Historical WNBA Schedule Pain

Previously, I talked about a new metric for tracking the pain of a WNBA schedule considering the compactness of this summer’s schedule. In this post, I’ll take a look at how these numbers reflect on past seasons.

To analyze the pain of a schedule, it makes the most sense to look toward the end of the season, when the pain of the schedule tends to be felt the most (the wear of the travel and full schedule of games has been played). In fact, for all but a few seasons (more on that in a minute), the maximum average pain is observed in the last day or two of the regular season. This table shows the average and range of schedule pains for all teams in the league on the last day of the regular season of that year.

199719.3118.5 (NY, SAC)20 (CLE, UTA)1.5
199820.919.5 (LA, NY, PHO)22.5 (UTA)3
199923.3322 (CLE, SAC)25 (CHA, PHO)3
200023.7222.5 (HOU, LA, SEA)25 (DET, IND)2.5
200121.8818.5 (LA)24 (DET, MIN)5.5
200221.0618 (LA, MIN)23.5 (CLE)5.5
200317.7515 (HOU, LA, SAC)22.5 (DET)7.5
20045.192.5 (DET, IND)8 (SEA)5.5
200514.0411 (LA)16.5 (NY)5.5
200621.2518 (LA)23.5 (CHA)5.5
200717.8516 (SAC)20.5 (SEA)4.5
20085.683 (SAC)8 (NY)5
200914.0812.5 (LA, WAS)18 (SAN)5.5
201014.2112.5 (ATL)16 (TUL, SEA)3.5
201114.5412.5 (TUL)16 (WAS)3.5
20129.255.5 (LA)14.5 (CHI)9
20139.966 (TUL)12.5 (ATL)6.5
201417.2515.5 (IND)20 (LA)4.5
201513.2512 (ATL, SEA)15 (LA)3
20165.964.5 (DAL, NY)8 (SAN)3.5
20177.756 (WAS)9 (DAL, MIN)3
201817.1716 (PHO)20 (NY)4

Some notes:

  • For the most part, Olympic years (after 2000, since the Summer Olympics didn’t begin until late September, after the WNBA season, that year) are like two half-seasons with a split in the middle, so the end-of-regular-season numbers are skewed down considerably. The maximum average pain of the schedule is sometimes observed just before the Olympic break in these years. Even still, 2012 is a notable year throughout the life of the league in that it demonstrates the largest disparity in end-of-season schedule pain. Los Angeles was as low as 5.5, while Chicago’s pain was at a 14.5. This was so intriguing I had to grab a chart for 2012:You can clearly see the Olympic break as all the teams dip back down to 0, and then the post-Olympics schedule is intriguing. The Sky’s pre-break schedule is very mild, and then post-break they rarely have breaks for rest. On the other hand, leading up to the break (mid-June to mid-July) the Sparks had the roughest schedule, but their post-break schedule was incredibly calm. Contrast both with a team like New York who are hovering right around the middle the entire season.
  • In both of Seattle’s championship years (2004 and 2010), the Storm actually had the highest schedule pain at the end of the regular season. On the other hand, LA’s first two championship years (2001 and 2002) they were at the bottom of the league in terms of schedule pain.
  • The toughest season, by the numbers, was 2000, due to two factors: more teams and a condensed schedule. As mentioned before, the Olympics weren’t until late September that year, so rather than splitting the WNBA season, it was condensed to fit with enough time for players to prepare with their national teams before the summer games. That said, it was a very even schedule. The range on the end-of-season schedule pains was the lowest it has been since the inaugural year. That year’s chart demonstrates just how even it was throughout:
  • Last year’s schedule should be used as more of a model of an “average” year. 2013 was similarly low in average end-of-season schedule pain and demonstrates how the spread of a non-Olympic and non-World Cup season can look.

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