- Paul Swydan, ESPN Insider
With 24 days still remaining on the baseball calendar, there are 15 teams with at least a 10 percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to Coolstandings.com. These 15 teams are also ranked Nos. 1-15 in the ESPN Power Rankings (PR) this week, from the Washington Nationals at the top of the heap to the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 15.
With 15 teams competing for 10 playoff spots, their remaining schedules will become major factors. As such, we have taken the liberty of creating a strength of schedule for the season's final three-plus weeks, and it shows the Nationals, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers as having the toughest roads ahead of them.
To get a good strength of schedule (SOS), we want to consider more than a team's current winning percentage. Winning percentage needs to be considered, but the mix of players who were on a team in previous months might not be the same as it is now, so we don't want to rely solely on that. So we compiled a list of every player who was on an active roster as of Saturday and used ZiPS' rest-of-season projections -- which quite simply forecast how a player will produce for the remainder of the season -- to create as clear a picture possible of each team's wOBA and FIP.
Then, the team's winning percentage, projected wOBA and projected FIP were weighted equally to determine opponent difficulty, which then were applied to each team's remaining schedule to determine whose schedule is filled with warriors and whose is filled with creampuffs. I did not consider defense or home versus road or number of days off, because with such a small sample of games there would be too much noise in including those variables in the data for them to add any value.
Washington Nationals: PR: 1 | SOS: 1
The Nats are not only the toughest team to face, they also face the toughest road. In addition to series with contenders the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, they have 10 games with two teams making such a hard push to be spoilers that they remain on the fringe of the playoff picture in the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies. The series with Atlanta this weekend could be particularly key. The Braves remain just 5.5 games back, and if they were to sweep, they could still have a chance to steal the National League East from the now Stephen Strasburg-less Nats.
Paul Swydan of FanGraphs says the Washington Nationals' difficult remaining schedule just got even tougher without Stephen Strasburg.