2020 MLB Strength of Schedule Analysis (Fantasy Baseball)
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Things are finally coming together for the 2020 MLB season, and as long as nothing unexpected happens, we should have baseball back in just a few weeks.
At this moment, we do not have an official schedule for the year, but we do know what the proposed framework would look like:
- Each team plays 40 games against their division opponents (10 games against each opponent)
- Each team plays remaining 20 games against their geographic counterpart from the other league (NL East vs. AL East, etc.)
To take the example of the New York Yankees, their schedule would look something like this:
- 10 games vs. Red Sox
- 10 games vs. Rays
- 10 games vs. Orioles
- 10 games vs. Blue Jays
- 4 games vs. Phillies
- 4 games vs. Nationals
- 4 games vs. Marlins
- 4 games vs. Braves
- 4 games vs. Mets
The structure of the schedule will likely result in certain teams facing vastly different strengths of schedule than other teams, since they are only playing nine different teams. If 2020 is anything like 2019, pitchers that pitch all year against the AL and NL Central should have a big advantage over pitchers that are up against the AL and NL East all season.
I decided to run the numbers to check on this. I generated every team’s schedule, and then added up all their opponent’s hitting and pitching stats from 2019. To make this as accurate as possible, I even weighted the stats properly, giving more weight to the intra-division opponents than the inter-division opponents since teams will play those teams six more times.
Not wanting to inundate everybody with a ton of numbers, I chose just a few categories to look over.
For hitting, I chose OPS and K% as I believe these stats encompass most of what you are interested in when looking at the schedule your fantasy pitcher is facing.
For pitching, I went with ERA, WHIP, and K/BB ratio. While ERA is a pretty random category, it still does a decent enough job at showing who the best and worst pitching staffs are. WHIP and K/BB are good complements to it to show a little more full picture.
Results – Pitching Schedules
Here is the table. For each team, you see their opponent’s total OPS and strikeout rates.
Based on the 2019 numbers, the Twins pitching staff will have the most favorable schedule of opponents. This is not a big surprise when you consider the offenses of the NL and AL Central divisions. The Royals, Tigers, White Sox, and Pirates were pretty pitiful offenses last year, and teams like the Reds, Cubs, Indians, Brewers, and Cardinals are far from league-leading offensive units.
Things get a little tougher for the non-Twins AL Central pitching staffs, as they have to face that Twins juggernaut – however they still benefit from their division. You can see the first five teams on the list are all in the Central divisions.
When we look at the bottom of the chart, we see two East division teams. The Marlins and the Orioles will have to face brutal lineups like the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, and Nationals a ton this year, and they don’t get much rest with squads like the Rays, Mets, and Blue Jays either.
Results – Hitting Schedules
The Rays, Indians, Astros, Dodgers, and Twins seem like the biggest beneficiaries of the schedule here, all facing a lot of pitching staffs that were very bad in ERA, WHIP, and K/BB ratio last year. There doesn’t seem to be much divisional consistency here. For example, you see the teams in the AL East spread all over the table with the Rays up top, the Blue Jays near the middle, and the Orioles near the bottom.
Surprisingly we see the Rockies at the bottom of the chart. This is mainly explained by the fact that they have to face the Dodgers 10 times this year and do not get the benefit of facing their own horrible pitching staff like the rest of the teams that also have to face the Dodgers. The departure of Gerrit Cole does take away a big burden from teams in the West Divisions and adds it onto the teams in the East Divisions, so keep that in mind. But there are reasons to not be so excited about Rockies hitters this year.
The other teams at the very bottom of the chart are not really teams that you are looking to for offensive help anyways, but there may be a cause to just outright scratch your Pirates, Orioles, and Marlins completely off your draft list.
- Central Division pitching staffs, especially the AL Central (and especially especially the Twins) should feast
- Give a slight decrease in value to Eastern Division pitchers as they play extra games against some tough offenses and in some really good hitting parks like Fenway, Yankees Stadium, Nationals Stadium, and Citizens Bank Park
- With no Gerrit Cole and extra Coors games, the NL and AL West are pretty good places to be for hitters
It should be a wild ride. Happy baseball season everybody!