clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

strength of schedule - the rest of 2013

one of the major factors for the cardinals in upcoming months will be who they are playing.


with 65 games completed, the cardinals are about two weeks short of the midpoint in their season.

to date, one of the interesting facts about the cardinals is that they have played a lot of winning teams. compared to the other five teams in the division, the cardinals have played more games against teams over .500 than the reds or the pirates. the cardinals have played 30 games total against winning teams (going 17-13), while the pirates have played 26 games (going 16-10) and the reds have only played 21 (going 7-14).

the cubs and brewers have played more over .500 teams, although that has a lot to do with the fact that they don't get to play themselves; they each have 3 in-division opponents over .500 and only 1 under .500, while the cards, pirates, and reds have 2 in-division opponents over .500 and 2 in-division opponents under .500.

an awful lot of the good teams in the NL have made their names beating up on losing teams. only the cardinals, pirates, diamondbacks, and giants have a winning record against teams with a winning record.

since we've played a lot of over-.500 teams and beaten a lot of over-.500 teams, that probably means we have lots of under-.500 teams to play, right?

the rest of june is only interesting for two tough inter-league series against the rangers and the a's; otherwise, we see the marlins, the last game of this mets series, the cubs, and a two-game series with the astros -- four of the worst teams in baseball.

in july, the schedule looks nice. we play 3 games with the angels, worst in the AL West; 3 with the Marlins, worst team in baseball; 4 with the Cubs, worst in our division, 3 each with the middling padres and phillies, then close the month with two tough series against atlanta and division rival pittsburgh. that's a total of 16 games against losing teams, and 5 against winners.

july is a great chance to win a lot of games. while we are never guaranteed to beat a losing team, we have a .735 winning percentage (25 out of 34 games) against losing teams, with a .566 winning percentage against winning teams.

the next month our schedule is more challenging. august should be an exciting month, playing rivals for most of the series. we play the last game of the july series against pittsburgh at the beginning of the month, play a full series in the middle of the month, and start a third one at the end of august. we also play 3 games against the braves, and 6 against the reds. in between, we play 4 games against the dodgers, 3 against the cubs, and 3 against the brewers.

august, with 6 games against each of our closest in-division rivals, is a great chance to push one or the other way back in the standings. in particular, the pirates might begin to flag; they are 25th in team wOBA, and their pitching staff ERA runs more than a half a run ahead of its FIP. they should be ripe for some regression, and we are just the team to serve it up for them.

the other thing to note in august is that the losing teams we'll be facing: the dodgers, cubs, and brewers will probably have sold off valuable assets around the deadline. some of LA's assets are long-term and unmovable, but carrying ted lilly and chris capuano through the end of a losing year or carrying hanley ramirez through 2014 may look like a waste of money if the dodgers can get anything for them. maybe skip schumaker can start at second if mark ellis can be shifted elsewhere. there are fewer movable pieces on the NL Central squads, but the cubs might think david dejesus is very salable. generally, after the trade deadline, worse teams get worse, and better teams get better.

we start september with four games each against the pirates and the reds. but from there, the schedule allows a very quiet end to the season. we face the brewers six times, the cubs 3 times, the hapless mariners 3 times, and the merely-okay nationals three times. the rockies are the only other winning team we play in those closing weeks; nobody looks ready to run away with the NL West, so i'd expect them to be in a postseason fight of their own.

again, playing the nats, the brewers, the cubs, and the mariners, we are likely to be facing teams that have sold some of their movable pieces. michael morse looks movable for seattle, for instance, given the paucity of first base talent out there, as does jason bay or oliver perez. in september, especially later in the month, we also will have the luxury of trying out farmhands like kolten wong or oscar taveras against the cubs or the brewers, rather than division rivals. we also can take that chance to skip a start or two for some of the workhorses in the rotation if we have a solid lead in the division.

in all, i count 56 games remaining on our schedule against losing teams and 41 against winning teams. some like the nats, the phillies, or the padres are pretty close to .500, but the majority of the losing teams we face are pretty terrible. that schedule looks like a good position to be in for the cards. that strength of schedule might be worth an extra 2 wins over a neutral schedule over the next few months. which is pretty important in a tight division race.

july 26.

that's our magic date. set a calendar reminder on your phone and look at the standings on that date with a special eye. other than our two interleague series against the rangers and the a's, we play losing teams, including some of the worst in baseball, for a month and a half from today. in those 34 games, only 6 will be against winning teams.

starting on july 26th, we have a tough 6 weeks, including 21 games against the pirates and the reds, with a number of other difficult series mixed in. in those six weeks, we play 31 games against winning teams and 13 against losing teams.

by july 26, we should turn our modest two-and-a-half game lead into a solid cushion in the NL Central, beating up on all the bad teams we face, so we can go into that 6 week period with some margin for error. if we wake up on september 9 in the lead in the division, you have to like our chances to win it, as only 4 of our last 19 games are against winning teams. the pirates and reds play 6 games against each other in those last three weeks of the season, and the pirates have a series against the rangers as well.

we might also keep this schedule in mind as we plan for how we use our pitchers and position players. we might be generous with time off in the next 40 days, so that yadi isn't sitting in the sun in june and july during marlins and astros games; we need him to be sharp and healthy in august. we might allow some spot starts during june and july by joe kelly or carlos martinez, so that our young, developing pitching arms can be rested to go deep into games against the reds, the pirates, and the braves in that crucial 6-week period.