Blue Jays: Can the Jays benefit from the new MLB schedule?
Will the Jays gain a strength of schedule advantage?
Common sense tells us that playing fewer games in the AL East is a considerable improvement to the Jays' schedule, and we are correct in that thinking.
Generally regarded as the toughest division in baseball, the AL East is a gauntlet year in and year out, and this is especially true right now.
Last season, the AL East was the strongest and most balanced division, finishing with the highest winning percentage in the game at .541. It was the only division with four teams over 80 wins and the only one where all five teams eclipsed the 70-win mark.
Baltimore has seemingly shed the label of the "division punching bag" and is on the verge of cracking open their competitive window. And even with Boston scuffling in the basement — who knows what version of the Red Sox will come out of Fenway this season? — they still managed 78 wins last year.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com recently did the math to show that the AL East and West divisions will benefit the most from the new 2023 schedule compared to the old format.
Baltimore will benefit the most, with their opponent's strength of schedule decreasing from .517 to .490, which works out to a +.027 boost. The Jays are right behind them, receiving a +.026 increase in ease of schedule.
One caveat is that the strength of schedule numbers were taken from FanGraphs' projected winning percentages. As such, they won't ever be perfectly accurate because they rely on teams performing to their projections. They can also change based on trades, injuries, roster moves, etc.
But projections are what we have to work with, and as Petriello reiterates, "there's generally a pretty strong relationship between projected outcomes and actual outcomes."
Regardless, the Jays and the entire AL East will benefit from playing fewer games against each other and more games against weaker NL teams and divisions. This means more wins to go around the entire division, so winning the division will still be challenging.
However, Petriello points out that it also increases AL East teams' odds of securing a Wild Card spot:
" It was already pretty hard to see the Central sending a team to the Wild Card, given the strength in the East and West, and this only exacerbates that."- Mike Petriello, MLB.com
Although the Jays are already favored to make the playoffs, Petriello's analysis puts them in an even more favorable position to make the postseason for a second straight year.
Next, we look at how the new schedule will alter the travel for the Jays and the other AL East teams.