. You take each team's winning percentage and multiply it by the number of games we have to play them. That gives us the expected wins we should have against them. For example, we play four games against the Washington Nationals, who are exactly a .500 team right now, so the Nationals are expected to win two of those. You sum up all the weighted winning percentages and divide it by the total number of games for an average Strength of Schedule for Arizona.

Opponent Win % Games
San Francisco .565
9
Colorado .473
9
Los Angeles .446
15
San Diego .435
13
Milwaukee .533
4
Pittsburgh .522
3
Houston .326
4
Philadelphia .626
3
Atlanta .587
3
New York .505
3
Washington .500
4

Strength of Schedule: 0.483

I also used the Pythagorean win-loss percentage but the difference was only 0.002. Another option, which I didn't compare, was Baseball Prospectus's 2nd-order winning percentage. The other aspect is, is a team like Washington a .500 team against winning teams or losing teams? How would they fare against the Diamondbacks specifically? That's when you have to do another weighted winning percentage based on that team's strength of schedule, which is what Justin did, but I'm going to pass because I'm not that statistically-minded. It is interesting to consider if it would make a big difference in the end number. (Justin said sometimes it did and sometimes it didn't.)

So, if that number is indeed a Strength of Schedule, that gives us a 0.483. In ESPN's Relative Power Index teams standings - which we believe are all calculated based on previous standings - they have the Diamondbacks' SoS for the season thus far at a 0.491, the fourth-easiest schedule in baseball. So that 0.483 shows we even have a slightly easier schedule for the second half of the season; more often than not, the team we'll face will be a sub-.500 team.

We face the Padres and Dodgers a combined 28 games, 40% of our remaining schedule, two teams well below .500. We get to face the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals for four games apiece, but we also get three more each against the division leading Phillies and Brewers. And of course, there are nine more against the San Francisco Giants.

So how does that compare to what San Francisco has to do the rest of the season? I ran the same formula for their schedule, and they've got a Strength of Schedule very close to Arizona at 0.480. They get 10 games against the Marlins and Astros but seven against just the Philadelphia Phillies. They'll have 21 games against the Dodgers and Padres, where we'll have 28. The Giants have outperformed their Pythagorean win/loss record by five games thus far, and they did it against a schedule that ESPN has as just marginally harder than ours (Giants .494 / Diamondbacks .491). Interestingly that the three one-thousandth percentage points of advantage the Diamondbacks had in the first half swings the Giants' way the second half.

The bottom line to all this shouldn't be that difficult to understand - the Diamondbacks need to win. Not only do they need to beat the teams that should be easy to beat (as they didn't do against Oakland, going only 1-for-3), but they need to beat the Giants. It's a three-game separation and there are only nine games left against each other. The 2-7 record against them the first half isn't going to cut it. We fans were spoiled by the tear the Diamondbacks went on in May, but if the team can fit all the pieces together again, the schedule shows that the post-season is not that far out of reach.

Come on, Diamondbacks, the numbers are on your side. Time to bear down, #GibbyUp, whatever you want to call it. Hmm, we need a rallying cry that has to do with snakes... Stay strong for the rest of the season and go get 'em boys.

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