Through the process of updating each teams remaining “Opponents Average Run Differential,” hereinafter OARD, I came to some other interesting conclusions. You look at one thing, which leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another. It is fun and cool and a really quite interesting way of discovering things.
While updating the OARD, I concluded once again that the Cardinals had by far the easiest remaining schedule for those teams I had previously identified as contenders, but not necessarily locks for the postseason. The Reds were my only lock. Well, then I suddenly decided that maybe the Reds were no longer a lock. Why? They had just dropped four in a row, the Cardinals pounded the Braves the previous evening, and the Cards still had that ridiculously easy remaining schedule. So I decided I better look at the Reds’ schedule to see how easy or difficult it was. What I discovered was shocking. The Reds’ remaining OARD was a preposterous -86. Yes, you read that correctly: -86. And I thought the Cardinals had it easy, now at -56. The Reds have three against the Pirates and Padres, four against the DBacks, and six each against the Brewers and Astros. That’s three remaining games against a good team, and nineteen against cellar squads. Not to mention, four more at home than away.
So now I found myself wondering why that is? How could both St. Louis and Cincinnati be in such a fortunate position? Well, it didn’t take long to figure it out. If you take a look at their division standings, you’ll notice two things. One, they have six teams in the division. You would think that would put them at a disadvantage because they have one more team to compete with for the division. In many cases or other seasons, that’s probably correct. But this season, it is not. What’s obvious to me now is that when four of the six teams in your division are essentially the punching bags of the league; that provides a distinct advantage when it comes to the Wild Card.
So, of course, that made me want to check on the run differential for each division to put it into a statistic easy to understand. And: thanks to the Cubs, Astros, Brewers and Pirates, the combined run differential of the NL Central is -369. Now let that soak in. Negative, three-hundred, and sixty-nine. That seems fair since the Reds and Cardinals get to play these teams a disproportionate amount of times due to the unbalanced schedule. Not. This makes the argument for adding a second Wild Card team to duke it out in a first round of the playoffs all the more compelling. Meanwhile, the combined RD for the NL West is +131 and +168 for the AL East.
I wasn’t done yet. I then recalled that the NL West drew the AL East for interleague play in 2010. The Giants had to play the Blue Jays and Red Sox and A’s, and they were considered to be lucky because of it. Why? Because they didn’t face the Rays or Yankees. And who did the Reds play? Kansas City three times, Seattle three times, Oakland three times and Cleveland six times. Whoa. That’s three of the worst teams in the American League plus an average team in the weakest division in the AL, the AL West. As for the Cardinals, they got Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland, Toronto and the Angels three times each. Which is also a very fortunate interleague schedule. In conclusion, if the Giants were slightly lucky, the Reds were ridiculously, outrageously lucky.
My final conclusion in this road to discovery is that the National League Central division is no doubt the weakest division in the NL, if not Major League Baseball, in 2010. Luckily, it does appear that the Wild Card will likely come from one of either the NL East or West divisions, despite the disadvantage they clearly seem to have had. If the Giants do manage to squeeze into the playoffs, I will be hoping for the Reds or Cardinals.
If you managed to get through all that, here’s where the NL stands, in order of best position to get into the playoffs:
Phillies: Lead East by 1 game (OARD = +10)
Padres: Lead West by 1 game (OARD = +35)
Braves: Lead WC by 1 game (OARD = +33)
Reds: Lead Central by 5 games (OARD = -86)
Giants: Trail West & WC by 1 game (OARD = -2)
Rockies: Trail West & WC by 3.5 games (OARD = +10)
Cardinals: Trail Central by 5, WC by 5.5 (OARD = -56)
Lastly, just as soon as I more or less wrote off the Rockies, they got white hot and finished a sweep of the Reds. This prompted the reemergence of the annoying slogan, Rocktober. They don’t have a terribly difficult remaining schedule and I am no longer willing to write them off, especially with the Giants scheduled to visit their lovely facility in Denver once more. If you’ve got any favors from God to cash in, that might be the series to cash them in. The Giants’ final road trip of the season, to Chicago and Colorado, could be an offensive one!