If you want a reason for optimism concerning the Royals as the second half starts, here it is. Of the teams that are in the mix for the second wild-card spot right now, Kansas City has one of the easiest schedules (on paper, of course).
The All-Star Break is a great time to compare remaining schedules, since we’ve got four days to look at the data. In addition to the actual records, I have added the Pythagorean records to show the “actual” strength of each team’s remaining schedule. The weighted wins and losses are simply the particular opponent’s actual/Pythagorean wins and losses multiplied by the number of games left against that team.
For purposes of this discussion, I’m ignoring the Angels, who are 6.5 games ahead of Seattle, the team currently holding down that second wild-card spot. I’m also ignoring Oakland, who holds a 1.5 game lead on Los Angeles in the AL West. It’s highly likely one will win the division and the other will be the first wild-card.
However, the AL East is pretty open, and both the Royals and Cleveland have at least a slim chance of winning the AL Central (I suppose). So I’m including those division leaders, Baltimore and Detroit, in this.
First, let’s look at the Royals. Of their 68 remaining games, 52 are against teams at .500 or worse. The 16 games against winning teams include seven against Oakland (gulp), six against Detroit (that’s worked out well so far this season) and three against San Francisco. If the Royals can manage to split those 16 somehow and go 30-22 in the others, that’s 86 wins, which might be enough this season.
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Now let’s look at Cleveland. The Indians also have 68 games left; 39 are against teams at .500 or worse. That’s in part because they play the Royals 10 times. Those games are looking pretty big right now. Cleveland also has to face Detroit 11 times; as long as the standings remain the same, I suppose we have to be big Tiger fans those days.
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Detroit has 71 games left; 51 are against losing or .500 teams. That’s going to make them tough to catch.
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Over in the AL East, Baltimore holds a four-game lead over Toronto and five games over New York. The Orioles, however, are only four games better than the Royals. Baltimore will face winning teams 31 times in their final 68 games. That includes seven games against Seattle and nine against the Blue Jays. They also play 13 games against teams right at .500, including 10 versus the Yankees. In other words, the AL East is wide open.
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Toronto has 66 games left; 21 are against winning teams, plus 10 against the .500 Yankees.
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New York is somehow at .500 this year, despite being outscored by 37 runs and suffering a bunch of injuries. Pooooor Yankees, right? Anyway, New York faces winning teams 30 times in their last 68 games. It will be interesting to see if Yankee magic can pull them through.
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In the AL West, leaving Oakland and Los Angeles out of it, the Royals’ main competition is Seattle. The Mariners have been hot lately, but it will be interesting to see if they can maintain it against a very tough schedule over their final 67 games. Seattle faces above-.500 teams 38 times, plus three games against Cleveland. While it might look advantageous to be in the same division with Houston and Texas, the Mariners also have to play the Angels 10 times and the Athletics six times.
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As you can see, the Royals, Indians, and Tigers play roughly the same strength of schedule the rest of the way. Based on opponents’ winning percentages, Toronto actually has the easiest schedule left. New York has a schedule similar to the AL Central teams.