The home stretch looms

The home stretch looms
Youk throws his hands up at this schedule // Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune

There are just 52 games left on the White Sox regular season schedule, compared to 50 for the Detroit Tigers.  While the Sox only have a one-game advantage in the division, that lead is entirely composed of the two extra games the Tigers have played and lost.

The White Sox play their 111th and 112th games of the season Friday and Saturday, the Tigers just lost their 111th and 112th games to the Yankees.  That's the most fun way to look at a set-up with no obvious advantage.

This is pretty much the same schedule closing things out.  The White Sox have exactly half of their games on the road, the Tigers have half of their games on the road.  The combined winning percentage of the Sox remaining opponents is .502, the Tigers' remaining opponents are .506.

Based solely on the winning percentage of their opponents, the Tigers should close out their season going 26-24, the White Sox 26-26, which would give them the same closing record, setting up a one-game playoff, which would presumably go into extra innings and never end.

That's unlikely, and would also be quite the dispiriting slog to the finish, but it hammers home the point that these closing stretches are pretty much the same.  The same.  The same.

There's not even very many uncommon opponents!  They each play an elite team apiece (a series in Texas for the Tigers, a three-game set vs. the Yankees in U.S. Cellular for the Sox), and the sting of a four-game set against the newly healthy Tampa Bay Rays for the Sox is somewhat off-set by one last series against old punching bag, the Seattle Mariners.

This is still pretty far out, and the more interesting elements are that the final 12 games for Detroit all come against the detritus of the AL Central, where as two of the final four series the Sox play will feature teams fighting for their playoff lives.

How much quit is part of the organizational plan for Kansas City, Minnesota, or Cleveland down the stretch could also play a big factor.  Both the Royals and Twins have better offenses than their moribund records reflect, whereas the Indians just shut down Travis Hafner and fired their pitching coach and could continue to tailspin...or could top starting Casey Kotchman at 1st base.  Playing out the string is a responsibility, guys.

In summary, two teams that have played to nearly a dead heat over the first two-thirds of the season have a nearly equal schedule over the final two months.  How you feel about the White Sox chances probably says more about you personally than anything else.  I say that without judgment, since I'm a crazy person with an unhealthy obsession.

 

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