The Importance of Schedule in a 60 Game MLB Season

Baseball is back! At least, lets all hope.  July, 23rd feels incredibly far away.  But, if all goes well and there aren’t any outbreaks, we’ll have baseball and fantasy baseball back in our lives at long last.  As fantasy drafts fire back up over the next couple of weeks you can keep your strategy for a 162 game schedule intact for the most part, but if you don’t take the following into account, you could be watching the title run instead of participating in it.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE SCHEDULE.  It’s 60 games and teams are mostly going to be confined to their own division – 40 games versus divisional opponents.  They only time they’ll stray from their division is when they play an inter-league game against an opponent of the similar division – East plays East, Central plays Central and West plays West, that’ll make up the remaining 20 games.  This will have a big impact on teams like the Marlins who won’t catch a break at all this year – facing the Nats, Mets, Phillies, Braves, Yankees and Rays pitching staffs.  Then you’ve got teams like the Astros or Blue Jays that won’t be able to leave their divisions to go beat up on the weaker pitching staffs in the AL Central.  

Now more than ever you need to do your research on what type of division your sluggers and pitchers reside.  Is it a pitching stacked division like the National League East or a pitching weak division like the American League Central?  Conversely are your pitchers going up against American League East line-ups and only getting a break when they face the Orioles?  

Now, don’t let the pendulum swing too far, meaning don’t pass on Ronald Acuna Jr just because he’s in the NL East.  Rather, use this as a tipping point if you have guys ranked closely – this could be the tie-breaker.  For example, originally I had J.T. Realmuto ranked as the number three catcher this year, but because he’s going to be stuck facing NL East pitching, I’m sliding him down a spot and moving Mitch Garver up into his place.  Garver gets the Royals, Tigers, and White Sox most of the season.  And let me take a moment to address White Sox fans who might be upset by that last statement – I know the rotation is improving with Giolito, Kopech, Cease and you signed Keuchel and Gonzalez, BUT I have to see it with Kopech and Cease this year, then you’ve got Lopez  who is inconsistent, Gio Gonzalez is nothing to hang your hat on and Dallas Keuchel gets roughed up by righties. 

I could just leave it there and let you do your own research, but NO…allow me to provide a breakdown of the divisions.  I am going to assign each team a grade of A, B, C or D for pitching strength and lineup strength:

First, pitching…

NL East

Nationals (A) - Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Sanchez, Voth

Mets (B) – deGrom, Stroman, Porcello, Matz, Wacha (Syndergaard out until 2021)

Braves (B) – Soroka, Fried, Hamels, Foltynewicz, Hernandez

Phillies (B) – Nola, Wheeler, Arrieta, Eflin, Pivetta

Marlins (C)…BUT IT COULD BE A (C+) – Alcantara, Smith, Lopez, Urena, Yamamoto

NL Central

Reds (A) Castillo, Gray, Bauer, DeSclafani, Miley

Cardinals (A) – Flaherty, Hudson, Mikolas, Wainwright, Hyun Kim

Cubs (B) – Lester, Darvish, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood

