MLB Short-Season Strategy: Schedule Wrinkles
Greg Jewett takes a look at the abbreviated 60-game schedule for Major League Baseball and identifies some interesting facts for each team and how it could impact your fantasy baseball team in 2020
Doing well in division will be even more important in 2020 with 67 percent of the schedule against four teams. However, who teams face as their “rival” matchups also come into play. For instance, Cincinnati benefits from replacing Cleveland as their rival with six of their ten first games against Detroit instead. For the Reds, getting off to a fast start could determine a run to the playoffs since they won their opener in 2019 then lost the next eight and struggled to a 3-18 start two years ago leading to the firing of then manager, Bryan Price.
No surprise the Twins still own the most advantageous schedule even in the 60-game sprint, but division mates Cleveland ranks second in ease of schedule along with the White Sox third due to ten games against the Tigers and Royals on tap. In the National League, St. Louis gets the easiest schedule based on last year’s win percentages but will be required to play two of three series on the road versus the Cubs and Brewers, which is less than optimal.
In an effort to streamline the information, this article will encapsulate the highlights covered by teams beat writers across the league to make tough decisions in drafts when moving players up or down due to the scheduling wrinkles announced on Monday.
New York Yankees
To the delight of Gleyber Torres , the Yankees will visit Camden Yards in six of their ten meetings this season while hosting the Red Sox seven times and the Rays six times each. In September, New York gets two series versus the Orioles and Blue Jays while ending the year against the Marlins potentially allowing them to set their postseason rotation. As for Torres and the Orioles:
Need something else to watch? In 2019, Gleyber Torres hit 13 HR vs the Orioles, tied for the 2nd-most HR by a player vs a single opponent in a season— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 23, 2020
He had 5 multi-HR games vs the O's, the most by a player in a season vs a single opp
Watch them all: https://t.co/RW6c0Pedk0 pic.twitter.com/czyOF7sCf5
Boston Red Sox
Awaiting the arrival of Eduardo Rodríguez to camp, Boston only gets three home contests against rival New York but 43 percent of their home games against the Orioles and Blue Jays.
How Detroit plays out of the gate could determine how they handle the trade deadline with 20 straight games once their season starts on July 24th. At least 12 of these games will be at home and the Tigers beat writer predicts a 24-36 finish this season in the midst of a rebuild.
Armed with an opponent's .468 win-percentage across the schedule, Minnesota hopes to repeat as divisional champions. While they host Cleveland in seven of their ten meetings, upstart Chicago White Sox own the same advantage with the Twins heading there in two series. Also, the Twins face the Brewers as their “rival” due to proximity adding tougher games, but the bonus of Kansas City and Detroit far outweigh this development. Free agent acquisition Josh Donaldson also may benefit from facing the White Sox this year. He owns a career .686 slugging percentage against them with 15 home runs and 35 RBI in 44 games. Pretty, pretty good.
With a rotation in flux, Houston will be tested early on with 16 of their first 22 games on the road in 2020, ending with 13 consecutive games. Houston also heads to Oakland for seven of their ten contests while playing six of ten at the Angels. Piling on, the Astros face the Diamondbacks as their rival plus get four games against the Dodgers adding to their strength of schedule.
Oakland benefits from playing 20 of its first 29 games in the Bay Area at the onset of the season. They also play the Giants six times as their rival giving them a leg up on Houston with a softer schedule in a long-awaited battle for the division this season.
In the midst of a rebuild as well, Seattle rates as the fifth toughest schedule this year. Travel and tough games in division along with getting the National League West makes this a tough season going forward. Taking advantage of the 30-man roster opening game play, Seattle figures to suit up 16-to-17 pitchers putting innings together with a six-man rotation.
Texas plays all ten of their games with Houston after September 6th, while getting 20 of their first 34 contests at home starting in July. A strong start could change how Texas proceeds this year with an outside chance at the playoffs if their rotation stays healthy.
