Most people severely underrate strength of schedule as an explanation for how their team is playing. Part of this is due to the belief that “you just have to beat whoever is out there” and that a team is simply capable of playing well regardless of their opponent. This is silly.
The fact is that the Brewers have a favorable schedule going forward, especially after the current road trip ends. I don’t mean to discount said road trip, and it is in fact hugely important, it’s just that if the Brewers can finish the trip without experiencing a complete disaster they’ll be in good shape. Here’s why.
First I’m ignoring the Reds*, which I probably shouldn’t do. If they make some big splash or something I’ll take a look.
Second, let’s dispense with this Pittsburgh nonsense. Absent a major upgrade (or two) the schedule is going to do in the Pirates. Why? They’ve already played the dregs of the NL central, and now it’s everyone else’s turn. Of their remaining games against their own division they only get Houston 6 more times and the Cubs only 7 more. They play 8 more games against the Reds (though all are at home), 10 against the Brewers (6 in Milwaukee) and a whopping 13 against the Cards (though 9 are at home).
Not only that, of their 33 remaining road games, 3 are in Philly (best team in the NL), 4 are in Atlanta (2nd best team in the NL), 3 are in San Fran (best team in the West). That’s 30% of road games against likely playoff teams. Moreover, an additional 13 road games are against quality teams with winning records, some of which will likely be division leaders in short order (6 @ Milwaukee, 4 @ St. Louis, 3 @ Arizona).
Pitt’s home schedule is no great shakes either. They’ve feasted on an easy schedule so far and, to their credit, banked a lot of wins. That is all about to change.
St. Louis, on the other hand doesn’t see a lot of quality at home or away for the remainder of the year. They have 35 home games to only 32 road games, and almost half of their road games will be in Houston (3), Chicago (3) or Pitt (9). They do have a 4-game series in Philly, but aside from that it’s basically Milwaukee and the dregs of the East.
At home they’ll see Atlanta for 3, but they get 10 games against the Houston-Chicago duo of terribleness, 3 against the bankrupt Dodgers and 3 against the bankrupt Mets. They still have 12 total games against Milwaukee, and if the Brewers are going to beat out the Cardinals, they’re probably going to have to do most of the damage in person which is as it should be.
St. Louis’ schedule looks easy in my opinion, but the Brewers do have a few things going for them if they can get through the final 6 games of this road trip in decent shape. If they go 3-3 I’ll be extremely happy, and 2-4 is probably good enough.
To the point, after this road trip the most difficult opponent the Brewers will face on the road is St. Louis (6 games). After the current road trip the Brewers will have 25 road games remaining (v. 34 home games), 9 of those are against Houston/Chicago, and 3 are against a post-trade-deadline Mets team. The only tough road games left for the Brewers after this are all in the division. The Brewers have been terrible on the road no matter who they have faced, but part of that lack of success is due to a tough road schedule and that is going to even out.
The home schedule is also largely favorable. While the Cards will be traveling to Philly for 4 at some point the Brewers get them at home. The Brewers still have 9 home games against the Houston/Chicago combo at home and outside of Philly don’t face any elite competition outside of their division.
Here’s the nuts and bolts breakdown:
Pitt – 13
St. L – 16
Mil – 18
V. Philly and Atlanta
Pitt – 7 (all road)
St. L – 7 (3 v. Atl at home, 4 v. Phi on the road)
Mil – 4 (Phil, all at home.)
V. Each Other
Pitt – 13 v. St. L (9 at home), 10 v. Mil (4 at home)
St. L – 13 v. Pitt (4 at home), 12 v. Mil (6 at home)
Mil – 10 v. Pitt (6 at home), 12 v. St. L (6 at home)
*OK, I lied. Cincy has a weird schedule, and their biggest problem is that they’re starting from a 4-game deficit behind 3 teams. They have 16 games left against the Houston/Chicago combo, and they have a much more difficult home schedule (3 v. Atl, 4 v. Phi, 3 v. SFG) than road schedule. (The only teams with a winning record? Pitt (8 games), Washington (3 games), and St. Louis (3 games).)
It’s not a tough schedule, but with 23 games against the NL east and a 4-game deficit, I don’t think it’s quite enough, especially compared to the Cards and Brewers.