David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox hits a double in the 10th inning as Russell Martin of the New York Yankees defends at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.The Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees 3-2 in 10 innings. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
After an exciting weekend series against the Yankees, the Red Sox have a game and a half lead in the AL East heading into the home stretch. With the Yankees seven games up in the wild card race, it appears both teams have an excellent shot at the playoffs. Baseball Prospectus has the Red Sox playoff odds at a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs and the Yankees at a 99.3% chance. While Red Sox manager, Terry Francona, has downplayed the importance of winning the division, beating the Yankees for the AL East title would be a sweet ending to an excellent regular season. With that in mind, I took a look at the remaining schedule for both teams to see who has the easier path ahead.
Using the Fangraph’s power rankings, I calculated the average of both team’s remaining opponent’s WAR-based winning percentage. Using the fangraph’s data should give us a better sense of each team’s true talent then simple winning percentage or Pythagorean record, as the WAR based system focuses on performance and not just results. The results are not great for the Red Sox. They have the tougher schedule ahead of them with an average opponent’s WP% of .520, significantly higher than the Yankee’s opponent’s .509. Boston has 48 games remaining, while New York has 49. The result of this discrepancy does not quite equalize the lead Boston currently holds purely by statistics, but it may be quite significant in AL East race.
The biggest difference between the two teams is the remaining opponent’s in the AL West. Boston faces the Texas Rangers in two series, totaling seven games. New York sees the Angels for six games. While both teams are solidly above .500 by the Fangraph’s rankings, the Rangers have a significant edge. The Yankees have a slightly easier road even excluding this difference with fewer games against the Blue Jays and Rays left on the calendar, but if these two AL West opponents were switched, the teams would have nearly equally weighted schedules.
The Red Sox record against New York has been excellent so far this year (10-2!), and they will likely need to at least split the final six games to stay on top of the division. Beyond the head to head action, the difference between the two top teams in the AL East will largely be deciding in games against the game’s worst teams. Both teams will face the Orioles seven times as well playing series against the Mariners, Twins, and Royals. With the animosity that has developed between Boston and Baltimore this season, seeing the Orioles twice at the very end of the season might not be the best thing for the Red Sox, but it certainly best having six games against the far superior Rays team.
If the Sox are going to capture their first AL East title since 2007, they will have play better than the Yankees head to head, and against slightly better competition, just as they have done all year.