Tuesday, July 23, 2024
AnalysisMLB

Potential Grapefruit-Cactus League Strength of Schedule Rankings

According to well-known baseball writer Bob Nightengale, “Major League Baseball, assessing myriad proposals, has discussed a radical plan that would eliminate the traditional American and National Leagues for 2020, a high-ranking official told USA TODAY Sports, and realign all six divisions for an abbreviated season.”

There would be two leagues: the Cactus and Grapefruit.

The Cactus League would consist of the fifteen team whose spring training complexes are located in Arizona, while the Grapefruit League would be made up of the fifteen teams whose spring training facilities reside in Florida.

Cactus League

Northeast

  • Giants
  • Diamondbacks
  • Athletics
  • Cubs
  • Rockies

West

  • Dodgers
  • Reds
  • White Sox
  • Indians
  • Angels

Northwest

  • Mariners
  • Padres
  • Brewers
  • Rangers
  • Royals

Grapefruit League

North

  • Yankees
  • Phillies
  • Tigers
  • Pirates
  • Blue Jays

South

  • Red Sox
  • Orioles
  • Twins
  • Braves
  • Rays

East

  • Marlins
  • Nationals
  • Astros
  • Mets
  • Cardinals

What I’m most curious about is which teams stand to benefit/suffer most from this possible realignment.

Before we do any math to determine an approximate strength of schedule for each team, we need to make a few assumptions.

Had the MLB season been a normal one, each team would have played 46.9% (76 out of 162) of its game against teams within its own division. For the purpose of this investigation, we are going to assume that each team will play that same percentage of games against divisional teams (11.7% for each division team).

Obviously inter-league play is not on the table, so we will assign the remaining 53.1% of games to the rest of the teams in the same league (5.3% for each non-division team).

Additionally, we are not going to remove designated hitter projections from AL teams. For instance, if I were to do that for the Tigers, that would practically remove Cabrera’s entire projection. It’s likely the Tigers’ 1B projections would go up if Cabrera would were to play there rather than DH.

The final and most bold assumption that we have to make is that FanGraphs’ WAR Projections are fairly representative of how talented a given team is (in turn, how difficult they are to beat) and that the ordering of the teams will not be heavily affected by a shortened season.

In 2019, the correlation between team wins above replacement and team win percentage was very strong (almost .95). Teams that finish the season with a higher wins above replacement total tend to have won a higher percentage of the games they played.

The way strength of schedule (SOS) will be computed for each team is fairly simple. I will calculate a weighted team fWAR projection for each team’s opponents for the 2020 season.

Most talented divisions in MLB based on team fWAR projections:

  1. CL West (42.8)
  2. GL East (40.1)
  3. GL South (38.3)
  4. CL Northeast (35.1)
  5. GL North (34.5)
  6. CL Northwest (31.2)

Unsurprisingly, the division with the Dodgers, White Sox, Angels, Indians, and Reds is on the top of this list, and the division with the Mariners, Padres, Brewers, Royals, and Rangers is at the bottom.

The Grapefruit League (37.6) is slightly stronger than the Cactus League (36.4).

Here are the final results…

TeamTeam Preseason Projected fWAR (FanGraphs)NEW Weighted Opponent Preseason Projected fWARRankOLD FanGraphs Strength of ScheduleRankDifference in Rank
Angels42.037.780.50211-3
Astros54.036.4200.49028-8
Athletics45.034.9270.495225
Blue Jays31.337.3140.502113
Braves43.137.1150.501132
Brewers38.634.4290.5011316
Cardinals36.738.530.50017-14
Cubs40.635.4250.498205
Diamondbacks36.135.9240.505717
Dodgers55.036.2220.49224-2
Giants24.637.3130.51049
Indians41.637.780.49126-18
Mariners21.736.4200.513317
Marlins23.740.020.51511
Mets41.737.960.5048-2
Nationals44.537.5120.49621-9
Orioles16.840.210.5142-1
Padres39.834.2300.4991812
Phillies38.036.5190.504109
Pirates28.437.6100.50655
Rangers31.235.2260.5011313
Rays44.836.9160.49027-11
Red Sox39.037.6100.49423-13
Reds35.538.530.50113-10
Rockies29.336.7170.506512
Royals24.636.0230.499185
Tigers22.638.350.5048-3
Twins47.736.6180.48929-11
White Sox39.937.960.49224-18
Yankees52.034.9270.48830-3
Source: FanGraphs

Teams that benefit most from this realignment:

  1. Diamondbacks and Mariners
  2. Brewers
  3. Rangers
  4. Padres and Rockies

Teams that suffer most:

  1. Indians and White Sox
  2. Cardinals
  3. Red Sox
  4. Rays and Twins

Teams least affected:

  1. Orioles and Marlins
  2. Dodgers, Mets, and Braves

Featured Image: Diamondbacks Twitter