Sunday, August 23, 2009

Does a Tougher Schedule Mean No October Baseball?

Regardless of how this game turns out, it's seems fairly safe to say that as sure as at least one person behind home plate will be waving like an idiot at the camera while talking on their cell phone, the Yankees will end up winning the AL East. I've come to terms with this idea, while blessing the idea of the Wild Card and its power to salvage the season. We still have a shot at the final glory, you see, so it's easier to wave goodbye, however wistfully, to one of the prizes to be obtained along the way.

While contemplating this state of affairs, I wondered if anyone had ever done a statistical study about the effect of the difficulty of the schedule on the likelihood of making the post-season. For example, if the Red Sox have a schedule where tough items like a road trip against New York followed by a swing out West are the norm, are they less likely to win the AL East crown or the Wild Card? Or, because each team plays every other team in their league a certain number of times, are the tough moments games by the easier ones?

Were I to do such a study, I'd probably use each team's Pythagorean for the year: after all, the idea is to determine how "tough" each team is to face, and a measurement of their predicted winning percentage as determined by runs allowed and scored seems like a good measurement. After that, I'd take all of the available data and start looking for patterns to see whether or not I could determine what the minimum winning percentage would be to define a "tough" team. From there, I could make some judgments about the layout of a tougher schedule and see where each team finished.