Which contenders have toughest schedules?

August 9th, 2018

The non-waiver Trade Deadline is in the books, and nearly all the major acquisitions are complete. Barring a -type deal at the August 31 deadline, all that's left to do is play the games and watch the pennant races play out.
But not all stretch runs are created equal, and the schedule could ultimately become a factor. Below are the remaining strength-of-schedule opponent win percentages for each of the 30 MLB clubs, along with a look at each team's biggest series between now and the close of the regular season on Sept. 30.
Note: Strength-of-schedule figures are courtesy of FanGraphs, who uses a combination of opponents' average win percentage and an adjustment for home and road games. All numbers are through Wednesday's action.
1. Orioles: .533
Key series: Aug. 31-Sep. 2 @ KC
That series in Kansas City could decide who has the top pick in next year's Draft. The O's also end the season with series against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros, which might also be what decides the No. 1 pick.
2. Mariners: .526
Key series: Sept. 24-26 vs. OAK
Seattle has seen Oakland surge past them in the Wild Card standings as it tries to end the longest postseason drought in North American professional sports. Three series with the A's remain amid one of baseball's toughest remaining slates.
3. Rockies: .521
Key series: Sept. 10-13 vs. ARI
Colorado finds itself in a three-team NL West skirmish once again, and a nine-game homestand against the Giants, Dodgers and D-backs in mid-September figures to say a lot about the Rockies' postseason hopes.
4. Rays: .520
Key series: Aug. 14-16 @ NYY
Down but not completely out at 10 ½ games back of the second AL Wild Card, Tampa Bay needs a serious push next week with back-to-back series against the Yankees and Red Sox. The Rays have played the Yankees tough, splitting the teams' first 12 matchups this year.
5. Angels: .514
Key series: Aug. 10-12 vs. OAK
If the Angels are going to erase their 10 ½ game deficit -- and jump the two teams ahead of them -- in the AL Wild Card race, they need to gain ground now, beginning with this weekend's series in Anaheim.
6. Cardinals: .512
Key series: Sept. 24-26 vs. MIL
July featured plenty of turnover in St. Louis, but the Cardinals are still very much in the hunt. A final-week sweep of the rival Brewers would go a long way toward improving St. Louis' Wild Card odds.
7-T. Athletics: .510
Key series: Sept. 24-26 @ SEA
Oakland, should it maintain its blistering summer surge, could control its own destiny and eliminate its only close competitor in the race for the final Wild Card slot.
7-T. Padres: .510
Key series: Sept. 6-9 @ CIN
A tough stretch filled with NL West contenders make the Reds the only relevant Senior Circuit club left on San Diego's slate in regards to Draft positioning for 2019.
9-T. D-backs: .508
Key series: Sept. 24-26 vs. LAD
Needless to say this series is circled on both clubs' calendars as it could signal the difference between an NL West title and having to survive the Wild Card Game.
9-T. Reds: .508
Key series: Sept. 20-23 @ MIA
Cincinnati made strides after a tough start to 2018, but September will likely see the Reds turning their attention toward next season. The Marlins represent Cincy's closest opponent on the '19 Draft board.
11. Marlins: .507
Key series: Sept. 10-14 @ NYM
Three series remain between these two NL East rivals, and those matchups could dictate which club picks before the other next June.
12. Rangers: .506
Key series: Sept. 3-5 vs. LAA
Out of contention for both a division title and the top spots in the Draft, the Rangers' biggest motivation may lie in catching the Angels to climb out of the AL West cellar.
13. Red Sox: .504
Key series: Sept. 18-20 @ NYY
Six of Boston's last 12 games come against the Yankees, and the first of the two series could be the Red Sox's chance to snuff their archrival's AL East title hopes.

