Sultan of Stat: Strength of schedule

Sultan of Stat examines statistical trends that give you a decisive edge on the competition. Check for new columns every Thursday.

The past two weeks, we've discussed the best matchups and players to exploit for the stretch run of the Fantasy Baseball season. That certainly helps provide useful tidbits to help with trade talks and setting your daily or weekly lineup, but it still doesn't answer one pressing question:

Which teams have the most and least favorable schedules the next five-plus weeks?

You'll hear many analysts point out that the New York Yankees have a far easier schedule than their division rival Boston Red Sox, or that the Minnesota Twins have the schedule edge in that tight American League Central race. But in Fantasy, it's never a good idea to take them at their word. It's far better to delve deeper into the numbers.

It's not as simple as isolating won/loss records for Fantasy purposes. For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks are just 14-18 since the All-Star break, scoring the fewest runs during that span. They have also allowed the fewest runs since the break, which means that while it's safe to start your pitchers facing Arizona, it's the direct opposite when considering hitters going up against the Diamondbacks' staff.

In other words, unless you also take a team's runs scored and runs allowed total into account, there is no equitable way to figure out which team truly has the most favorable schedule. Remember, won/loss records can sometimes be deceiving.

Our study took each of the 30 major-league teams' schedules (starting with the games of Friday, Aug. 22 and excluding makeup games that have not yet been rescheduled), and added up their opponents' statistics (through Aug. 20). For instance, since the Yankees are slated to face the Baltimore Orioles 11 more times and the Detroit Tigers just three more times, the Orioles' statistics counted 11 times towards the Yankees' total, while the Tigers were just three times. After the composite total of each team's opponents' won/loss record, runs scored and runs allowed were determined, the numbers were divided by the number of games remaining to provide rankings in each category.

Three most favorable schedules (American League)

Minnesota: The Twins certainly are in the driver's seat in the AL Central race, just as the analysts have said. Minnesota has seven more games against Detroit, and six apiece against Anaheim, Cleveland and Texas. Opponents' average record (OAR): 55-72, 1st; Opponents' runs scored average (ORS): 566.2, 5th; Opponents' runs allowed average (ORA): 641.0, 2nd.

Kansas City: Everyone is so quick to predict the White Sox will win the AL Central, but even "underdog" Kansas City has a more favorable remaining schedule. The Royals play Detroit seven more times, and Anaheim, Cleveland and Texas six more apiece. OAR: 55-71, 2nd; ORS: 562.2, 3rd; ORA: 632.6, 5th.

Toronto: It's surprising that with all this talk about how favorable the Yankees' remaining schedule is, that the Blue Jays actually have the more favorable matchups the rest of the way. Among Toronto's upcoming contests: Seven against Tampa Bay, and six apiece against Baltimore, Cleveland and Detroit. OAR: 56-70, 3rd; ORS: 568.9, 8th; ORA: 618.6, 10th.

Three most favorable schedules (National League)

Houston: The Astros need to face those light-hitting teams down the stretch with all the injuries to their starting rotation. Houston will get that as it plays eight more games against Milwaukee, and six more apiece against Los Angeles and San Diego. OAR: 59-67, 6th; ORS: 563.9, 4th; ORA: 607.6, 12th.

Chicago Cubs: Like the Astros, the Cubs get to beat up on some of those lesser offenses and struggling NL Central cellar-dwellers. Chicago gets to play Pittsburgh seven more times, Milwaukee six, and the Mets three. OAR: 59-66, 7th; ORS: 588.9, 13th; ORA: 629.9, 6th.

San Francisco: San Francisco's schedule is almost exclusively weighted towards its pitchers, as the Giants face nothing but mediocre offenses the rest of the way. On the map: Seven games apiece against Arizona, Los Angeles and San Diego, and three against Milwaukee. OAR: 61-66, 8th; ORS: 548.7, 1st; ORA: 564.1, 26th.

Three least favorable schedules (American League)

Baltimore: The Orioles have a schedule no team would envy, with 11 more games against the Yankees, seven against the Red Sox, and six apiece against the Athletics and Mariners. OAR: 73-53, 30th; ORS: 671.4, 30th; ORA: 568.3, 25th.

Tampa Bay: Like the Orioles, the Devil Rays' schedule is loaded with talented opponents in the AL East and West divisions. They face the Red Sox and Yankees seven more times, and the Athletics and Mariners six more times. OAR: 70-56, 29th; ORS: 659.9, 29th; ORA: 575.9, 22nd.

Texas: The Rangers play just six more games against teams with losing records, all against Anaheim. Included in the bunch are seven games against the Mariners and six against the Athletics. OAR: 68-58, 27th; ORS: 610.5, 22nd; ORA: 563.7, 27th.

Three least favorable schedules (National League)

N.Y. Mets: As if the Mets' season couldn't get any worse, they have to face the Phillies seven more times, and the Braves and Marlins six more apiece. OAR: 69-57, 28th; ORS: 591.2, 15th; ORA: 543.5, 28th.

Florida: Although the Marlins will be helped by facing the Mets and Pirates down the stretch, Florida has seven more games against Atlanta, six against Philadelphia and three against San Francisco. OAR: 67-59, 25th; ORS: 599.4, 19th; ORA: 573.9, 23rd.

Philadelphia: That powerhouse Braves lineup is what makes the other NL East teams' schedules so tricky; the Phillies face them seven more times. But Philadelphia also has six more games against wild-card contender Florida, three against St. Louis and a Labor Day makeup game against Boston. OAR: 66-60, 24th; ORS: 610.3, 21st; ORA: 601.0, 13th.

You can e-mail your Fantasy Baseball questions to Tristan H. Cockcroft at bleacher@commissioner.com. Be sure to put Attn: Tristan in the subject field, and include your full name and hometown. Please be aware, because of the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee answers to all questions.