Every year when the All-Star Break rolls around, it is helpful to take a step back and look at the big picture. While it is not the halfway mark, it is close enough where we use the couple days of break to separate the “first part” and “second part” of the season. Earlier today, Mark recapped the first part of the season; now we'll take a look at the Braves' post-All-Star Break schedule.
Entering the second part of the season, the Braves sit at 54-41 (.568) with a 6 game lead on the Nationals and a 6.5 game lead on the Phillies. Coolstandings.com gives the Braves a 92.5% chance of making the playoffs and an 88.5% chance of winning the division. If we turn to Baseball Prospectus’ odds, they give the Braves an 89.7% chance of making the playoffs and an 86.3% chance of winning the division. As we know, things can change in the blink of an eye, but I think anyone here would certainly take those odds coming out of the All-Star Break, considering the top of every other division is separated by 2.5 games or less.
As we witnessed, the Braves have already played a fairly tough schedule. They traveled out west twice and had 20 and 21 consecutive game stretches. A tough first part of the season means an easy second half, right?
I sorted the teams left to play by number of games along with three different ways to attempt to measure the strength of schedule for the rest of the season. The purpose is to analyze, but this is also can be treated as a simple, fun exercise (depending on one’s definition of fun).
|Team||Games||Win %||Pythag Win %||Proj. ROS Win %|
|New York (N)||9||0.451||0.473||0.459|
The first column is simply the opposing team’s winning percentage at this point in time. Using this backward looking strength of schedule metric, you assume the teams will play at the same level they have prior to the break, going forward with the same amount of talent and luck.
The second column is the opposing teams' Pythagorean win/loss record from the first half. For those not familiar, this estimates what a team's winning percentage “should” have been based on the number of runs scored and runs allowed. Using the Braves as an example, their Pythagorean W/L was 56-39, meaning this was their expected record looking at the teams 415 runs scored and 337 runs allowed (often used to describe to how lucky or unlucky a team as been). This may give a truer assessment of how a team played in the first part of the season. As you can see, not much changes in terms of rest of season strength of schedule.
Finally, the most advanced and most complicated is the forward looking "projected rest of season winning percentage"via FanGraphs. If this isn’t your cup of tea, no sweat, feel free to skip ahead. These records are projection based, from a combination of individual ZIPS and Steamer (two of my personal favorite projection systems), for what we can expect the rest of the season. This takes into account factors such past player performance, health and playing time for individual players, then eventually boils it down into a team winning percentage. You’ll notice this strength of schedule system churns out a number a tad higher than our first two columns. My initial assumption is that because both projection systems use forms of regression, and that the remaining strength of schedule is already below .500, we see a number between the two. Take this for what it is, a projection.
No matter which way you slice it, the Braves do look to have a relatively easy schedule left. Here are some additional notes to consider:
- The farthest west the Braves travel is St. Louis.
- They only have 19 games remaining against teams over .500.
- They have 35 home games and 32 road games remaining.
- The team will have 6 off days, 4 in August and 2 in September.
- The longest remaining stretch of games is 20, starting today. After that, 13.
- The Braves end with a 7 game home stand against Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
- Speaking of Philadelphia, it will be interesting if they turn into buyers or sellers (or hold). Trading big name players like Cliff Lee and/or Chase Utley for prospects could make the Braves' 13 remaining games much easier than anticipated (I don’t see this is being likely though).
- Using the standard strength of schedule (first column above), the Braves have the easiest rest of the season schedule in the NL, and it’s not relatively close.
- Washington (.486) and Philadelphia (.494) both project to have harder schedules going forward, but they are the second and third easiest.
- If the Braves play at the same pace they did pre-All-Star Break, they'll finish with 92 wins.
The schedule is definitely in the Braves' favor the second half of the season. And while the numbers are nice, at the end of the day it's more about the lack of travel, spread out off days and having more games at home than on the road. That is not to give off the impression it will be a cakewalk to the playoffs; these games aren’t won on paper, ya know. But it sure doesn’t hurt having an uncontrollable factor, like the schedule, working in your favor.