Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010 and the AL Central: June

Today, it’s part three of my AL Central schedule feature, where we take a look at the month of June. For me, June is always one of the more interesting months to watch. I typically don’t have school (though I will this year), which means I can watch more games, and Interleague play provides me with a bigger variety of teams to watch (Come on, admit it: Watching the Twins, White Sox, and Indians over and over gets a little old, doesn’t it?). I’m including a mini-analysis of each team’s Interleague schedule this time (which includes the series they had in May). Enough chatter from me, though. On with the schedules!

June 1-3 (Tue-Thu): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
June 4-6 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
June 7 (Mon): Off-day
June 8-10 (Tue-Thu): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
June 11-13 (Fri-Sun): vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (3)
June 14 (Mon): Off-day
June 15-17 (Tue-Thu): vs. Washington Nationals (3)
June 18-20 (Fri-Sun): vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (3)
June 21 (Mon): Off-day
June 22-24 (Tue-Thu): @ New York Mets (3)
June 25-27 (Fri-Sun): @ Atlanta Braves (3)
June 28-30 (Mon-Wed): @ Minnesota Twins (3)

In June of 2009, the Tigers went 15-13 (which kind of surprised me, as I thought they did better), and a mystifying dichotomy emerged: The Tigers were amazingly good at home. More than that, they were virtually unstoppable (save for one bad series against the Red Sox). Even in games where they trailed late, you felt like someone was going to get the big hit and emerge the hero. However, as good as they were at home, they were just the opposite on the road. Wouldn’t it be something if they could combine their 2009 home record with their 2006 road record? That would be amazing, but I don’t think it will happen. I’d settle for a near-.500 road record combined with the home dominance they displayed in 2009 (That’s how good teams win). At any rate, the Tigers face two, and only two, types of opponents in June of 2010: the AL Central and the National League. They will have one series against each division rival. Their off-days are also partitioned very well in June. There are no long stretches without a break. They begin June by wrapping up a homestand with a three-game series against the Indians. They then travel to Kansas City and Chicago for three games each. After that, the second round of Interleague play begins. The Tigers went 10-8 against the National League in 2009, which was one of the frustrating aspects of the season because had they displayed the dominance against the NL that they had in the previous three seasons, they would have won the Central. It would be nice to go 15-3 or 14-4 like they had in ’06 and ’07, because that’s a big part of what made Interleague play fun. And you hate pointing stuff like this out, but the teams that the Tigers are scheduled to play certainly invite them to return to that dominance. I know a lot of fans are complaining about the home portion of the Interleague schedule, and I can see where they’re coming from. Interleague play is seen as a big money-maker, and from a revenue standpoint, the Pirates, Nationals, and Diamondbacks aren’t exactly teams that’ll draw sellouts. However, from a strategic standpoint, this may be an advantage for the Tigers. These are three teams that can be beaten and must be beaten for the Tigers to be taken seriously. The Pirates are perpetually rebuilding and will be doing so again next year. The Nationals are still building (though they do have some good offensive pieces in Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and Josh Willingham, as well as a sentimental favorite in Pudge Rodriguez). The Diamondbacks look to be the most difficult opponent of the three (though these things never work out the way you expect them to), as their starting pitching looks to be pretty decent (not sure about their bullpen, though; it was not a good bullpen last year). Following an off-day, they’ll conclude Interleague play on the road with visits to the new Citi Field (Not sure what to expect from the Mets; they didn’t do so well in 2009, but with three of their top four hitters as well as three-fifths of their rotation and their eighth-inning guy all lost to injury, the odds were stacked against them) and then Turner Field (where the Tigers put up some really, really good pitching in 2007, when they swept the Braves). June closes out with a return to the American League and a three-game series at Target Field against the Twins. As I said, 2010’s Interleague schedule is one the Tigers can and need to take advantage of. In 2009, their opponents combined for a .455 winning percentage (442-529), which from that standpoint, gives the Tigers the second-easiest Interleague schedule of all the AL Central teams (only Cleveland has an easier schedule). At the same time, though, the “best” team they’ll face is the Dodgers, a team that finished 2009 with 95 wins and the best record in the NL (which says something about that the other five teams on the schedule when 95 wins bring a winning percentage UP to .455). None of the other AL Central teams play the Dodgers. At the same time, when you’re facing teams that lost 103 (Washington) and 99 games (Pittsburgh), you must take advantage. They will have more road games than home games, but the Tigers also have by far the easiest June schedule of any of the AL Central teams, so they have a golden opportunity this month to really make a statement in the division.
Home games: 12
Road games: 15
Detroit’s 2009 record against opposition: 40-36 (Did not play WSH, ARI, NYM, or ATL)
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .441

