Are the St. Louis Cardinals Wrapping Up the Most Grueling Stretch of the 2012 Schedule?

May 18, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday (7) in the dugout after a 2-run home run in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

The Cardinals lost 6-5 to the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine last night on Sunday Night Baseball. The game was the final one of the club's five-game west coast swing. It started at 7:05 PM CDT and did not get done until late in the evening for folks in the central time zone. After the game, the Cardinals talked to the media, showered, perhaps dressed up in tacky tuxedos, and then flew back to St. Louis where they will play the Padres tonight at 7:15 PM CDT.

As fans, I think it's easy for us to forget about the grind baseball players put themselves through over the course of a season. Even though they are professional athletes in great shape, playing a game in St. Louis on Tuesday afternoon and then flying to San Francisco for a game on Wednesday night can't be easy. And it seems particularly grueling to then play an evening game in Los Angeles on Sunday night before flying back to St. Louis for a game on Monday night without a day off. This got me to wondering whether the turnaround from Sunday night's game in Los Angeles and tonight's game in St. Louis is the worst the Cardinals have on the 2012 schedule.

I decided to take a look at the Cardinals' getaway days this season, the amount of distance traveled on the flight to the next game, and the amount of time between games in order to get an idea of the most grueling two-game combinations on the schedule. The results are after the jump.

I started off by looking at the distance traveled between game locations. Using a flight distance calculator from travelmath.com, I traveled the distance between cities as the Cardinal flies. The Cardinals have made or will make several flights this season that are 938 miles or longer. (I chose 938 miles as the cutoff solely because I found it interesting that the flight between Chicago and Houston is the ninth-longest St. Louis will make this season.)

Departure City

Arrival City

Distance

St. Louis

San Francisco

1,746 miles

Los Angeles*

St. Louis

1,589 miles

St. Louis

San Diego

1,564 miles

New York

Houston

1,419 miles

Phoenix

St. Louis

1,272 miles

Miami

Milwaukee

1,268 miles

Kansas City

Miami

1,242 miles

Houston

Phoenix

1,016 miles

Chicago

Houston

938 miles

*The flight between Los Angeles and St. Louis will be made twice this season.

The flight the Cardinals made after last night's game is the second-longest flight on the schedule this season behind the one they took last Tuesday from St. Louis to San Francisco. In fact, the month of May has four of the team's eight longest flights on the season. It has been a month in which the Cards have spent a lot of time on an airplane. However, distance is not the only factor to consider when judging how grueling travel is.

I also took a look at the turnaround between games. To do this in a way that allows for us to look at the schedule as a whole, I used average game length. From 2000 through 2009, the average length of a Major League Baseball game was two hours and fifty-seven minutes. To make things a spit easier for me, I rounded this number up to an even three hours. This gives us some idea how many minutes the Cardinals have, on average, between the last out of a getaway game and the first pitch of the series opener in a new city.

I then took the number of miles the club has to travel between cities and divided it by the number of minutes between getaway game end and series opener start. I decided to use this formula because quite a few getaway games also have an off day following them. Dividing travel miles by minutes off allows to get a better idea of how grueling the series-to-series turnaround is.

The following chart ranks the Cardinals getaway game to series opener turnaround by travel miles divided by minutes between the end of the average end of a getaway day game and the start of the series opener ("MI/MINS"). "DEP" is the departure city. "ARR" is the arrival city. "MILES" is the number of miles by plane between the departure and arrival city. "GGD" is getaway game date. "GGST" is getaway game start time. "GGET" is the estimated getaway game end time. "AGD" is the arrival game date. "AGST" is the arrival game start time. "MINS" is the number of minutes between the averaged getaway game end time and arrival game start time. All times are calculated based on central time zone time.

DEP

ARR

MILES

GGD

GGST

GGET

AGD

AGST

MINS

MI/MINS

LA

STL

1589

5/20

7:00 PM

10:00 PM

5/21

7:15 PM

1365

1.1641

STL

SF

1746

5/15

12:45 PM

3:45 PM

5/16

9:15 PM

1770

0.9864

STL

SD

1564

9/9

1:15 PM

4:15 PM

9/10

9:05 PM

1730

0.9040

NYC

HOU

1419

6/4

12:10 PM

3:10 PM

6/5

7:05 PM

1675

0.8472

KC

MIA

1242

6/24

1:10 PM

4:10 PM

6/25

6:10 PM

1560

0.7962

As you can see from the chart, the last seven days has been a grueling one for the Cardinals. Last Tuesday, they played a 12:45 PM CDT game against the Cubs in St. Louis. After the game, the Cardinals flew 1,746 miles to San Francisco for a game against the Giants that started at 9:15 PM CDT without a day off in between the two games. However, even with the longer flight, the turnaround between the games against Chicago and San Francisco is not the most grueling. That designation belongs to the turnaround between last night's evening game in Los Angeles and tomorrow's night game at home against the Padres.

Last night, the Cardinals wrapped up a week that saw them travel over 3,300 miles by plane in the middle of a stretch of twenty games in twenty days. While the results have not been the best, given this context, they aren't horrible, either. The Cardinals will doubtlessly be happy to return home for a stretch of games at Busch that doesn't require any flights and allows them to sleep in their own beds.

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