As the dog days of summer set in, it’s hard for MLB teams to put out their best effort every time they climb out of the dugout. That’s when a soft second-half schedule can really give teams a break.
Evaluating the schedules for the remainder of the season is hardly an exact science. Teams go through streaks and slumps, suffer major injures, and see big name players come and go around the trade deadline.
Still, some teams clearly face an easier road down the stretch than others. By the numbers, American League clubs generally face tougher schedules than that of the teams in the Senior Circuit because the AL is just better than the NL. It’s that simple.
With that in mind, here’s a look at three teams that face some of the easiest schedules in baseball as they try to secure their playoff spots.
(Numbers compiled before Friday's games).
Pittsburgh Pirates: 45-36, +17.32 units
The Pirates are running away with the MLB money standings, almost four units ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles, and it looks the Bucs could build on their booty. The Pirates’ remaining opponents own just a .459 winning percentage. They have 42 of their 81 remaining games at home, where they have pocketed better than 13 units with a 26-13 record.
The longest stretch they’re away from home is a 10-game set later this month, but they should be able to build some momentum early in that trip, visiting Houston for four games before playing three at Wrigley Field. They finish that swing with three more at Cincinnati and close out the season with six games at home.
San Francisco Giants: 45-37, +6.63 units
The Giants trail the Dodgers by just a half a game and will be looking to make some hay in the second half. Their remaining opponents own a .471 winning percentage.
San Francisco doesn’t spend more than seven straight games on the road for the rest of the year and the club has 10 straight home games before visiting the Padres and Dodgers to finish the season. The Giants will likely hold their own destiny in the pennant race with four series left against the Dodgers – two home, two away. Chicago White Sox: 44-37, +5.73 units
The AL Central-leading White Sox have the easiest remaining schedule of any team in the American League. Chicago’s remaining opponents own a .497 winning percentage. The White Sox have been dominant on the road so far, going 23-16 as visitors to net more than 11 units.
They’ll need to keep that going and come out of the All-Star break hot with a stretch that sees them play 13 of 16 games on the road beginning July 13. If they ever get their game together at home, they’ll be really dangerous.
Sources: ESPN stats, ESPN’s Hunt for October