White Sox
June 1-3 (Tue-Thu): vs. Texas Rangers (3)
June 4-6 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
June 7 (Mon): Off-day
June 8-10 (Tue-Thu): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
June 11-13 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago Cubs (3)
June 14 (Mon): Off-day
June 15-17 (Tue-Thu): @ Pittsburgh Pirates (3)
June 18-20 (Fri-Sun): @ Washington Nationals (3)
June 21 (Mon): Off-day
June 22-24 (Tue-Thu): vs. Atlanta Braves (3)
June 25-27 (Fri-Sun): vs. Chicago Cubs (3)
June 28-30 (Mon-Wed): @ Kansas City Royals (3)

The White Sox will be at home slightly more than they’ll be on the road in June, but, like the Tigers, their off-days are spaced out favorably for them. They start off the month with a nine-game homestand that features visits from the Rangers, Indians, and Tigers. From there, the second round of Interleague play begins. They get all nine of their National League games in one road trip (nine games is a long time for an AL team to go without a DH, but the Tigers handled this really well in ’07). Their most formidable opponent on that road trip appears to be their natural Interleague rival, the Chicago Cubs. Based on how the Cubs did in 2009, that’s not all that formidable, but when you consider that their other two stops are Pittsburgh and Washington, the Cubs seem like 100-win team in comparison (Yeah, I know PECOTA is predicting the Nationals to go 82-80, but you know my feelings about sabremetrics). Following an off-day on the 21st, the White Sox conclude Interleague play at home by hosting the Atlanta Braves (and we’ll all hope that former Tiger Jair Jurrjens throws a gem in that series) and the Cubs (in recent years, that series has gone near .500, with the home team winning most of the games). The Sox end June in Kansas City, the first leg of a six-game road trip. The winning percentage of their Interleague opponents from 2009 was .467, which puts the White Sox right in the middle in terms of how easy their schedule is (easier than Minnesota or Kansas City, harder than Detroit or Cleveland). However, they will be the only team in the AL Central to not play at least one NL team that won more than ninety games. The best team they’ll face in terms of record is the Florida Marlins, who went 87-75 in 2009. And, like most of the other Central division teams, they have the opportunity to take advantage of Washington and Pittsburgh.
Home games: 15
Road games: 12
Chicago’s 2009 record against opposition: 36-33 (Did not play WSH or ATL)
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opposition: .458

June 1-3 (Tue-Thu): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
June 4-6 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
June 7-10 (Mon-Thu): vs. Boston Red Sox (4)
June 11-13 (Fri-Sun): vs. Washington Nationals (3)
June 14 (Mon): Off-day
June 15-17 (Tue-Thu): vs. New York Mets (3)
June 18-20 (Fri-Sun): @ Pittsburgh Pirates (3)
June 21 (Mon): Off-day
June 22-24 (Tue-Thu): @ Philadelphia Phillies (3)
June 25-27 (Fri-Sun): @ Cincinnati Reds (3)
June 28-July 1 (Mon-Thu): vs. Toronto Blue Jays (4)

When June begins for the Indians, they’ll be in the midst of a 16-game stretch with no off-day (It gets worse later in the month, Tribe fans). Having just departed Yankee Stadium, they head to Comerica Park and then U.S. Cellular Field before heading back home to take on the Red Sox for four and then the Nationals for three as the second round of Interleague play begins for them. Following their off-day on the 14th, they conclude their 10-game homestand with a visit from the New York Mets. Like the White Sox, they get to experience all their National League games in one road trip, beginning in Pittsburgh. That off-day on the 21st is significant because it will be their final off-day before the All-Star Break (that’s a span of 20 games). They then head to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies (one of the few occasions that I will root for that team), and then to Cincinnati for the second round of the Ohio battle and the end of Interleague play. They conclude June at home, hosting the Toronto Blue Jays for four games. I know most people expect the Indians to have a down year, and with good reason, but IF they are gonna make a move, June will probably be the month they do it. They have the easiest Interleague schedule of any AL Central team, as their opponents went a combined 362-447 in 2009 (That’s a .447 winning percentage). They will only have to face one NL team that finished above .500 (the Phillies, who were 93-69), and like most of the Central, they have the opportunity to take advantage of the Nationals and Pirates.
Home games: 14
Road games: 15
Cleveland’s 2009 record against opposition: 21-39 (Did not play WSH, NYM, or PHI)
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .478

