Can the Quakes Make A Playoff Run? Strength of Schedule Analysis

August 27, 2015

The Quakes were one loss away from last place.  Two weeks later we’re all talking a potential playoff run.  That’s what beating two of the top teams on the road will do!

I wanted to calculate the Quakes’s (grammatically correct as proper names that end in “S” require an apostrphe-S ending while plural nouns require just an apostrophe!) remaining strength-of-schedule (SoS) to other teams vying for the final playoff spots to see how our remaining schedule stacks up against other Western opponents.

To arrive at a number for each team, I looked at their remaining opponents and calculated the overall average points-per-game of teams they will play.  The lower the overall average, the easier the schedule.  I also wanted to factor home-field advantage into the equation and decided to award -.10 for home games (home games should be a bit easier to win) and +.10 away games (away games should be a bit harder to win).  Thus if a team has the same number of road games and home games, it’s a wash.

I did NOT calculate each opponent’s home PPG versus away PPG as it would be too tedious for me, but simply gave a generic bias to each team based upon home and away games: the teams with more home games should have a slight advantage over teams with more away games.  However, it should be noted that if two teams must play the LA Galaxy, it makes a world of difference if they are playing at home or in the Stub Hub Center as LA’s home goal differential is +27 while their road goal differential is -10, so take these numbers with a grain of salt.

The Results
Team Opp. 1 Opp. 2 Opp. 3 Opp. 4 Opp. 5 Opp. 6 Opp. 7 Opp. 8 Opp. 9 Opp. 10 Average
San Jose 1.7 1.04 1.35 1.27 1.08 1.23 1.73 1.67 1.58 1.405556
Houston 1.73 1.23 1.04 1.67 1.2 1.58 1.35 1.73 1.44125
RSL 1.58 1.23 1.7 1.4 1.2 1.54 1.58 1.35 1.4475
Dallas 1.23 1.46 1.08 1.67 1.7 1.23 1.73 1.73 1.23 1.4 1.451111
Colorado 1.67 1.73 1.63 1.42 1.23 1.23 1.27 1.67 1.54 1.487778
Portland 1.35 1.67 1.63 1.46 1.67 1.23 1.7 1.2 1.48875
Seattle 1.54 1.42 1.4 1.73 1.67 1.7 1.23 1.23 1.49

 

In terms of overall average, the Quakes have the EASIEST remaining schedule as the cumulative average of all their opponents’ points-per-game averages is 1.405.  Houston has the second easiest, RSL third, Dallas fourth, Colorado fifth, Portland sixth, and Seattle has the toughest closing schedule.

When factoring home-and-away games (giving an easier -.10 for home games and a more difficult +.10 for away games), strength of schedule looks like this:

Team Average Home/Away Difference Schedule Strength
San Jose 1.405556 -0.6 0.805556
Houston 1.44125 -0.2 1.24125
Seattle 1.49 -0.1 1.39
Dallas 1.451111 0 1.451111
Portland 1.48875 0 1.48875
Colorado 1.487778 0.1 1.587778
RSL 1.4475 0.2 1.6475

 

Not only does San Jose have one of the easiest remaining schedules, we have a majority of games at home while potential rivals like RSL and Colorado must go on the road for points, giving them the most difficult schedule.  Dallas and Portland have an equal number of home/away games to finish the season, but have very tough schedules due to having to play teams with higher points-per-game averages.

Given these metrics and the positioning of each team (Colorado at the bottom, RSL in ninth), it looks like the fight will be between Houston, San Jose, Seattle, FC Dallas, and Portland for the final two playoff spots.

I’m hopeful that the relative ease of San Jose’s opponent strength and our home-stretch finish will be enough to secure a 5th or 6th place in the West standing, which means playoffs come November.

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