Brewers (C) – Woodruff, Houser, Anderson, Lindbolm, Lauer

Pirates (C) – Archer, Musgrove, Williams, Keller, Holland

NL West

Dodgers (A) – Kershaw, Buehler, Price, Urias, Wood

Padres (B) – Paddack, Lamet, Richards, Davies, Lucchesi

Diamondbacks (B) – Bumgarner, Ray, Weaver, Gallen, Kelly or Young

Giants (C)…could be a (C+) - Cueto, Samardzija, Gausman, Smyly, Webb

Rockies (D) – Marquez, Gray, Freeland, Senzatela, Lambert

AL East

Rays (A) – Snell, Glasnow, Morton, Chirinos, Yarbrough

Yankees (A) – Cole, Tanaka, Happ, Montgomery, Paxton

Red Sox (C) – Rodriguez, Eovaldi, Perez, Weber, McHugh

Blue Jays (C) – Ryu, Roark, Anderson, Shoemaker, Yamaguchi/Thornton

Orioles (D) – Means, Cobb, Wojciechowski, LeBlanc, Stewart

AL Central

Indians (A) – Clevinger, Bieber, Carrasco, Plutko, Rodriguez

Twins (B) – Berrios, Odorizzi, Maeda, Bailey, Dobnak

White Sox (C) – Giolito, Keuchel, Gonzalez, Cease, Lopez

Royals (D) – Keller, Duffy, Junis, Montgomery, Sparkman

Tigers (D) – Boyd, Zimmerman, Turnbull, Nova, Norris

AL West

Astros (A) – Verlander, Greinke, McCullers, Urquidy, Pruitt 

Rangers (B) – Kluber, Minor, Lynn, Gibson, Lyles

Athletics (B) – Fiers, Manaea, Montas, Luzardo, Bassitt

Angels (C) – Heaney, Teheran, Bundy, Canning, Andriese

Mariners (D) – Gonzales, Kikuchi, Sheffield, Graveman, Walker

You can also use this to find sleepers – grab guys who are buried in the draft pool and hit in the AL Central.  

With this in mind you’ll want to make sure you have your fair share of Rays, Yankees, Indians and Dodgers hitters on your team.  I understand that can sort of go without saying, but it can be easy to find yourself with what looks to be a good team and not have a player from one of those teams.  Make a conscious effort to draft a few guys from those teams.

Next up, the line-ups. I’ll grade, provide their 2019 OPS, identify if they’ll be up/better, the same or down/worse in 2020 and highlight key player movement.

NL East

Mets (A) - .770 (11th) SLIGHTLY UP Added Marisnick

Braves (A) - .789 (7th) SAME Added Ozuna, d’Arnaud |Lost Donaldson

Nationals (B) - .796 (6th) DOWN Added Castro, Thames |Lost Rendon, Dozier

Phillies (B) - .746 (17th) UP Added Gregorious |Lost Dickerson, Franco

Marlins (D) - .673 (30th) UP Added Dickerson, Villar, Aguilar |Lost Castro

NL Central

Cubs (A) - .785 (8th) SAME Lost Castellanos

Reds (B) - .738 (22nd) UP Added Castellanos, Akiyama

Brewers (B) - .767 (12th) SAME Added Garcia, Smoak, Navarez | Lost Grandal, Moustakas

Cardinals (C) - .739 (21st) DOWN Lost Ozuna, Martinez

Pirates (C) - .743 (19th) DOWN Lost Marte

NL West

Dodgers (A) - .810 (4th) UP Added Betts | Lost Verdugo

Rockies (A) - .782 (9th) SAME 

D-backs (B) - .757 (13th) UP Added Calhoun, Marte

Padres (C) - .718 (26th) UP Added Pham, Dozier, Profar, Grisham

Giants (D) - .694 (28th) SLIGHTLY UP Added Pence | Lost Pillar

AL East 

Yankees (A) - .829 (3rd) SAME Lost Gregorious, Encarnacion

Red Sox (A) - .806 (5th) DOWN Added Pillar, Verdugo |Lost Betts

Rays (B) - .757 (14th) UP Add Martinez, Tsutsugo, Renfroe|Lose Garcia, d’Arnaud, Pham

Blue Jays (B) - .733 (23rd) UP Added Shaw | Lost Smoak

Orioles (D) - .725 (25th) SAME Lost Villar

AL Central

Indians (A) - .756 (15th) SLIGHTLY UP Added Deshields Jr.

Twins (A) - .832 (2nd) SLIGHTLY UP Added Donaldson |Lost Schoop

White Sox (B) - .728 (24th) UP Added Grandal, Mazara, Encarnacion

Royals (D) - .710 (27th) UP Added Franco

Tigers (D) - .682 (29th) UP Added Schoop

AL West

Astros (A) - .848 (1st) SAME Lost Marisnick

Athletics (A) - .776 (10th) SAME Lost Profar

Angels (A) - .746 (18th) UP Added Rendon |Lost Calhoun

Rangers (B) - .750 (16th) DOWN Lost Pence, Deshields Jr, Mazara

Mariners (C) - .740 (20th) DOWN Lost Navarez, Santana

Depending on your strategy you may go heavy with your hitters or heavy with your pitchers.  Know that even in this 60 game schedule, their value remains equal to that of a 162 game season.  That being said, for young pitchers you won’t really have to worry about innings limits creeping up and biting you in the second half of the season.  Pitchers will also miss less games if there is a positive test that causes a quarantine period.  A hitter could miss about 14 games but a pitcher will only miss three.  

Keep the schedule in mind when you draft – use it to tip the scale between guys that you view closely.

Between now and the start of the season I’ll be posting my top ten at each position and I’ll highlight who moved up or down because of the shortened season.

Good luck with your 2020 fantasy season!

You can find me on Twitter @JimRileyLive

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