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The unbalanced schedule

By Gary Hill

The unbalanced schedule in Major League Baseball produces the exact result you would expect from something called “unbalanced”. Each MLB franchise plays teams within its division 19 times this season for a grand total of 76 games. Teams also play six or seven games against the 10 other teams within the league for a total of 66. Twenty interleague games finish off the schedule.

The issue is that the unbalanced schedule can lead to a massive disparity in competitive balance. For example, the Blue Jays are stuck playing a huge portion of their schedule against the Red Sox, Rays, Orioles and Yankees. On the other hand, the Braves have the good fortune to clash with the Marlins, Phillies, Mets and Nationals on a routine basis.

Most games against teams above .500:

1. Toronto, 91
2. New York Yankees, 77
3. Los Angeles Angels, 75
4. Houston, 75
5. Tampa Bay, 73
6. Minnesota, 72
7. Boston, 71
8. Seattle, 70
8. Kansas City, 70
8. Cleveland, 70

Fewest games against teams above .500:

1. Atlanta, 37
2. Los Angeles Dodgers, 46
3. Miami, 51
3. New York Mets, 51
5. Cincinnati, 51
6. St. Louis, 52
6. Pittsburgh, 52
6. Arizona, 52
9. Washington, 53
10. San Diego, 54

There is a difference of 54 games between Toronto and Atlanta in terms of games played against teams above .500.

The point probably does not need to be made that beating teams with better records is more difficult than beating those with worse records. As evidence, there are only three teams in MLB with a better winning percentage against teams above .500 than those below.

• Arizona: .538 above, .507 below
• San Diego: .500 above, .408 below
• Chicago White Sox: .403 above, .393 below

It should be noted that the Padres and White Sox have the lowest winning percentage against below-.500 teams in all of baseball.

The Blue Jays will face teams above .500 roughly 119 times this season. Since 2000, 46 teams have played at least 100 games against teams above .500 and only three of them have posted a winning record against them. Strangely, they all came from the same division in the same season.

• 2003 Phillies, 54-49
• 2003 Marlins, 53-48
• 2003 Braves, 57-43

The Marlins won the World Series that season.

This season the Blue Jays are 38-53 (.418) against teams above .500 and 19-14 (.576) against teams below .500.

A couple of interesting notes regarding records:

• Tampa Bay is just 34-39 against teams above .500, but they have the best record in the game against teams below .500 (37-13).

• Cleveland has the second-best record against teams below .500 (38-17), but the Indians are 29-41 against teams above .500.