Monday, November 16, 2009

2010 and the AL Central: April

NOTE: Just about all this was written before all the trade rumors and speculation started. Understandably, this has caused a lot of concern among Tigers fans (myself included) and a lot of our attention has been devoted to monitoring MLB Trade Rumors with knots in our stomachs. After careful deliberation, I have decided not to change anything in this installment, because nothing has happened yet. When and if a deal goes down, future installments may reflect that. But not this one. At the very least, maybe it’ll take your mind off worrying about Granderson for a few minutes.

This is a feature that I’ll post occasionally at various points throughout the offseason. I’ll be taking a month-by-month look at the 2010 schedule for the Tigers and the rest of the AL Central (You need to know how easy or hard the competition has it at any point, right?). It’s hard to speculate about how any given team will do at this point because we’ve still got tons of trades and free agent signings that’ll happen between now and April 5th. Hopefully, things’ll start to get clearer by the time I post the final installment, which should be shortly before spring training starts. As it stands right now, though, most writers have a more favorable impression of the Tigers than they did at this point last year (except Lynn Henning, who insists the Tigers should trade Curtis Granderson yesterday). However, as we know, they were completely wrong about their impressions last year, so it may be wise to take their opinions with a grain of salt. The biggest threat to the Tigers, at least on paper, looks to be the Chicago White Sox. They are primed to have some very strong starting pitching, and if they find consistent offense and learn to catch the baseball a bit better, watch out. The Twins are kind of an unknown right now. They did win this year and they’ll have most of the same guys for next year, but let’s remember that until September they basically played .500 ball the whole time before going on a hot streak, and their pitching was not particularly impressive during most of the season. Plus, there’s that matter of how that they won’t have their greatest weapon (the Metrodome). However, only a fool would count them out. They have too much of a track record. The other two teams in the Central aren’t expected to make much noise as far as contending, but I’m including them anyways because I want to be thorough (Besides, Kansas City had a hot start in 2009 and I still think the Indians will be better than most people think). There is definitely some quirkiness to the schedule, especially Detroit’s. For instance, they will go through long stretches in April, July, and August with no off-day, and yet there are two different occasions where they’ll have an off-day, followed by a two-game series, followed immediately by another off-day. Speaking of two-game series, the Tigers sure do have a bunch of them (sometimes balanced out by four-game series with the same team, sometimes not; they will only be in Oakland for two games), and there’s an extra home series against the Baltimore Orioles that seems really random. The rest of the teams in the Central have their quirks as well. For instance, the Twins have 11 off-days on Mondays and only four Thursday off-days (Their schedule was very kind to them in terms of off-days. The longest they go without a break is 14 games). But now it’s time to get into detail. Here’s April in the AL Central:

April 5-8 (Mon-Thu): @ Kansas City Royals (3; Off-day Tuesday, April 6)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
April 12-14 (Mon-Wed): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
April 15 (Thu): Off-day
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): @ Seattle Mariners (3)
April 19-22 (Mon-Thu): @ Los Angeles Angels (4)
April 23-26 (Fri-Mon): @ Texas Rangers (4)
April 27-29 (Tue-Thu): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
April 30-May 2 (Fri-Sun): vs. Los Angeles Angels (3)

