Monthly Strength of Schedule

The month of May was a tale of two different teams for the Twins. They began the month by losing their first 5 series to Tampa Bay, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. But this was followed by winning their final 4 series of the month against Milwaukee, Toronto, Texas, and Chicago. Of the teams that the Twins played in May, only the Devil Rays and Rangers entered the month with records under .500, so the fact that the Twins managed to rebound after a difficult start could be interpreted as a positive sign. But was it the Twins turning it around, or did they hit a stretch of teams cooling off after good starts? I wanted to see how the Twins opponents so far this season stacked up against the other teams in the division and the American League. So I tried to look at the relative strengths of schedule for those teams. The strength of schedule (SOS) for a team each month was calculated using the opponent’s records for that month in games not against the team in question. (Thus, Seattle had an overall 10-10 record in April, but a 10-7 record was used for the calculation of Minnesota’s SOS due to the Twins sweep of Seattle). These records were then weighted by the number of games played against that opponent (so KC’s record counted more for MN in April, due to the 5 games played against the Royals). I also looked at whether the actual strength of schedule for May corresponded to what on would have predicted looking at the records at the end of April. Expected SOS for a month was calculated using the records of the upcoming opponents through the first of the month in question. Again the records were weighted by the number of games against each opponent.

First up is the AL Central:

AL Central April Record April SOS Expected May SOS Actual May SOS Difference May Record Expected June SOS
Chicago White Sox 12-11 .526 .473 .473 0 12-14 .439
Cleveland Indians 14-8 .504 .511 .526 -15 19-11 .468
Detroit Tigers 14-11 .477 .511 .547 -36 16-12 .496
Kansas City Royals 8-18 .528 .508 .543 -35 11-17 .504
Minnesota Twins 14-11 .451 .544 .502 42 13-14 .530

At the end of April, the Twins had faced the easiest schedule of the division and had managed to more or less keep pace with the frontrunners. But at this point the data set wasn’t very large, so it’s difficult to draw too many meaningful conclusions. Moving on into May, we start to get an appreciable amount of data. At the beginning of May the Twins looked to have the hardest road ahead, and though they finished the month with a record below .500 it wasn’t because of the level of their competition. In fact, only the White Sox had an easier schedule for the month. The Twins were the only team in the division whose opponents regressed in May. This is mostly due to the Twins series against the Brewers (16-9 in April, 14-15 in May), and the Blue Jays (13-12 in April, 12-16 in May). The Indians and Tigers just kept on rolling even though they both had challenging schedules for the month. That seems to bode well for those teams, if they can continue to win even against opponents who are playing well; chances are they will be around the top of the division at the end of the season. Unfortunately, the news isn’t as good for the Twins and White Sox, who both struggled to stay around .500 despite having easier schedules. Going forward, once again it looks like the Twins are going to be facing the opponents who have had the most success thus far in 2007. It looks like it will be tough to make up ground on the Indians especially this month, but as May showed, there is always the chance that the teams who got off to a hot start in the first two months (and drove up Minnesota’s expected strength of schedule) could cool off and become easy wins for the Twins.

For completeness, here’s the remainder of the American League:

AL East April Record April SOS Expected May SOS Actual May SOS Difference May Record Expected June SOS
Baltimore Orioles 12-14 .498 .499 .515 -16 15-13 .528
Boston Red Sox 16-8 .469 .517 .519 -2 20-8 .504
New York Yankees 9-14 .530 .523 .514 9 13-15 .532
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 11-14 .492 .497 .469 28 11-15 .505
Toronto Blue Jays 13-12 .491 .494 .515 -21 12-16 .506
AL West April Record April SOS Expected May SOS Actual May SOS Difference May Record Expected June SOS
Los Angeles Angels 15-11 .515 .482 .511 -29 18-11 .456
Oakland Athletics 12-13 .479 .457 .461 -4 14-13 .528
Seattle Mariners 10-10 .488 .480 .532 -52 16-14 .479
Texas Rangers 10-15 .527 .499 .479 20 9-20 .502

After the lowest SOS in the league in April, the Twins had the highest expected SOS in May in the league and were beneficiaries of the largest difference betwixt expected and actual SOS. As we look ahead to June, the Twins are the only AL Central team whose expected SOS is in the top half of the American League (they are second only to the Yankees). This month, if it follows these predictions will tell us a lot about where the Twins will settle in the divisional race, if they can remain within striking distance while playing quality opponents, a little optimism could be warranted. If not, at least this Slowey kid looks pretty good.

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