As I was watching the St. Louis Cardinals get plastered by the New York Mets on Thursday afternoon, the mail arrived. Among the usual catalogs and bills was the April 4 edition of ESPN The Magazine.
Its cover, depicting a bionic-looking Aroldis Chapman*, caught my eye. Among the items in the MLB preview section was a featurette on page 62.
Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory used his ZiPS projection system to predict the aggregate 2011 winning percentage of each of the 30 MLB teams’ opponents. Of course, the unbalanced schedule makes the outcomes less apparent.
One observation is that poorer teams have tougher schedules since they don’t have to play themselves. Another is that all American League teams have tougher strength of schedules than National League teams.
To top it off, the Cardinals have the easiest schedule in all of MLB at .484, according to the projections. The Toronto Blue Jays at .522 have the toughest row to hoe in 2011.
Wanting to look into this further, I discovered Szymborski wrote about this subject in more depth at ESPN.com. In a subscriber article, he presents a case that if the two birds changed nests, the Blue Jays would win the 2011 NL Central.
Sadly, in his equal but opposite reaction, Szymborski put the Philadelphia Phillies into the AL East instead of the Cardinals, but still made his point. The Phils would not take the division, says the projection.
Instead of celebrating the weak schedule, Cardinals fans should be very concerned – at least if 2010 is repeated. Last season, St. Louis stumbled to a confounding 46-50 mark against teams with a losing record, including season series wins by NL Central foes Milwaukee, Chicago and Houston.
* I have since learned the Chapman cover photo was taken by St. Louis-based photographer Scott Rovak, a real pro and an amazingly hard worker. Congratulations, Scott!