With this schedule, you could easily imagine the Tigers getting off to either a great start or a horrible one. It’s about an even mix of the AL Central (mostly the two teams predicted to be “bottom feeders” by the media) and the AL West (and the Tigers did their best work against the West in 2009). The last time the Tigers started their season in Kansas City was 2006, and they definitely got off to a real good start then. However, bear in mind that the starting pitchers for Kansas City in that series were Scott Elarton and Joe Mays (It was a two-game series). Um, yeah (and I’m glad I looked that up, because I would have said Jeremy Affeldt and Elmer Dessens). It’s a whole lot different this time around. We know that, barring injury, Opening Day will feature Justin Verlander against Zack Greinke (They have matched up before, back in 2007. Justin won, Pudge hit a grand slam, and Greinke threw 50 pitches and didn’t make it out of the first inning; that was 2007, though). Game 2 is likely to be Edwin Jackson against Gil Meche. After that, I’m not sure. You would like to think Rick Porcello for game 3 (probably against either Kyle Davies or Robinson Tejeda), but Leyland may elect to go with someone else and have Porcello pitch the home opener. All told, our pitchers certainly have the ability to outpitch Greinke and Meche, but that is no easy task and Kansas City has been getting off to hot starts the past couple years. After this brief road trip to begin the season, it’ll be time for the opening homestand against the Indians, and then we see the Royals again (but likely won’t have to face Greinke again with such a quick turnaround). Once they have their off-day on the 15th (Jackie Robinson Day; poor Jackie’s gonna have a bunch of teams not being able to honor him cuz a lot of teams are off then), they will not have another one for a stretch of twenty games. Yikes (This is one of those instances where you pray for rain at some point just so the boys can get some rest). That long stretch begins with an 11-game AL West road trip (and while this is kind of sucky, it still beats that Fenway/Yankee Stadium/Metrodome/Wrigley Field road trip that the White Sox had) that includes a three game series at Safeco Field and four-game series each against the Angels and Rangers (I hate 4-game series, no matter who they are against or where they are). As April winds down, the Tigers go back home and get their first look at the Twins in 2009 before hosting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Of the five AL Central teams, Detroit has the “easiest” schedule in terms of how their opponents did in 2009 (the Tigers are the only team in the Central whose April opposition was a combined sub-.500 this past year). However, they MUST do better against the Central. At first glance, their final record of 39-34 against the Central seems respectable, but it only looks that way because they went 14-4 against the Indians (Give them credit, though. None of the other teams in the Central dominated Cleveland like the Tigers did, and three of those losses were to Carl Pavano). They went 9-9 against both Chicago and Kansas City, and 7-12 against Minnesota (Granted, they had much better records against both the White Sox and Royals for nearly all of the season. Chicago and KC did most of their damage to the Tigers in September. Therefore, you could argue that the real key is for the Tigers to “finish what they started,” so to speak). So even though there are plenty of teams that the Tigers can (and should) beat if they want to be taken seriously as a contender, April will be a grueling month nonetheless.
Home games: 12
Road games: 14
Detroit’s 2009 record against opposition: 47-35
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .499

White Sox
April 5-8 (Mon-Thu): vs. Cleveland Indians (3; Off-day Tues, April 6)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
April 12-15 (Mon-Thu): @ Toronto Blue Jays (4)
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
April 19 (Mon): Off-day
April 20-22 (Tue-Thu): vs. Tampa Bay Rays (3)
April 23-25 (Fri-Sun): vs. Seattle Mariners (3)
April 26 (Mon): Off-day
April 27-29 (Tue-Thu): @ Texas Rangers (3)
April 30-May 2 (Fri-Sun): @ New York Yankees (3)

The White Sox have the fortune of getting their off-days spaced out a bit more evenly than the Tigers, at least at in April. They begin their 2010 campaign at home against the Indians (Pure speculation here, but I’m guessing the Opening Day matchup will be Jake Peavy against Justin Masterson). They get some AL East action right away, which is good and bad if you’re the Tigers. It’s good in that it might help them stumble out of the gate a bit. It’s bad in that you won’t be able to rely on the big, bad, AL East to slow them down if you need it later in the season (although they handled the Rays fairly well last year, going 6-2, but they were 1-6 against the Blue Jays; for the record, they were 3-4 against the Yankees, which is better than what we did). While the Tigers see a lot of the Royals right away, the White Sox see a lot of the Indians. Their longest stretch without an off-day in April is eleven games (April 7-18). After hosting the Indians and Twins, they head up to Toronto for four games (one of which will hopefully feature Roy Halladay), followed by a three-game set in Cleveland. After a Monday off-day, they host the Rays and Mariners. They wrap up April with another off-day, followed by a six-game road trip where they visit the Rangers and Yankees.
Home games: 12
Road games: 13
Chicago’s 2009 record against opposition: 32-41
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .516

April 5-8 (Mon-Thu): @ Chicago White Sox (3; off-day Tuesday, April 6)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
April 12-15 (Mon-Thu): vs. Texas Rangers (3; off-day Tuesday, April 13)
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
April 19 (Mon): Off-day
April 20-22 (Tue-Thu): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
April 23-25 (Fri-Sun): @ Oakland Athletics (3)
April 26-28 (Mon-Wed): @ Los Angeles Angels (3)
April 29 (Thu): Off-day
April 30-May 2 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)

