Determining strength of schedule is a little bit of a chicken and an egg problem. Does a good team have a poor strength of schedule because they beat everybody? Does a bad team have a high strength of schedule because they are soaking up all the losses? Or is it truly indicative of something? This is especially true in the 2020 season, when each team only has nine opponents.
However you look at it, though, the Royals have had a really rough start. At one point, they had played 13 games and somehow managed to lose six of them in a row. But the Royals had also run into a lot of hot teams. After 15 games, Nick Kappel, Royals Manager of Communications & Broadcasting, had this to say:
All 15 of the @Royals' games have been vs. teams who currently have a winning record, and their 5 wins vs. winning teams are tied for most in the Majors.— Nick Kappel (@NickKappel) August 8, 2020
To recap, the Royals have played the Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs, who are the division leaders of the AL and NL Central, respectively. The Royals have also played the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago White Sox. After two weeks and another weekend of play, the Royals have yet to win or lose a game against an opponent that currently has a losing record.
That will end the moment the Royals step onto the field with the Cincinnati Reds, for better or worse. Despite a significantly reworked roster and Trevor Bauer’s 1999 Pedro Martinez impersonation, the Reds sit at 7-9 and at fourth place* in the NL Central.
*The Cardinals, who have only played five games so far due to coronavirus reasons, are technically in third place but, come on, they’ve only played five games.
Kansas City has also faced a lot of really excellent pitching so far. This year, they’ve faced Shane Bieber, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, and Carlos Carrasco. All four have at least one season under their belts wherein they were top five in Cy Young voting. All four have been lights out this year. And, as you might expect, the Royals lost to all four (thankfully, it looks that the Royals will avoid Bauer this week).
It would be unreasonable to expect both the White Sox and Detroit Tigers to continue to avoid a losing record for the rest of the season. Neither team has the run differential that you would expect given their record, and neither team is really constructed for a win-now approach. Likewise, the Royals will get to play what looks like a pretty soft NL Central throughout the season.
But it’s true that the Royals have ran into teams while they’ve been hot, and it’s also true that the Royals have already had three series against the best three teams in the AL or NL Central (Twins, Cubs, and Indians).
There isn’t some big sort of thesis or conclusion to draw from the Royals’ schedule so far, and it might not even be relevant in a week in such a fast-moving season. However, when we can’t evaluate things like we would in a normal season, keeping an eye on who the Royals face and when the Royals face them is some additional context that could help.