June 4-6 (Fri-Sun): @ Oakland Athletics (3)
June 7 (Mon): Off-day
June 8-10 (Tue-Thu): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
June 11-13 (Fri-Sun): vs. Atlanta Braves (3)
June 14 (Mon): Off-day
June 15-17 (Tue-Thu): vs. Colorado Rockies (3)
June 18-20 (Fri-Sun): @ Philadelphia Phillies (3)
June 21 (Mon): Off-day
June 22-24 (Tue-Thu): @ Milwaukee Brewers (3)
June 25-27 (Fri-Sun): @ New York Mets (3)
June 28-30 (Mon-Wed): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)

The Twins have an even split of home games and road games in June, and all 3-game series. No quirky 2-or-4-gamers for them. They begin June on the west coast in Oakland. They then return home for nine games. After a series against the Royals, they host their remaining AL Interleague games with visits from the Braves and Rockies. As with the White Sox and Indians, they will be DH-less for nine straight games (although based on the style of ball they play, this probably would not affect the Twins as much as it would other AL teams). They’ll finish off Interleague play by visiting Citizen’s Bank Park (so I get to root for the Phillies again), Miller Park, and Citi Field. They end June by beginning a seven-game homestand, starting with three against the Tigers. The Twins end up with the most difficult schedule of the Central in June, largely thanks to their Interleague schedule, which is by far the most difficult of any team in the division (their opponents went 421-389 in 2009 for a winning percentage of .520). Unlike the Tigers, Indians, and White Sox, they have to play two NL teams who finished with over 90 wins (the Rockies and Phillies), and they don’t have the luxury of playing Washington or Pittsburgh (the “worst” team they’ll face is the Mets, who finished at 70-92, but at the same time, the Mets are a big unknown right now; I firmly believe that injuries played a large part of their poor record and if all their big guys are healthy in 2010, they’ll play a whole lot better). Minnesota tends to do well in Interleague play, but again, the Tigers must take advantage of their “superior” schedule.
Home games: 12
Road games: 12
Minnesota’s 2009 record against opposition: 33-20 (Did not play ATL, COL, PHI, NYM)
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .499

June 4-6 (Fri-Sun): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
June 7 (Mon): Off-day
June 8-10 (Tue-Thu): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
June 11-13 (Fri-Sun): @ Cincinnati Reds (3)
June 14 (Mon): Off-day
June 15-17 (Tue-Thu): vs. Houston Astros (3)
June 18-20 (Fri-Sun): @ Atlanta Braves (3)
June 21-23 (Mon-Wed): @ Washington Nationals (3)
June 24 (Thu): Off-day
June 25-27 (Fri-Sun): vs. St. Louis Cardinals (3)
June 28-30 (Mon-Wed): vs. Chicago White Sox (3)

Like the Twins, the Royals have an equal amount of home games and road games this month (and everything is either AL Central or National League). They begin June at home, where they host the Tigers (and we will hope that Zack Greinke pitches on June 3). They then hit the road for a six-game road trip that takes them first to Minnesota and then on into the NL and the Great American Ballpark to take on the Cincinnati Reds (and it should be noted that the Royals actually swept the Reds in 2009). After the off-day on June 14th (and it should be noted that the entire AL Central is idle on June 14th), they head back to Kaufman Stadium for a very brief 3-game homestand against the Astros (and the Tigers know from experience that 3-game homestands can really mess you up). They then venture back into the NL, visiting Atlanta and Washington. One odd thing about KC’s schedule is that they only play one series with their natural Interleague rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. It’ll be in Kansas City, and it wraps up Interleague play for 2010. They then wrap up their homestand (and June) with a 3-game series against the Chicago White Sox. The Royals’ Interleague opponents had a combined .494 winning percentage in 2009, which gives them the second-toughest schedule, behind the Twins. Like the Twins, they also play two 90+ win teams (Colorado and St. Louis), but unlike Minnesota, they DO play the Nationals (but not the Pirates).
Home games: 12
Road games: 12
Kansas City’s 2009 record against opposition: 30-36 (Did not play ATL or WSH)
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .493

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