## Which team has the more difficult road to the playoffs?

In two months, the Twins regular season will be over. Between now and then, the team will play 55 games, needing to overcome a 1.5 game deficit to the White Sox in order to win the AL Central.

Given the fact we just hit the two month countdown, I thought it might be useful to do a stretch-run schedule comparison, to see if either team has a significantly easier path to the postseason.

To start, let's look at some basic facts about the two teams' remaining schedule:

• The Twins have 28 home games remaining and 27 games on the road. The White Sox have 28 left at home and 28 away.
• The teams face each other 9 more times. Three of the games are at Target Field, six are in Chicago.
• The four toughest opponents on either team's schedule (not counting the games left against each other) are Tampa Bay, New York, Boston, and Texas. The Twins have 9 games left against those teams - 2 more in Tampa, 4 in Texas, and 3 more against Texas at Target Field. The White Sox have 10 games left against this group - they play the Yankees 3 more times at home, and have 7 games left against the Red Sox (4 at home, 3 away).
• Both teams play 37 more games against teams with .500 or better records.

Next, I looked at two stats to compare the two teams remaining schedules: the winning percentage of each team's upcoming opponents, as well as their opponent's "second-order", adjusted winning percentage (via Baseball Prospectus, full explanation here)

 Opponents' Winning Percentage All Remaining Games Winning % Adj. Winning % Twins 0.501 0.499 White Sox 0.484 0.495

Next, I did the same analysis, but subtracted the games the teams play against each other.

 Opponents' Winning Percentage Not including Twins/White Sox Winning % Adj. Winning % Twins 0.488 0.488 White Sox 0.471 0.479

By these measures the Twins face a slightly more difficult schedule from here on out. While we don't have to face either the Yankees or Red Sox, we do have two series left against Texas. More importantly, the White Sox have seven games remaining against Baltimore, who currently sport the worst winning percentage in baseball.

I also tried grouping each team's remaining games in three categories: games against teams with sub-.450 adjusted winning percentages, games against teams with adjusted winning percentages between .450 and .550, and games against teams with adjusted winning percentages above .550.

 Opponents' Adj. Winning Percentage # of games <.450 .450-.550 >.550 Twins 21 12 22 White Sox 22 15 19

Now, we'll break down the data by month, looking solely at adjusted winning percentage:

 Opponents' Adj. Winning Percentage By Month August Sept./Oct. Twins 0.507 0.492 White Sox 0.478 0.510

This is a little bit more interesting. The White Sox have an extremely soft schedule in August (their August opponents' actual cumulative winning percentage is .461), but they potentially face a tough road in the last month of the season, including a 16-game stretch against teams currently sporting winning records. The Twins schedule works just the opposite: August features games against Tampa Bay, Chicago, Texas, and Los Angeles, while September presents home and away series with both Kansas City and Cleveland.

Of course, the wild card in all this is waiting to see which teams will still be competitive in September. Right now, the Tigers sport a .500 winning percentage and an adjusted winning percentage that's even higher. Considering their injuries and decline in the standings, it wouldn't be surprising to see them use September as an opportunity to spread around playing time and protect key starters. However, if they are able to piece together a strong August, they could remain a formidable opponent in the season's final weeks.

For sake of argument, let's assume both the Tigers and A's fall out of the playoff hunt by September (which seems a reasonable possibility, although far from guaranteed). If that were true, the Twins would not play a competitive team after September 16 and would only play a total of six games against playoff-caliber teams after September 1.

It's a little harder to present a similar analysis for Chicago. Their September schedule is filled with teams that may or may not be competitive, including Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Detroit. If at least two of those teams are still fighting for a playoff berth in September, Chicago could have a very difficult month. This will all play out between September 17th and 30th, when Chicago plays three at home against Detroit, three in Oakland, three in Los Angeles, and four at home against Boston. That could be a season-changing stretch of games for the White Sox, the difficulty of which will be determined by where those four teams are in the standings.

At the end of the day, it's hard to say that either Minnesota or the White Sox have a significant advantage in their remaining schedule. The White Sox seem to have a slightly easier road, especially given the fact they host 6 of the 9 remaining games between the two teams. However, if the race remains neck-and-neck through August, it is possible the differences in the two teams' September schedules could play a role in which team is crowned division champions.

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