That Red Sox comeback against the Yankees last night was awesome! Dave Barner and I were driving back from our Harvard-Yale psychology department softball grudge match, and the game kept us company for the 2+ hour drive. We were going through a toll booth on 90 when Varitek hit his homer, so I dosed the booth attendant with some very loud hooting and hollering. She just smiled.
Dave and I had noticed the other day that the Yankees looked to have an incredibly easy schedule down the strech in September - Detroit, Tampa Bay, Chicago. So we had agreed that the Red Sox probably needed to catch the Yankees quick, and pull ahead, if they were to have any shot at winning the East.
I decided to put this hypothesis to an analytical test.
The Sox have a brutal 14 straight games against Seattle & Oakland in the middle of August, a home-and-home set of 7 with the Yankees, and assorted garbage: 14 against Baltimore, 7 vs Tampa Bay, 5 vs the Chi Sox, 3 each against Texas, Anaheim & Cleveland, 2 vs the BJs, and 1 make-up against the Phillies.
Meanwhile the Yankees have a matching 14 against Baltimore and 7 vs. Tampa Bay, 6 each vs K.C. & the Chi Sox, 3 each vs. Oakland, Seattle, Anaheim, Texas, Toronto & Detroit, and the games with the Red Sox.
6 K.C. (57-46)
3 Detroit (28-75)
1 Chi Sox (54-51)
1 Blue Jays (54-51)
total (weighted) opposition W-L percentage: .470
However, as this is only over 11-12 games, it shouldn't amount to much; the Yankees can expect to win 5.83 and lose 5.17, the Sox can expect to win 5.46 and lose 6.54. The difference in these is 0.37 W, 1.37 L; add these up and divide by two and you get a 0.87 game difference in the standings as the, eh, "variance attributable to strength-of-remaining-schedule effects". Which is substantially less that the effect of any single game between the Sox and the Yankees.
So if the Red Sox don't catch the Yankees, no blaming it on scheduling. :-)