(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)
With the trade deadline looming, the next 10 days could determine which teams will enter the stretch drive in the best position. For some clubs, however, the biggest impact could come from their upcoming schedule, not a potential acquisition.
After a disappointing 4-4 road trip following the All Star Break, the Yankees return to the Bronx looking to gain some ground on the division leading Red Sox. Luckily, the upcoming 10-game home stand, which includes three of the league’s worst teams, seems ideally suited for that purpose. Not only have the Yankees compiled a 10-2 record against the Athletics, Mariners, and Orioles, but those three teams have a combined winning percentage of .350 (49-91) on the road. Sometimes Yankees’ fans can be accused of being greedy, but in this case, expecting at least eight wins doesn’t seem that outlandish.
If the Yankees’ offense was firing on all cylinders, it wouldn’t be a stretch to envision them steamrolling through the next 10 games. However, the Yankees wOBA of .306 over the past 14 days ranks even lower than the rates posted by the Athletics and Orioles. The arrival of these weaker opponents could be viewed as being just what the doctor ordered, but if the Yankees can’t score enough to take advantage of the schedule, the lull could wind up being a lost opportunity.
Unfortunately, the next 10 games might not be about making hay because the Red Sox also have a very easy schedule over the same span. Although not as favorable as the Yankees’ upcoming slate, the Red Sox’ next three series are against teams that have a combined road (Mariners and Royals)/home (White Sox) winning percentage of .390 (53-83). With Boston’s offense performing at peak levels, it’s hard to imagine them losing too many games over the next 10 days, so the Yankees can’t afford any slipups.
Note: Composite winning percentage based on the current home/road record multiplied by the number of related games remaining.
Looking further down the road, after the Yankees’ current home stand, the team will only have 22 games in the Bronx remaining, compared to 30 for the Red Sox. However, on the whole, the Yankees’ remaining schedule is a little easier than Boston’s. Over the rest of the season, the Yankees’ final 66 games are against teams with a combined winning percentage of .484 (based on current home/road splits, not overall record), versus .490 for the Red Sox’ remaining competition. Starting in August, however, the two teams’ composite schedules boast a more formidable combined winning percentage of .507.
Unless they decide to become sellers before the trade deadline, the Rays are the third team in the A.L. East pennant race. Like the Yankees and Red Sox, the Rays will face relatively weaker teams over the next 10 games, but all of them are on the road. Combined, the Royals, Athletics and Mariners are a respectable 77-77 at home, so Joe Maddon will have to guard against a letdown. Then again, the Rays have actually been a better team on the road, so the upcoming 10-game stretch could fall right into their hands.
Over their final 65 games, the Rays also face a more difficult composite schedule. The team’s remaining nine opponents have a combined, split-based winning percentage of .508, which increases to .509 at the beginning of August. Also, Tampa will have 32 homes games during the final two months, which, as previously mentioned, might not be a good thing.
There are many different ways to breakdown a schedule, but ultimately, what could wind up deciding the A.L. East race are the 28 remaining games between the three combatants. However, it doesn’t hurt to get fat on weaker competition heading into the dog days of the pennant race. For all three teams, the end of July provides just that opportunity. Neither ballclub is going to win or lose the pennant during this stretch, but a few costly missteps could make the road ahead that much more difficult.