Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 and the AL Central: September/October

This is what it all comes down to, doesn’t it? As we learned the hard way in 2009, sometimes all it takes is one month. Which is why you work real hard the rest of the season to make sure you’ve either got a big cushion (if you’re leading the division) or you keep it close enough to give yourself a chance (if you’re in second or third place). So let’s see how that final stretch maps out for each team:

September 3-5 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
September 6-9 (Mon-Thu): vs. Chicago White Sox (4)
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): vs. Baltimore Orioles (3)
September 13 (Mon): Off-day
September 14-15 (Tue-Wed): @ Texas Rangers (2)
September 16 (Thu): Off-day
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
September 23 (Thu): Off-day
September 24-26 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
September 27-29 (Mon-Wed): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
September 30-October 3 (Thu-Sun): @ Baltimore Orioles (4)

Contrary to popular belief, the Tigers didn’t collapse in September. They went 17-16 in September and October combined, which is what everyone said they had to do (they were really bipolar about it, with lengthy winning and losing streaks, but still). Just like in 2009, the final month of the regular season will be jam-packed with the AL Central. They’ll play each division foe at least once, and they’ll have to deal with the Royals (who like to screw with us in September) and the White Sox twice. And that’s how the month begins: A series in Kansas City followed by a return home to meet the Sox for a four-game series. After they depart, the Orioles come to Comerica Park for a second time (which seems really random, and I’m guessing it’s the result of the high number of two-game series the Tigers play in 2010). Then there’s the other off-day/2-game series/off-day sequence of the year (the good thing about this is that it provides the Tigers with ample rest down the stretch). After that brief 2-game stay in Arlington, they journey to the Cell to see the White Sox one more time. September 20th marks the beginning of the final homestand, which’ll feature visits from the Royals and Twins (That point I made about playing well against your own division? Yeah. It comes into play right here). Unlike 2009, where the Tigers seemingly had the advantage by concluding the season at home (this was nullified once a tiebreaker became necessary), they’ll have to do it the hard way in 2010: on the road. Their last seven games are away from Comerica Park. They are against teams that are not expected to be contenders, but if you’re the Tigers, you can’t think that way at all. At the same time, though, they ARE teams you must take advantage of and based on how the Tigers’ September opponents did in 2009, they have the easiest schedule in the Central. At any rate, they wrap up the 2010 regular season with three at Progressive Field and then four (not one, as other sites have reported) at Camden Yards (and hopefully they’ll be busy getting ready for the postseason during this road trip). Do I need to stress the importance of playing better on the road?
Home games: 13
Road games: 15
Detroit’s 2009 record against opposition: 51-39
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .459

White Sox
September 2 (Thu): Off-day
September 3-5 (Fri-Sun): @ Boston Red Sox (3)
September 6-9 (Mon-Thu): @ Detroit Tigers (4)
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
September 13 (Mon): Off-day
September 14-16 (Tue-Thu): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): @ Oakland Athletics (3)
September 23 (Thu): Off-day
September 24-26 (Fri-Sun): @ Los Angeles Angels (3)
September 27-30 (Mon-Thu): vs. Boston Red Sox (4)
October 1-3 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)

By September, whereas the Tigers and Twins will be done with the AL East’s “three-headed monster” (Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays…Seriously, could any of you imagine me typing that about three years ago?), Chicago still has seven games left with the Red Sox. Like the Tigers, they also get a healthy dose of the AL Central down the stretch as well. Their September starts with what could be a grueling road trip through Boston and Detroit. However, after that they start a nine-game homestand where it’s all AL Central all the time (Royals, Twins, and Tigers). By the way, if you haven’t noticed, they have a ton of home games in September/October. Their final road trip of the year takes them out to the west coast to face the A’s and Angels. While the Tigers have to finish the year on the road, the final seven games for the White Sox will be at home. They’ll square off with the Red Sox for four, and then finish 2010 the way they started: a three-game series against the Indians.
Home games: 17
Road games: 13
Chicago’s 2009 record against opposition: 47-51
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .502

September 2-5 (Thu-Sun): @ Seattle Mariners (4)
September 6-8 (Mon-Wed): @ Los Angeles Angels (3)
September 9 (Thu): Off-day
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
September 13 (Mon): Off-day
September 14-16 (Tue-Thu): vs. Los Angeles Angels (3)
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
September 23-26 (Thu-Sun): vs. Kansas City Royals (4)
September 27-29 (Mon-Wed): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
September 30 (Thu): Off-day
October 1-3 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)

