With May turning into June, we're now roughly a third of the way through baseball's marathon, and excuses start to look anemic. When your team is struggling or exceeding expectations after April, you can tell yourself it's still early. It's much easier to chalk up disappointments to the small-sample-size fairies, and it's fun to poke holes in the prognosticators' poor predictions.
But when that calendar creeps out of May, excuses are harder to accept, because many results are now baked into the cake. For this set of updated ZiPS mean standings and playoff probabilities, we added something a little different. We've included updated strength-of-schedule data, based on each team's roster strengths, the remaining schedule and the distribution of home and road games.
Why does this matter? Playoff races aren't typically about crushing your opponents, with most teams in baseball winning between 40 and 60 percent of their games over the course of a 162-game season, a relatively small separation betweens success and failure. So a win here and a loss there can make a very big difference.
Baseball plays an imbalanced schedule, and when you add in the fact that there's a slight schedule benefit to being an excellent team than a terrible one -- the Cubs never have to play the Cubs and the Padres never get the benefit of playing the Padres -- there's a good deal of variation in strength of schedule among teams. And when the wild cards are drawn across divisions, that can be very important.