At first glance, it seems their primary division rivals might have much tougher rows to hoe. I've linked each team's schedule to their bolded name below:
They'll return next weekend to start a 9-game homestand (NYY, LAA, OAK) that takes them through August 3. They'll then hit the road for games in KC and Chicago before heading home to play the Rangers and Jays. Next, road series in BAL, TOR and The Toilet before finishing August at Fenway against the White Sox. Note that there's an off-day between each of their road series in August.
September begins with the Sox finishing their homestand vs BAL. Following an off day, they're in Texas for just three games before returning home to face the Rays and Jays. Their final road trip takes them to TOR and TB, and they finish up at home against the Indians and Yankees.
The Rays come out of the break at home vs TOR and OAK, then travel to KC and TOR before an off-day on 7/31 after 13 straight games.
They start off August in the Trop vs DET and CLE before starting a trip to SEA, OAK and TEX. The final game of the Rangers series is Sunday night on ESPN, and they'll have to fly straight home to host the Angels in a three-game set without an off-day. Then it's off to Chicago for three before finishing August at home vs TOR and BAL.
September looks absolutely brutal, with 27 games in 26 days, only 10 of them at home. They've got just one lousy off-day, and that comes on the road between series at Fenway and the Toilet. It's also their toughest month of the season in terms of schedule strength. They start out at home vs the Yanks, then embark on a 10-day swing to TOR, NY and BOS. Next, it's back home for the Sox and Twins. The season closes with 4 in Baltimore (including a twi-night doubleheader on Tuesday 9/23) and 4 more in Detroit.
13 of their first 16 will be at home. After hosting OAK and MIN, they hit Fenway for three. The Sox finale is a Sunday night ESPN game, and they open up a homestand the very next evening vs the O's and Angels. Next comes a 10-day trip to Texas, Anaheim and the Twin Cities. A 3-game home set with the Royals is sandwiched by a pair of off-days, then they head to TOR and BAL to close out August.
September starts with a four-city road trip. What once was an off-day on 9/1 will now be a Monday afternoon make-up game in Detroit. Then it's off to Tampa, Seattle and Anaheim. A day off on 9/11 precedes a 10-game homestand vs TB, CWS and BAL. Their final off-day is 9/22, and they finish the season in Toronto and Boston.
So, do the Sox really have the scheduling edge the rest of the way? Let's take a look:
Log5, using Bill James formula to calculate Expected Winning Percentage, is explained here. Note that it only compares the winning percentages of the two teams, but does not compensate for home field advantage.
What we see right away is that Tampa Bay has the most games to play, but their schedule strength is pretty soft -- especially for their 37 road games. September, with that lone off-day, will be a critical test for a young team that's short on pennant race experience. In addition to a physically taxing slate, the Rays' Log5 against September opponents drops from .573 to .554.
Meanwhile all but 6 of the Yankees' remaining games are against teams playing .479 ball or better at the break, and 36 of them are against the AL's five best teams (LAA, BOS, TB, CWS, MIN). Their only respites are series vs KC and SEA. The Log5 method has them playing sub-.500 ball the rest of the way. As I note below, that should be taken with a grain of salt, but there's no denying that they're going to be playing the cream of the crop.
As for the Sox, their slate appears tougher than I first thought when perusing their schedule. But those six well-placed off-days in August and September could prove crucial in getting rest for the pitching staff should they hit any extended bumps in the road. After this week, they'll have no more West Coast flights. Ditto for doubleheaders and make-up games. Those factors, and the absence of late ESPN telecasts that lead into next-day road games, ought to ease the stresses of travel.
Obviously Log5 is fluid and using it to project games several weeks down the road is more for fun than predictive value, so I'll try to update the chart every week or two and repaint the picture. But right now I'm feeling pretty damned confident about this team's outlook relative to the competition.
Edited by mabrowndog, 23 July 2008 - 07:42 PM.