14. Mets: .501
Key series: Sept. 10-13 vs. MIA
It was hard to imagine in April that the Mets would be jockeying for Draft positioning in September, but these sets with Miami -- along with a two-game set in Baltimore next week -- will have bearing on New York's future.
15-T. Blue Jays: .497
Key series: Sept. 20-23 vs. TB
Toronto will play Tampa Bay 10 times in September, and whoever wins more of those matchups will probably lock up the No. 3 spot in the AL East standings. But perhaps the more intriguing question is: Will Vladimir Guerrero Jr. wear a Blue Jays uniform in any of these matchups?
15-T. Braves: .497
Key series: Sept. 20-23 vs. PHI
The NL East's top two clubs have seven matchups in the season's final 11 days, and the Braves get first serve with this four-game set in Atlanta.
15-T. Giants: .497
Key series: Aug. 27-29 vs. ARI
Plenty of matchups remain against the D-backs, Dodgers and Rockies, but the Giants will need a strong series against Arizona to build momentum for a September push.
15-T. Phillies: .497
Key series: Sept. 28-30 vs. ATL
The Phillies and Braves figure to stay neck and neck until the very end (and the Nationals could still make this a three-way fight, too). Citizens Bank Park should be electric for this final-weekend showdown.

15-T. Tigers: .497
Key series: Sept. 3-5 @ CWS
Detroit made a big investment in its future by picking Casey Mize with the No. 1 overall pick in June, and this series with the rival White Sox could determine if the Tigers pick in the top five once again.
15-T. White Sox: .497
Key series: Sept. 10-12 @ KC
Many believe the White Sox youngsters are on the verge, but at the moment they're very much in contention for the top pick in next year's Draft. Back-to-back road series with the Royals and Orioles figure to heavily influence Chicago's Draft slot next June.
21. Brewers: .496
Key series: Sept. 3-5 vs. CHC
Milwaukee knows the importance of every contest after missing the postseason by just one game last fall, but this early-September showdown at Miller Park gives the Crew a chance to launch one final push for the NL Central crown.
22-T. Astros: .495 
Key series: Sept. 7-9 @ BOS
Can anyone catch the Red Sox for baseball's best record? Houston figures to have the best shot, and this series could determine who plays the Wild Card survivor instead of the Indians (who figure to be well-rested and ready) in Round 1 of the AL playoffs.
22-T. Cubs: .495
Key series: Sept. 3-5 @ MIL
Chicago's 8-3 record against Milwaukee is essentially the difference in the NL Central standings right now. Winning two out of three on the Brewers' home turf could help the Cubs seal up their third straight division crown.
24-T. Dodgers: .492
Key series: Sept. 24-26 @ ARI
One would have to go back to the 2006 Yankees to find the last club who won six straight division titles, but statement wins in the desert could put the Dodgers in line to do just that.
24-T. Nationals: .492
Key series: Aug. 21-23 vs. PHI
It's true that the Nationals have underachieved; it's also true that they're still in the hunt. But Washington needs to get on a serious roll, and this home series against the first-place Phillies -- sandwiched between series against the Marlins and Mets -- presents a real opportunity.
26. Pirates: .490
Key series: Aug. 20-22 vs. ATL
Pittsburgh told the baseball world it was still in on 2018 with its moves at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but there's traffic above them in the Wild Card race. This series will mark the Bucs' first meeting against the Braves -- one of their primary contenders -- in 2018.
27. Royals: .487
Key series: Aug. 31-Sept. 2 vs. BAL
The Royals and Orioles played for a ticket to the World Series four years ago. This series will have opposite stakes, with potential implications on the top of the 2019 MLB Draft board.
28. Yankees: .474
Key series: Sept. 3-5 @OAK
New York needs to focus on hosting the Wild Card Game with their hopes of catching Boston officially downgraded to "slim." A seemingly soft stretch run should help the Yankees achieve that goal, but so too would a strong West Coast road trip -- which begins with crucial swings through Oakland and Seattle.
29. Twins: .470
Key series: Aug. 28-30 @ CLE
Catching the first-place Indians between now and Sept. 30 would be straight out of a Hollywood script, and the Twins would need a sweep here to even get the first line down on paper.
30. Indians: .460
Key series: Aug. 28-30 vs. MIN
Cleveland is all but locked into the AL's No. 3 seed as the Red Sox and Astros pull away, so putting the AL Central to bed is the Tribe's primary concern down the stretch.