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An Examination of Early-Season Schedules: Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers

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In baseball, it’s not necessarily how you play, it’s who you play. Just ask the Chicago Cubs, St Louis Cardinals, and Milwaukee Brewers. Thus far, the Cubs and Cardinals have had a very easy schedule, with the Brewers have played a tremendously difficult schedule.

(Editor’s note: this article was written prior to Tuesday’s games)

 

The Milwaukee Brewers have a disappointing 20-24 overall record. However, they have played only 20 games at home (and have gone 11-9), while playing 24 games on the road (going 9-15). Additionally, of their 44 games this season, 35 have been against teams with records over .500. That’s right: in 80% of their games, the Brewers have faced a team with a winning record. They have yet to face the likes of the Nationals, Rockies, Pirates, or Padres, and have faced the Giants only three times. In fact, of their remaining 118 games, only 60 are against teams who currently are .500 or better, and they will play the Nationals, Rockies, Pirates, Padres, and Giants a combined 39 times. The Brewers' schedule is going to be much easier during the rest of the season than it has been so far.

On the flip side of this equation are the Chicago Cubs and St Louis Cardinals. The Cubs currently sit atop the NL Central with a 28-17 record, while the Cardinals are two games out, with a 27-20 record. Both teams have been greatly boosted by the amount of games they have had at home: of the Cubs’ 45 games thus far, 27 have been in Wrigley Field, and Chicago has gone 19-8 in these games. In their 18 road games, the Cubs have only been 9-9. St Louis has had 27 games at home, where they have a 17-10 record. They’ve played only 20 games on the road, going 10-10.

 

For the Cubs, only 15 games have been against teams with a better than .500 record – that’s just 33%, as compared to Milwaukee’s 80%. While the Brewers faced the Nationals, Rockies, Pirates, Giants, and Padres a combined three times, the Cubs have faced these teams a combined 20 times. In other words, in addition to playing nine more home games than road games, the Cubs have played the National League’s five worst teams in 44% of their games thus far. Obviously, this won’t continue.

The Cardinals’ schedule has been even easier: they have played only 12 games against teams with a better than .500 record. They have played the Nationals, Rockies, Pirates, Giants, and Padres 23 times already (and will get to face them only 21 more times throughout the rest of the season).

 

Over the course of a season, teams’ strengths of schedule will change as certain teams perform better or worse. For example, Florida is currently over .500 while the Yankees are under .500; by the end of the season it is very likely that these records will be reversed. However, to this point in the season, the Cardinals and Cubs have had an extraordinarily easy schedule: a large amount of home games, and nearly half of their games against the five worst teams in the National League. The Brewers have had more road than home games, and have played nearly every game against teams with a better than .500 record. As all three teams’ schedules even out, so should the Cubs and Cardinals fall back and the Brewers improve.

Don’t count Milwaukee out of this race yet.