For a while, it looked as though the Indians were gonna do what they’ve done for most of the past several years and have a good second half. I mean, they had a decent August (15-12). Then September rolled around and they went 7-25. Now THAT’S a collapse. And yes, they get a good dose of the Central in the final month of 2010 as well. They’ll begin September on the west coast with a four game series in Seattle followed by a three-game series in Anaheim (This’ll end 16 games with no break). During the ensuing homestand, they’ll have an off-day/3-game series/off-day sequence, which is not as wacky as what Detroit has, but still. The opponents on this homestand include the Twins and Angels. They then head on the road for six, visiting Kansas City and Minnesota. Their final homestand of the season features a four-game series against the Royals, followed by a three-game series against the Tigers (at which point the Indians will probably just be happy to be facing a team that is NOT the Royals, Twins, or Angels). They end their season on the road in Chicago. If the Indians are in contention, they’ll have to work for it down the stretch. They’re on the road a lot, and they have the toughest schedule of anyone in the division.
Home games: 13
Road games: 16
Cleveland’s 2009 record against opposition: 38-50
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .512

September 3-5 (Fri-Sun): vs. Texas Rangers (3)
September 6-8 (Mon-Wed): vs. Kansas City Royals (3)
September 9 (Thu): Off-day
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (3)
September 13 (Mon): Off-day
September 14-16 (Tue-Thu): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): vs. Oakland Athletics (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
September 23 (Thu): Off-day
September 24-26 (Fri-Sun): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
September 27-29 (Mon-Wed): @ Kansas City Royals (3)
September 30-October 3 (Thu-Sun): vs. Toronto Blue Jays (4)

Oh, yes, indeed. All it takes is one month sometimes. Sometimes you can hover near the .500 mark all season and then inexplicably go 17-4 down the stretch. Remember when I said that even if the Royals and Indians aren’t contending, they’re going to have a lot to do with who wins the Central? Yeah, you see it now (By the way, if Detroit is out of it in September, I don’t think they’ll have a lot to say about the division race because history indicates they suck at playing spoiler). Plus, Minnesota has a ton of home games in September AND they end the season at home. They have home series against the Rangers and Royals to start the month. They’ll embark on a six-game road trip after that, which takes them to Cleveland and Chicago. The Twins return home on the 17th to host the A’s, followed by the Indians. After their final off-day on the 23rd, their final road trip involves three against the Tigers, followed by three against the Royals (boy, they sure do see Cleveland and Kansas City a LOT in September). As I said before, they end their season at home with four against the Blue Jays. So as you can see, between the large number of home games and the ease of the opponents based on 2009 results (not as easy as Detroit’s, but still very sub-.500), the conditions are ripe for another huge September surge for the Twins.
Home games: 16
Road games: 12
Minnesota’s 2009 record against opposition: 59-42
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .469

September 2 (Thu): Off-day
September 3-5 (Fri-Sun): vs. Detroit Tigers (3)
September 6-8 (Mon-Wed): @ Minnesota Twins (3)
September 9 (Thu): Off-day
September 10-12 (Fri-Sun): @ Chicago White Sox (3)
September 13-15 (Mon-Wed): vs. Oakland Athletics (3)
September 16 (Thu): Off-day
September 17-19 (Fri-Sun): vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
September 20-22 (Mon-Wed): @ Detroit Tigers (3)
September 23-26 (Thu-Sun): @ Cleveland Indians (4)
September 27-29 (Mon-Wed): vs. Minnesota Twins (3)
September 30-October 3 (Thu-Sun): vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4)

Is it just me, or do the Oakland Athletics show up a lot against the AL Central in September? At any rate, the Royals went 14-15 in September/October 2009, though that featured a hot streak that occurred at the most inconvenient of times for the Tigers. The rough finished featured being swept at the Metrodome, the turning point of which was a bad decision by Zack Greinke to pitch to Joe Mauer with a base open and two outs in a scoreless game (So in a battle of the Cy Young winner vs. the batting champ, the batting champ wins? I thought good pitching was supposed to beat good hitting). At any rate, their September starts with them at home against the Tigers. After that they head out on the road to Minnesota and Chicago. Following the six-game road trip is a six-game homestand against the A’s and Indians. The off-day on the 16th is their last of the year, as they’ll play the remaining seventeen games consecutively. Their final road trip takes them to Detroit and Cleveland. The Royals finish up 2010 at home with three against the Twins and four against the Rays.
Home games: 16
Road games: 13
Kansas City’s 2009 record against opposition: 35-55
Combined 2009 winning percentage of opponents: .489

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