Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Much has been made of the Royals’ relatively easy schedule in the final two months of the season, and for good reason. Roughly two-thirds of their remaining 49 games will be played against teams under .500. Teams with losing records are the kind of teams that contenders like the Royals should prefer to face, considering teams with losing records tend to lose more games than they win. Because winning percentage only tells you so much about a team, I wanted to dig a little deeper to see how weak the Royals’ upcoming opponents really are.
I decided to look up each team’s wRC+ and ERA-, to get a feel for team strength. While wRC+ isn’t a perfect proxy for runs scored, it’s park- and league-adjusted and does give a general idea of a team’s offense. As for ERA-, it tells how many earned runs the team allows, and adjusts to the park and league. This helps to account for team defense as well as the strength of a pitching staff. To properly weight the difficulty of each game, I simply calculated the average wRC+ and ERA- of each game remaining, rather than each opponent.
The Royals’ remaining opponents, as of this writing, have an average wRC+ of 98.3, meaning they’re slightly below average. That makes sense. Bad teams don’t normally have good offenses – 2014 Indians and Rays notwithstanding. As for the run prevention of the opponents, they have an average ERA- of 103.6. In this case, being above 100 is a bad thing for a team, and while it’s possible for a bad team to have a good pitching staff – looking at you, Padres – generally speaking, teams that allow a lot of runs won’t have a ton of success.
Ok, so we know the Royals’ opponents overall are not that good, but we pretty much already knew that after looking at their records. I’m not a fan of digging through statistics and not really learning anything, so let’s keep going. Now I’d like to get a feel for the strength of the Royals’ schedule, relative to the contenders around them. Some projection systems give the Royals a better chance of winning the division than the Wild Card, so I’ll include the Tigers in this breakdown.
Opponent average wRC+: 99.6
Opponent average ERA-: 102.3
Opponent average wRC+: 96.7
Opponent average ERA-: 95.3
Opponent average wRC+: 100.2
Opponent average ERA-: 99
Opponent average wRC+: 98.5
Opponent average ERA-: 102
A few notes:
– The Royals will be facing the worst run prevention units among the contenders listed above, which should bode well for their below average offense.
– The Blue Jays will face, by far, the weakest offenses down the stretch, partly due to seven games against the Mariners. The Blue Jays will also face, by far, the strongest run prevention units down the stretch, partly due to seven games against the Mariners.
– The Yankees will play a schedule that appears to be almost the exact definition of “average.”
– The Tigers’ pitching staff will face slightly better offenses than the Royals’ pitching staff will face. The fact that pitchers for the Tigers get to face Royals’ hitters in six games apparently isn’t enough to sway the average more in their favor.
– Ranking the five teams, from strongest to weakest opponent offense: Yankees, Mariners, Tigers, Royals, Blue Jays.
– Ranking the five teams, from best to worst opponent run prevention: Blue Jays, Yankees, Tigers, Mariners, Royals.
Using this method of analysis, it does appear to confirm the idea that the Royals have a more favorable schedule the rest of the way. Again, we may not have learned anything here, but we have more data to support our conclusion, and more data is almost always a good thing. Whether they take advantage of that schedule is obviously anyone’s guess, but they certainly control their own destiny with less than 50 games to go. That should lead to an exciting month and a half of baseball in Kansas City, which will absolutely be a welcome sight.