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Schedule Favors Rangers Out West

Could an easier schedule down the stretch result in the Texas Rangers winning the AL West?

Could an easier schedule down the stretch result in the Texas Rangers winning the AL West?

Either the Texas Rangers or Oakland Athletics will walk away with the AL West crown this season. Picking which is turning into a headache for bettors across the lands.

20130813_AL_WestSince April 4 – the fourth day of the regular season – either the Rangers or A’s – or on occasion, both – have led the division, leaving the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros to look upwards in despair/envy/respect (delete as applicable). Now, with a little more than six weeks left of the season, separating the two requires much more than a well-greased crowbar.

Online sportsbook Bovada most recently had Texas at 10/13 to win the AL West on its MLB Futures, with Oakland narrowly behind at 1/1.

Despite the Rangers’ perceived superiority within the division, the bookmaker actually feels the A’s have a better chance of winning the AL pennant and the World Series. Odds of the club doing just that stand at 9/2 and 10/1 respectively, compared to the Rangers’ odds of 13/2 and 12/1.

Part of this discrepancy lies with both club’s remaining schedule.

The Rangers, as we shall see, have what appears to be the easier schedule, on paper at least. However, Oakland may be geared to succeed in the postseason where Texas may not.

Looking ahead, here’s a breakdown of each team’s schedule following their current series with the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros respectively.

Strength of Schedule

With 41 games left on the slate following Wednesday’s game against the Brewers, Texas will face opponents that have compiled a combined 510-549 (.482) record this season. 25 games will be against teams below .500, while 16 games will be against teams above .500.

20130813_AL_WildcardRemarkably, the Rangers do not play a team with a winning record until a three-game series against the A’s (September 2-4). If the club sticks to form, the Rangers should be rolling by the time that (big) showdown rolls around.

Oakland will also have 41 games left following its series finale against the Astros on Thursday. The club will face opponents with a combined record of 532-533 (.499), which is marginally better than that of those teams taking on the Rangers.

The A’s final run includes 22 games against sub-.500 teams, and 19 against those with a winning record, making it (in theory) more difficult than that of the Rangers.

In a reversal of roles, Oakland will play five of its next six series against teams with a winning record before closing out the season with six of seven series against teams with a losing record.

Both clubs have 22 home games and 19 road games left after their current series.

Record vs. Remaining Opponents

While the difference between each club’s strength of schedule may be negligible, their records against remaining opponents are anything but.

This season, Texas is 44-20 (.688) against the nine clubs it still has to play. Meanwhile, Oakland is 32-34 (.485) against those remaining on its schedule. That’s quite the difference.

There’s another perspective worth taking into account here too. Of Oakland’s 32 wins, 20 have come against the Angels and Astros, meaning the club is just 12-29 against the other eight teams it has left to play. Granted, the Rangers have picked up 21 wins against those same two clubs, but the Arlington crew has also record 23 wins against other teams it will be playing between now and the end of September.

Excluding the Angels and Astros, Oakland does not have a winning record against any team it has left to face.

Only the Chicago White Sox have a winning record against the Rangers, although the Minnesota Twins are tied 2-2 in the series head-to-head, while the Rangers have yet to face the Pittsburgh Pirates.

These are all trends that should be sounding the alarm bells with any bettor planning on backing the A’s for the AL West title.

Season Head-To-Head

Can the A's repeat last year's unthinkable finish?

Can the A’s repeat last year’s unthinkable finish?

Of course, as we learned from last season, there’s a good chance that this particular race will come down to how the two clubs fair against each other. Who can forget last season’s Game 162 that saw the A’s swipe the division crown from beneath the nose of the Rangers? That one game sent the Rangers from postseason favorites to Wild Card losers. Can we expect something similar this season?

So far, Texas has earned an 8-5 advantage in the season head-to-head with six games remaining. The two clubs will meet at O.co Coliseum for three games (Sept. 2-4) before finishing off the season series with three games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Sept. 13-15). While this latter series may not have the drama attached to it that last season’s finale had, make no mistakes, it will be influential in deciding which club advances to the postseason as a division champion and which enters as a wild card or misses out entirely.

At this moment in time, Texas looks like the smart choice for a division championship. But then again, the Rangers looked like the smart choice last year!

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