FanPost

2011 Schedule Analysis

The way the baseball schedule works has intrigued me since I could read and interpret the sports page of the newspaper. Who we play, when we play them, how long has it been, all that stuff. So as I was procrastinating studying for my calculus test, I randomly came across a MLS schedule analysis here on SBN (I said it was random). I was then motivated to see how the Cardinals schedule broke down and if there were any interesting stretches or series. So I went through the schedule, series by series, to see how the Cardinals might earn their next division title. Note: The first series of a month is the first series that starts in that month.

March/April

Obviously the season starts a few days earlier this year than in years previous. I like this, not least because it means baseball starts sooner. The main concern I would expect to result from starting in late March is that it more games are being played in weather that can still be hazardous to baseball. Many remember the nasty weather of Opening Day 2009. Cold, wind, and blown saves are no way to start a season. Unfortunately, there is no real solution to this issue besides scheduling as few games in cities that have high risk for disruptive weather and outdoor stadiums as possible.

The Cardinals’ April didn’t look terribly difficult at first glance but after further review, could be daunting. Hopefully they come out firing like they have in recent seasons. The most difficult part of their April schedule will be the 10-games-in-10-days west coast swing vs SF, ARI, and LAD. The series against San Francisco is the first home series for them of the year so I expect some festivities regarding their success last year. Meanwhile, the team bookends the month with two of the National League’s best last year, starting with 3 vs Padres and ending the month with 3 in Atlanta. Another challenge presents itself on the second to last weekend on the month when the Reds come to town. On the bright side, home series vs the Pirates and Nationals and a road trip to Houston shouldn’t be terribly difficult to wrangle 6-7 wins out of, although last year taught us the value of being sharp against all teams, not just the ones you are chasing in the standings.

Numbers after team is projected record by CAIRO projections, done here

3 vs SD (83.1-78.9) (Off day after Opening Day)

3 vs PIT (66.6-95.4)
Off
3 @ SF (86.9-75.1)

4 @ ARI (69.5-92.5)

3 @ LAD (82.2-79.8)
Off
3 vs WSH (74.9-87.1

3 vs CIN (87.2-74.8)
Off
3 @ HOU (66.9-95.1)

3 @ ATL (87.2-74.8)

Divisional Games: 9 (6 Home, 3 Road)

May

Unfortunately, May doesn’t appear any easier than April. In fact, it might be the toughest month of the year for the Cardinals. Only 2 off days are scheduled, one coming at the end of a 6 game home stand in the beginning of the month, one breaking up a 9 game road trip. After entertaining the Marlins for 4, a stretch of divisional games will test the Cardinals. The Brewers come to St. Louis, hopefully with their shirts tucked in and Greinke not scheduled to start. Then the team heads to Chicago for the first weekday series there in as long as I can remember. This also starts a stretch of 16-games-in-16-days. The road trip concludes with a series in Cincinnati with reigning NL Central champs. After this road trip, the Cardinals will have played each team in the division at least once. The slate presents one last challenge as the NL favorite Philadelphia journey to St. Louis for 2. The quality of the opposition drops temporarily, as the Cards host Houston and visit cross-state foe and interleague rival Kansas City (Is it bad that I don’t even think of an interleague matchup as exciting? To me, Kansas City is a just another team on the schedule. The other interleague matchups aren’t very exciting either. At least we’re not playing the Tigers this year). Following their trip to Kauffman Stadium, the Cardinals travel out west to San Diego and Colorado, two teams that combined to go 5-1 vs St. Louis at home. The road trip to Colorado last year was especially painful, with 3 crushing losses, reigniting memories of which I had successfully repressed until this FanPost. The month concludes with a 4 game series against the World Series Champions in St. Louis. We’ll get to see just about all of that incredible pitching they have. The best I think the team could hope for this month is 16-14, and that evens sounds optimistic to me.

4 vs FLA (79.3-82.7)

3 vs MIL (86.6-75.4)
Off
3 @ CHC (75.8-86.2)

3 @ CIN (87.2-74.8)

2 vs PHI (93.7-68.3)

2 vs HOU (66.9-95.1)

3 @ KC (66.2-95.8)

3 @ SD (83.1-78.9)
Off
3 @ COL (83.4-78.6)

4 vs SF (89.9-75.1)

Divisional Games: 11 (5 Home, 6 Road)

June

The best way I can think of for summer to announce its presence is through a 3 game sweep of the Cubs, in St. Louis, with the Cards comfortably in first place. If the Cards can achieve that after the first series of June I will be more than impressed. Following a grueling May schedule, The Cubs do indeed visit St. Louis on the first weekend of June. An interesting quirk of the June schedule is that the Cardinals have every Monday in the month off. As in May, the divisional games come in bunches, with the Cardinals visiting Houston and Milwaukee. The rest of the month, save a 3 game home stand with the Royals, is spent in games against the National and American League’s East divisions. Prior to hosting the Royals, the Cards head to Washington. The series’ following the mid-month trip to Washington comprise of 9 in a row at home vs KC, Philadelphia (again), and Toronto. The final road trip and series of the month sends the club to Baltimore. In all, this month isn’t too bad. Regular off-days allow the club to set its rotation as needed. Projected sub-.500 teams on the schedule include Chicago, Houston, Washington, Kansas City, and Baltimore, with only Milwaukee and Philadelphia currently appearing as obvious threats.

