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Scouting the Schedule

As we head into the final stretch of the season, let's take a look at the remaining schedules for ourselves and the Dodgers. At first glance, it looks like Los Angeles have a much easier run of things - here are the schedules, first the Diamondbacks and then the enemy, along with the current winning-percentages of their respective opponents.

AZ vs. PCT H A Tot
St. Louis .553 3 4 7
LADodgers .500 3 3 6
Colorado .462 3 3 6
San Francisco .446 4 3 7
Cincinnati .435 3 0 3
San Diego .369 0 3 3
TOTAL .474 16 16 32

 

LA vs. PCT H A Tot
Philadelphia .546 0 1 1
Arizona .523 3 3 6
Colorado .462 0 3 3
Pittsburgh .438 0 4 4
San Francisco .446 3 3 6
San Diego .369 6 3 9
Washington .351 0 3 3
TOTAL .434 12 20 32

At first glance, it looks like the Dodgers have a clear edge here: once they leave Philadelphia, their only remaining series against a winning team are the two versus Arizona. They also have nine against the Padres, compared to our three, and also get to enjoy three games facing the Nationals, so have a dozen contests against the worst two teams in the league.

However, one important thing to note is the Dodgers have almost two-thirds of their games on the road: we need to evaluate not only who teams are facing, but where those games take place. So, let's revise the above charts, splitting the series by home and away, and giving the appropriate winning percentage of the opponent, at home or away. As an example, the first two lines below are therefore the St. Louis winning percentage on the road, for the games they play in Arizona, and then at home for the games we have there.

AZ vs. PCT H A Tot
St. Louis home
.561 3 0 3
St. Louis road
.545 0 4 4
LA home
.426 3 0 3
LA road
.565 0 3 6
Colorado home
.379 3 0 3
Colorado road
.545 0 3 3
SF home
.453 4 0 4
SF road
.439 0 3 3
Cincinnati home
.379 3 0 3
San Diego road
.415 0 3 3
TOTAL .472 16 16 32

 

LA vs. PCT H A Tot
Philadelphia road
.569 0 1 1
Arizona road
.569 0 3 3
Arizona home
.477 3 0 3
Colorado road
.545 0 3 3
Pittsburgh road
.523 0 4 4
SF home
.453 3 0 3
SF road
.439 0 3 3
San Diego home
.323 6 0 6
San Diego road
.415 0 3 3
Washington road
.371 0 3 3
TOTAL .450 12 20 32

Here, the gap in the strength of schedule is reduced significantly. Our schedule isn't much altered - it's reduced only by .002, since eight out of our remaining ten series are the results of home-and-away pairings, largely negating ground advantage. However, Los Angeles have fewer series like that: in particular, the Dodgers instead have to travel to Colorado and Pittsburgh, without getting to play them back in Chavez Ravine.

That is important because the Rockies and Pirates are teams that are well below .500 overall, yet both are considerably stronger [their W-L is 11 games better in each case] at home, and have winning records on their own turf. That skews the Dodgers' remaining games harder than it seems by looking at just the overall W-L, and basically cuts their advantage almost in half. The Dodgers are also nine games worse on the road than at home, compared to the Diamondbacks figure of only minus six, so having them travel in the final month appears to work in our favor too. All told, they have a slight advantage, but it only works out to about 0.7 games over the rest of the schedule.

The series over the weekend was huge. Los Angeles had a golden opportunity to catch up, maybe pull to within one game of Arizona. But instead, even though we lost our own series, we still extended the division lead, thanks to the Dodgers being within one out of victory last night, yet being unable to close out the win. Equally as important, that's another three games crossed off the schedule - as the leading team, every day that passes where they don't catch up, works in our favor. We came in with playoff odds of 63.8% and left at 72.9%: not bad, given we only won once in the three games.

Coming up, the series from Friday to Monday against LA obviously looms large. Before then, the Dodgers have to face the Phillies one last time tonight, in a game that should be over, or all but, before we take the field for our series in San Diego. We and they then face very similar series: three games on the road against cellar-dwellers, before the key clash at Chase. We have an off-day Thursday, and that will help us align our rotation going in: the week sees two starts each by Haren and Webb, and that gives me confidence we can extend our lead in the next seven days.

As a prediction, I expect the Phillies to complete the sweep tonight over a demoralized Dodgers. LA and AZ will then have similar results in their next series - both winning two against or possibly sweeping their opponents. Then comes the key series at Chase. I'd settle for us taking two of three there, which would bring us to this point next week in possession of a 4.5 game lead, with the Dodgers having 25 games left, and the Diamondbacks 26. That would be entirely satisfactory, but you know what baseball is like, and anything could happen...