The Indians have the easiest schedule in terms of rest, with a whopping four off-days in one month, but they have way more road games than home games. Also, they face a couple teams that they didn’t do so well against last year, particularly Detroit (4-14) and Texas (1-8). Like the Tigers, all of April is confined to the AL Central and the AL West. They start their season with a six-game road trip, visiting Chicago and then Detroit for our home opener (Hopefully the Tigers can be as dominant against Cleveland as they were in 2009). From there, they head on across the lake to their home opener against the Texas Rangers (Gee, that brings back memories of 2000, when I was in Cleveland for their home opener, which was also against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers won that game). They also get the White Sox on their first homestand. The Indians then embark on a nine-game road trip that has the potential to take them through three dramatically different climates, from mid-April Minneapolis (could go either way) to cool-but-probably-not-freezing northern California to the OC as they take on the Twins, A’s, and Angels. They wrap up the month by beginning a homestand against the Twinkies.
Home games: 9
Road games: 15
Cleveland’s 2009 record against opposition: 25-51
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .525

April 4-8 (Mon-Thu): @ Los Angeles Angels (4)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
April 12-15 (Mon-Thu): vs. Boston Red Sox (3; off-day Tuesday, April 13)
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
April 19 (Mon): Off-day
April 20-22 (Tue-Thu): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
April 23-25 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
April 26 (Mon): Off-day
April 27-29 (Tue-Thu): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
April 30-May 2 (Fri-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (3)

The Twins begin 2010 with a heavy dose of the AL Central, with a series apiece with the East and West mixed in for good measure (And they are going to be on the road a lot; they only have nine home games in April). Like the Tigers, they start their season on the road, kicking things off with a 4-game set against the Angels (I’m not going to speculate on Opening Day starters because the Twins don’t really have a clear ace and the Angels have some offseason fiddling to do with their impending free agents) followed by a 3-game series in Chicago. Target Field will be inaugurated with the Boston Red Sox as its first visiting team. After series with the Royals and Indians, the Twins begin a nine-game, three-city road trip to Kansas City, Detroit, and Cleveland to close out the month. Even though they have all those road games, this is not necessarily a tough month for the Twins because they have so many games against the Central, and somehow they know how to beat the teams in their own division (46-27 against the AL Central in 2009; oddly enough, the team they had the toughest time against was the Indians, against whom they went 10-8).
Home games: 9
Road games: 16
Minnesota’s 2009 record against opposition: 40-37
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .501

April 4-8 (Mon-Thu): vs. Detroit Tigers (3; off-day Tuesday, April 5)
April 9-11 (Fri-Sun): vs. Boston Red Sox (3)
April 12-14 (Mon-Wed): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
April 15 (Thu): Off-day
April 16-18 (Fri-Sun): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
April 19-21 (Mon-Wed): @ Toronto Blue Jays (3)
April 22 (Thu): Off-day
April 23-25 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
April 26-28 (Mon-Wed): vs. Seattle Mariners (3)
April 29-May 2 (Thu-Sun): @ Tampa Bay Rays (4)

Kansas City’s April features an almost equal amount of the Central and the East (with one series against the West). As previously mentioned, they start off 2010 against the Tigers (Verlander vs. Greinke). The Red Sox also come a-calling before the Royals head out on the road. Their first road trip of the year features visits to Detroit, Minnesota, and Toronto. Following an off-day on the 22nd, they return home for six games against the Twins and Mariners. They finish up April down at Tropicana Field with a 4-games series against the Rays (and oh, by the way, the Royals went 1-9 against the Rays this past year). The Royals look like they have a difficult schedule in April. It’s Kansas City and they’re not expected to do much. In addition, they have the “hardest” schedule of the AL Central in terms of basing the opposition on 2009 records. Also, of the teams they face in April, only Toronto finished 2009 below .500 (and there are some national writers whose attitudes suggest they feel that the Blue Jays are still better than any team in the Central). However, as I’ve said, they’ve gotten off to hot starts the past couple years (Well, for them at least; they went 12-10 in April 2009 and led the AL Central into May).
Home games: 12
Road games: 13
KC’s 2009 record against opposition: 28-42
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .526

1 comment:

  1. As far as Granderson goes, rumors are flying that the Yankees are interested in his services for Melky Cabrera and maybe a pitcher...interesting. I also believe Granderson isn't that great an offensive player to begin with...low on-base percentage, and HR's are an empty stat in his case. Other than that, the AL central should be wide open...I see no prohibitive favorite.