3 vs CHC (75.8-86.2)
Off
3 @ HOU(66.9-95.1)

3 @ MIL (86.6-75.4)
Off
3 @ WSH (74.9-87.1)

3 vs KC (66.2-95.8)
Off
3 vs PHI (93.7-68.3)

3 vs TOR (77.2-84.8
Off
3 @BAL (76.9-85.1)

Divisional Games: 9 (3 Home, 6 Road)

July

Honestly, I don’t really know what to make of this month. It starts off with 2 tough series against Tampa and Cincinnati, and the last series before the All-Star Break is a 4 gamer at home vs the Diamondbacks. Odd schedule quirk number 2 is that the series before the All-Star break in vs Arizona, and the All-star game and festivities are back in Phoenix. After the Cardinals all-stars put the National league on their back and start a winning streak for the National League, the team gets an extra day after the break to travel to Cincinnati to square off against the Reds. After a weekday series against the Mets, the only team in the National League that the Cards would yet to have played, the team again starts a stretch of 10 straight divisional games at Pittsburgh, and at home against the Astros and Cubs. I would hope the team would take advantage of a somewhat weak schedule but the month ends with 13 in a row and including the first week of August, the Mets series signifies the beginning of 20-games-in-20-days.

3 @ TB (87.9-74.1)

3 vs CIN (87.2-74.8)

4 vs ARI (69.5-92.5)

All-Star Break

3 @ CIN (87.2-74.8)
Off
3 @ NYM (80.1-81.9)

3 @ PIT (66.6-95.4)

4 vs HOU (66.9-95.1)

3 vs CHC (75.8-86.2)

Divisional Games: 16 (10 home, 6 Road)

August

The month of August is dominated by Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. The Cardinals finally finish their 20 games in a row after road trips to Milwaukee and Florida. After a Monday off-day, the Cards welcome Milwaukee back to St. Louis. Following the Brewers is the Rockies. After the 6 game home stand, the team heads east to Pittsburgh for three, followed by a Thursday off-day. The weekend series is in Chicago. This is about the point in the season in 2010 where the wheels just came off. Needless to say, the team will have to be better, both in August and against teams they should beat to deserve a playoff spot. The Cards return home from Chicago to host the Dodgers for 3 and the Pirates for 4. The month closes with an off-day and a set against Milwaukee. 16 out 29 games in the month of August are vs the Brewers or Pirates. Of the 9 games against Milwaukee, 6 are in Wisconsin. Of the 7 games against the Pirates, 3 are at PNC Park. The difficulty of this month will depend almost entirely on how much Milwaukee is improved. If they are neck and neck with the Cards, Reds or whoever else is challenging for the NL Central, then this month could knock a team out of the race. If Milwaukee doesn’t improve enough to be a contender, this month could be the time for the Cards to either separate themselves from the other contenders or catch up to the leaders. If the Cardinals are the ones who aren’t contending, for whatever reason, this could be an opportunity to play spoiler.

3 @ MIL (86.6-75.4)

4 @ FLA (79.3-82.7)
Off
3 vs MIL (86.6-75.4)

3 vs COL (83.4-78.6)

3 @ PIT (66.6-95.4)
Off
3 @ CHC (75.8-86.2)

3 vs LAD (82.2-79.8)

4 vs PIT (66.6-95.4)
Off
3 @ MIL (86.6-75.4)

Divisional Games: 19 (7 Home, 12 Road)

September

And down the stretch they come … 3 of the 4 2010 NL playoff teams make an appearance on the Cards schedule in the last month, just as 3 did in the first month. The other 2 projected NL Central contenders pay St. Louis one last visit. By now we’ll know whether or not a division championship is possible and these two series are likely to say a lot about if the Cardinals have what it takes. The challenges don’t end there though. Separated by a 3 game trip to Pittsburgh, the Cards host Atlanta for 3 and travel to Philadelphia for an odd 4 game series that runs Friday through Monday. The final home stand of the year welcomes rivals New York and Chicago. Schedule quirk number three has the team traveling to Minute Maid for the final series of the season, ending on Wednesday the 28th, likely a result of starting on a Thursday. Obviously trying to figure how games will go in September in February is a fruitless exercise but if the projections are right, the wild card or Central division very well could be decided in the first 5 series of September.

3 vs CIN (87.2-74.8)

3 vs MIL (86.6-75.4)
Off
3 vs ATL (87.2-74.8)

3 @ PIT (66.6-95.4)
Off
4 @ PHI (93.7-68.3)

3 vs NYM (80.1-81.9)

3 vs CHC (75.8-86.2)

3 @ HOU (66.9-95.1)

Divisional Games: 15 (9 Home, 6 Road)