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MLB Opening Day 2016: Analyzing the Arizona Diamondbacks schedule

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We previously looked at the tough start the D-backs face in April. How does it stack up against the rest of the 2016 calendar?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The method

Two components figured into the "difficulty" of a particular game. Firstly, there was the opponent: I've gone off the projected 2016 standings, using the W-L percentage projected by Fangraphs.com. For our opponents in 2016, that ranges from the .588 (95 wins) expected for the Cubs, down to .395 (64 wins) for the Phillies. This is then modified depending on whether we are playing at home or away. Last year, in the National League, home teams had a winning percentage of .540, and road one .446; it doesn't add up to 1.000 because of interleague play. So, for home games, I adjusted the opponents W% down by 47 points, and for road ones, increased it by the same.

Obviously, that makes the road games against the Cubs the toughest. But to get a broader spell, I took the entire schedule and worked out a rolling average for each game, covering the seven previous contests and the six after - covering a total of 14 games. That gives a better idea of how tough each stretch of the schedule was. The highest point for that rolling average was .563 on April 15, confirming the toughness of the early opposition. The lowest? .446 on August 22, in the middle of series against the Padres, Braves and Reds. Finally, for ease of reading, I took all the figures and converted them so they sat on a scale from zero to a hundred.

The madness

Let's go through the schedule month by month, and see what the above shows, in terms of average "schedule toughness for the month". I've also crunched the numbers to see what kind of W-L record we would need to put up over the course of each month, in order to end at 90 wins for the season. This based on the actual opponent's W% for each game, so won't match exactly the overall "toughness rating" - the latter is the average .of each day's TR, and these will include data from the previous or subsequent month, for games in the first and last week.

April - 60.3. Record: 14-12

High: 100.0 (Apr 15). Low: 23.2 (Apr 22).
Toughest series: Apr 12-14 @ Dodgers (.616
Opp W%)
Easiest series: Apr 4-6 and Apr 29-May 1 vs. Rockies (.406
Opp W%)

Yeah, we'd better hope the Diamondbacks excellent season form carries forward into next month, because it doesn't get any harder than April as far as the schedule is concerned. As we noted previously, outside of the series against Colorado which bookend the month, it's going to be a near-constant test of our credentials, facing teams who destroyed us last season. Against the Dodgers, Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates, the D-backs were just 9-29 in 2015 - and that's not even counting the Giants, who are a fashionable selection to be the winners of the West this year, what with it being an even year 'n' all. Get through it anywhere above .500, and I'll be more than happy.

May - 47.4. Record 30-24 (16-12 this month)

High: 79.5 (May 30). Low: 23.6 (May 1)
Toughest series: May 20-22 @ Cardinals (.573
Opp W%)
Easiest series: May 27-29 vs. Padres (.412
Opp W%)

The schedule takes its foot off the Diamondbacks' neck a bit in May, beginning with a relatively easy road trip through Miami, Atlanta and Colorado. But there's then a home stand which could prove taxing, as the Giants make their first trip of the year to Chase, followed by the Yankees - we should expect a lot of New York fans to come crawling out from under the desert rocks for that one. That's followed by a nasty road trip to St. Louis and Pittsburgh, who have owned us the past couple of years. Since the end of 2013, we are 1-12 versus the Cardinals and 4-9 versus the Pirates, so we'll need to do better there.

June - 37.2. Record 45-36 (15-12 this month)

High: 66.4 (June 8). Low: 5.9 (June 29)
Toughest series: June 3-5 @ Cubs (.635
Opp W%)
Easiest series: June 27-29 vs. Phillies (.348
Opp W%)

Despite containing what is expected to be the toughest set of games, three on the road in Wrigley Field at the beginning, June shapes up to be the easiest overall month of the season. It does start well, with a run through Houston and Chicago, but the rest of the month looks eminently winnable. The other ten road games in June consist of four in Colorado and four in Philadelphia, plus two up North in Canada against Toronto. Meanwhile, we host both Florida teams in consecutive series at Chase, then welcome the Dodgers, and end the month with three more against the Phillies. Seven in one month against the team projected as the worst in the majors? Yes, please!

July - 44.2. Record 58-47 (13-11 this month)

High: 61.8 (July 28). Low: 7.2 (July 1)
Toughest series: July 29-31 @ Dodgers (.616 Opp W%)
Easiest series: July 4-6 vs. Padres (.412 Opp W%)

The first half of the month, taking us through the All-Star break, is entirely filled with games against our division rivals, and most of these are at home, which should help. However, the latter half is mostly on the road: this could be a crucial month for our title hopes, with a dozen games against our likely rivals in San Francisco and Los Angeles, playing home and away series against both sides. The Dodgers may well have Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy back by this point too. But, let's face it, they'll probably have had three more pitchers hit the DL in the meantime, so it's likely to balance out.

August - 44.1 . Record 74-59 (16-12 this month)

High: 76.4 (Aug 15). Low: 0.0 (Aug 22)
Toughest series: Aug 9-11 @ Mets (.590 Opp W%)
Easiest series: Aug 22-24 vs. Braves (.375 Opp W%)

Though the rolling average is almost the same as July, the early numbers are impacted by the tough Dodgers' series which ends the previous month, and generally, we should be looking to do well in August. The softest underbelly of the entire campaign can be found from August 18-28, when we play four games in San Diego, followed by four at home against Atlanta and then three versus Cincinnati at Chase. We also face the Brewers at home, but it's not all plain sailing. There is a potentially tricky road-trip to the North-east from August 9-14, where we have to take on the Mets and Red Sox.

September - 57.7. Record 90-72 (16-13 this month)

High: 82.5 (Sep 23). Low: 37.2 (Sep 16)
Toughest series: Sep 5-7 @ Dodgers (.616 Opp W%)
Easiest series: Sep 12-14 vs. Rockies (.409 Opp W%)

The beginning of the month covers most of a streak of 21 consecutive games against divisional foes. and from August 30 through the end of the year, we will play everyone else in the NL West, both at home and away. The last division opponent at Chase and on the road are the Padres, including the final series of 2016, in Phoenix. However, splitting up those contests against San Diego is the final road-trip, and it's another potentially rough one to the North-east of the country. We take on the Orioles, then have a four-game set against the Nationals. But it'd be nice to come home from that and still have the last three games be meaningful, in front of a rockin' crowd at Chase....