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Looking at the early season schedule

Mar 1, 2010, 10:33 AM EDT

Buster Olney runs down the early season schedules for the AL East today, trying to figure out who may get out to a fast start, who may falter early and all of that.  Interesting enough, but his premise doesn’t do much for me:

Last year, you could look at the early-season schedules and make a couple of forecasts. First, the Toronto Blue Jays
appeared to have a great chance to get off to a strong start because
they didn’t have to dive into the AL Beast portion of their schedule –
with games against the Yankees and Red Sox and Rays — until May.

And
second, the schedule appeared to work against Tampa Bay, because of how
top-heavy it was with games against AL powerhouses. Sure enough, the
Blue Jays got off to a great start, and the Rays fell into a hole that
they were never really able to dig out of. This stuff is a big deal, because early-season performance and
perception, in the spring, can help shape attendance in summer. A
strong start will also fuel a team’s market aggressiveness, as
executives decide whether to be buyers.

I think this sort of thing is overstated.  Yes, the Jays started well last year on the strength of an easy early schedule, but it didn’t boost attendance. Toronto drew its lowest crowds in six years and among the lowest since the move to Sky Dome. And it didn’t stop the team from assessing where it was on the success cycle, trading Alex Rios and shopping Roy Halladay all summer. And what about Tampa Bay? Sure, they started out tough, but the were treading water pretty well until they took a six game plunge in the standings in August while not facing either Boston or New York.

The beauty of baseball’s
schedule is that over the course of 162 games there really is nowhere
to hide and no way to game the fans into thinking that you’re something
you’re not.  Injuries and the lucky convergence of a team getting good pitching, good hitting and good fielding at roughly the same time are schedule-free considerations.

Thanks to Buster for pointing out something interesting, but let’s leave strength of schedule arguments — which invariably lead to whining — to the lesser sports.

  1. YankeesfanLen - Mar 1, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    Not being part of the Military-Industrial complex that is ESPN, couldn’t look at the pearls of wisdom from Buster (he’s alright, BTW, but a little stand-offish on the web).
    The Universe always starts off slow and last year I was amazed at all the crappy teams that the Blue Jays played in the beginning of the season. Said:”No way this will hold”.
    So I took out the 2010 schedule- voila-Yanks 31-20 at the end of May. Don’t know what Buster said.

  2. Mark - Mar 1, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    I think you’re ignoring the fact that the schedule is pretty unbalanced. Teams face everyone in their division 18 times a season, compared to 7-8 games for teams outside the division. There’s a pretty significant difference for say, Toronto, when facing New York, Boston, Tampa and Baltimore 18 times a season; compared to Minnesota facing Detroit, Kansas, the White Sox, and Cleveland.
    To put it into perspective, last year the Twins were the only AL Central team with a positive run differential. In the AL East, Baltimore was the only team with a negative run differential. You can’t tell me that doesn’t make a difference over a season.
    So I don’t think it’s accurate to simply ignore the strength of schedule argument or call it whining. There’s a significant difference in playing NY/Boston/Tampa/Baltimore 18 times a season than there is playing Detroit, CWS and Cleveland/KC. If there was a balanced schedule where teams played each other an equal amount of times you’d have a point. But with unbalanced schedules, I’d have to agree with Olney.
    Over 162 games individual performances level out – pitchers getting by on luck will regress, and vice versa. That seems to be more what you’re arguing towards the end, and I’d agree with that.

  3. JBerardi - Mar 1, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    “let’s leave strength of schedule arguments — which invariably lead to whining — to the lesser sports.”

    Craig, I think this comment justifies a “I hate pro football and everything it stands for” tag.

  4. Old Gator - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    I haven’t seen the schedule yet – busy lining up my dates for the Feesh spring games in Ft. Lauderdale to see all the EYPs we’ve banished our best players for over the impecunious last few years.
    But I do hope that they’ve scheduled the Tweens to open their season on the road and kept them out there for as long and as far south as possible before consigning them to that nice new open air meatlocker of a stadium they’ve got now.

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