As we make the turn into September, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the schedules of the teams competing for Wild Card berths and see whose schedules bode well for a stretch run and whose schedules spell potential doom. The metrics to follow incorporate each of the five teams’ schedules starting Monday, with opponent average record compiled through Saturday night.
For the sake of the argument, I have included the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers, Giants, and Braves in the mix. Either the Giants or the Dodgers will take the NL West, leaving the other to fight for a Wild Card berth. Likewise, the Braves, who many have penciled in as a lock for the #1 Wild Card slot, are only 2 games up on the Cardinals for that top spot in the Wild Card standings so they have been included in the calculations as well.
One more clarification before we see the numbers: I analyzed each of the five teams’ strength of schedule by looking at the average opponent record for each game played, so, for example, a team who the Cardinals play 6 times will have their record counted double compared to a team the Cardinals only play 3 more times.
Let’s take a look at each team and see what their average opponents’ record is:
St. Louis Cardinals – .465
Pittsburgh Pirates – .455
Los Angeles Dodgers – .525
San Francisco Giants – .474
Atlanta Braves – .481
So, in order from easiest to hardest, you have:
1. Pirates (.455)
2. Cardinals (.465)
3. Giants (.474)
4. Braves (.481)
5. Dodgers (.525)
Besides the Giants (16 home, 11 road), the Cardinals have the best Home/Road ratio of the other 4 teams (15/13), with the Braves having the worst Home/Road ration at (13/15). Don’t look now but with that, and the 2nd hardest schedule from here on out, the Braves are most certainly NOT a lock to get that top Wild Card spot, up just 2 games coming into action Sunday.
Take-Aways and a Deeper Look:
- The Dodgers appear to have the toughest schedule from here on out, making it more and more likely that the Giants will end up hanging on to their 4.5 game lead in the NL West
- The Cardinals have 9 games against the two worst teams in the NL (Astros and Cubs), whereas the Pirates have 13. Advantage: Pirates
- The Dodgers and Giants play each other 6 more times, including 3 in the final series of the season, so both teams control their own destinies there.
- The Braves and Pirates end the season playing each other in a 3-game series in Pittsburgh. No doubt that that will have monster playoff implications at that time.
- The Cardinals end their season with 3 against the Nationals and 3 against the Reds; while both teams will likely have secured division titles by then, there is a very good chance that both teams will be looking to get the best record in the NL for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (NL won the AS Game and will host the World Series). That may bode poorly for the Cardinals who otherwise might expect both teams to be looking ahead to the postseason instead of going all out for late season wins.
- The NL has many horrendous teams, and the Cardinals should be able to take care of their own business if they go out and play their game. They NEED to beat the bad teams consistently because, as you can see above, the teams in competition with them, are also playing mediocre teams. Sitting in a playoff spot heading into action Sunday, the Cardinals will have no one to blame but themselves if they do not make the playoffs, but with a .465 opponent winning percentage the rest of the way, the Cardinals should be able to get it done.
For more Cardinals news, notes and analysis, follow Bradley Baskir on Twitter: @BradleyBaskir