Perhaps the biggest winners in the remade schedule, Cincinnati gets six games against Detroit among their first ten and opponent’s win percentage falls to .487 making the Reds a contender going forward. Eugenio Suárez looks to feast again on the Cubs pitching this season. He launched nine home runs against them last year, most by any player facing them in a season since 1999 plus hit .389 with a robust .797 slugging percentage producing a 204 weighted-runs created plus when facing the Cubs in 2019.
Already with two players opted out, Nick Markakis and Félix Hernández plus getting Freddie Freeman recovered from COVID, Atlanta starts out with tough matchups. In its first 11 games, they face the Mets and Rays, two of the deepest rotations in baseball while playing 20 games in the first 20 days of the season. Things ease up as the year progresses including seven of the final 13 versus the Orioles and Marlins. Like Torres above, Ronald Acuña Jr. feasts on a divisional rival with 16 home runs versus Miami. In 37 games against the Marlins, Acuna Jr.’s slugged .703 with 36 RBI in them. Mercy.
Here is an idea of how the newly formed leagues travel appears, and as noted above, Milwaukee gets six games with the Twins added but benefits from the least amount of travel this year
St. Louis Cardinals
One of the most unique wrinkles of the newly released schedule, how it affects St. Louis:
#Cardinals go to Wrigley twice.#Cubs come to STL once.#Cardinals go to Milwaukee twice.#Brewers come to STL once.— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) July 6, 2020
As mentioned before @stltoday, Cubs, Cleveland, and Royals will all play three games this year at Busch.
Interesting twist to schedule.#MLB #stlcards
Although the Cardinals get the easiest schedule by last year’s win percentage by opponent with six games versus Kansas City factored in, losing home games versus the Cubs and Brewers could be tough to overcome.
New York Mets
Can this truncated season allow for some history in the Cy Young Award race?
It would be very intriguing to bet on deGrom winning the award with nice odds as a prop bet for those interested.
Last year proved tough on Pittsburgh owning a 30-72 record against teams who finished .500 or better. Add in the second hardest schedule through August 6th (Mets first), and the forecasted fire sale could occur prior to the August 31st trade deadline. This hampers investing in a closer like Keone Kela at his current draft price. On the plus side, new Manager Derek Shelton admitted the team will be more aggressive on the bases due to a lack of power throughout the lineup for those searching for steals this draft season or on the wire.
Not too many ramifications in the schedule noting the West division will be very competitive. In the dog days of August, Arizona faces a stretch of 17 straight games which may determine how they handle the trade deadline.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Suffering a loss to an opt-out, David Price will not pitch this year, opening up a spot in the rotation in Los Angeles. Perhaps Ross Stripling not being traded to the Angels will work out now for his owners. Jimmy Nelson also will miss the season due to back surgery taking another veteran out of the Dodgers bullpen. As for the schedule, Los Angeles will be one of eight teams to open the season at home and finish there in September.
San Francisco Giants
As if this season would not be difficult enough for a rebuilding San Francisco squad, they get six games with Oakland as the “rival” team, play seven of their ten games at the Dodgers and receive a road trip in early August requiring stops at Coors, then facing the Dodgers, and then Houston. Yikes.
San Diego Padres
Not only could the depth of San Diego’s farm system fuel a run at the playoffs, they benefit from six games against the Mariners as their rival in the American League West. For the Padres hitters, seven games of ten will be in Coors Field versus Colorado and they face Houston along with Oakland only three times each of 60 this year.
It’s difficult to type but moving down Colorado’s bats could happen in 2020 due to the schedule. Yes, they still get half (30 games) at home but face the sixth toughest schedule in the majors by last year’s win percentage while going to the Dodgers six of their 10 matchups. Stay tuned.
Depending on how testing improves may determine if a season happens but planning for any advantage to mine within it could be profitable for savvy owners. Keep reading and stay with Fantasy Alarm to remain ahead of the competition. And, follow Shin-Soo Choo ’s lead to ensure a return of sports:
Article by Susan Slangs of MLB.com: https://www.mlb.com/news/hitters-to-watch-in-2020-divisional-matchups
TheAthletic.com from beat writer articles