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September Schedules Part 3: NL Central, AL West, NL West

This is our last installment of the September Schedules miniseries; we’ll evaluate half the teams of the NL Central, and both leagues’ West Divisions. Last week we hit up the NL East, the AL Central, and the first half of the NL Central. Before that, I introduced the series and discussed the AL East. Check out both the previous parts if you missed ‘em. It’s worth mentioning again that I’m using Fangraphs WAR to grade team pitching and wOBA for hitting, and ESPN’s 2014 Park Factors, but you’ll have to follow the links if you want more recap. 

Milwaukee Brewers
Home: 14 (0.951, 19th, pitching favorable) | Road: 12
Opponents: Cardinals (7), Cubs (6), Reds (6), Marlins (4), Pirates (3)

With a pretty even pitching/hitting split in away park factors, and a pitching-friendly home park, grade this one grades out as relatively good for Milwaukee pitchers, though none of the park effects are particularly extreme. It’s the opposing batters that Brewer pitchers will really like though: only the three games against the Pirates are against quality offenses, and they get 12 games against two of the worst lineups in baseball: the Cubs and Reds. It could be a nice month for Milwaukee hurlers.

Things aren’t quite as helpful for the Brew Crew’s lineup. While the Pirates and Reds present nice targets for the Brewer bats, they have more games against the average-or-better Marlins, Cardinals, and Cubs. While the Cubs were depleted by a trade, the Cards were bolstered. Including the park effects, this is a bad but not terrible schedule for Brewer hitters. 

Final Grade: Things could end up very nice for Milwaukee pitchers, with friendly lineups and parks. Pick up their fringier guys. It could be rough for hitters, but not truly horrible.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Home: 9 (1.025, 12th, mildly hitting favorable) | Road: 17
Opponents: Cubs (6), Phillies (4), Braves (4), Brewers (3), Cardinals (3), Reds (3), Red Sox (3)

The Pirates get three games in St. Louis’s hitter-friendly stadium, but all their other road games are in pitcher-friendly parks. Actually, with Pittsburgh’s park close to neutral and the St. Louis games coming in the first three games of the month, most of September looks to be a little bit pitcher friendly. Their opponents will help too: only the Brewers and Cardinals out outside of the bottom 10 lineups in baseball. Maybe this will be enough to get Pittsburgh hurlers out of last in baseball in WAR….

Things aren’t quite as favorable for Pirate hitters, but they should enjoy playing against the Phillies, Brewers, and Reds, and the Cubs and Red Sox ought to be worse than their rank by WAR thanks to trading their best pitchers in July. The Braves, Cardinals, and park factors keep it from being a great schedule, but it’s still pretty good.

Final Grade: If you dare to pick up Pirates pitchers, at least they’ll get to face some of baseball’s weakest hitting teams in some of the friendlier parks. Hitters will be hampered by park effects, but ought to perform pretty well given the quality of their opposition.

St. Louis Cardinals
Home: 12 (1.098, 4th, very hitting favorable)| Road: 14
Opponents: Brewers (7), Reds (7), Cubs (3), Pirates (3), Rockies (3), Diamondbacks (3)

 

Just over half of the Cardinals' games are in very favorable parks for hitters (the home games, plus the last three in Arizona) and the other games are in relatively moderate parks, so things look pretty good on the balance for St. Louis hitters.

But it gets better: the Cardinals play 23 of their 26 games against teams in the bottom-third of pitching. Those other three games? Against the Cubs. Pretty much every St. Louis hitter is worth owning with a schedule like this.

Things are a mixed bag for the pitchers though: they play some tough offenses with the Brewers and Pirates, and the parks will hurt. The Rockies games are in St. Louis, though, and that squad will be without its best players. The other opponents are a lot easier. It will have its ups and downs, so this schedule looks like a good one to play matchups if you’ve got the roster space.

Final Grade: This is a great schedule for hitters, so don’t leave any unclaimed. Pitchers have a good matchups opportunity, with some very favorable opponents and some pretty tough ones.

Houston Astros
Home: 9 (0.952, 18th, pitching favorable)| Road: 15
Opponents: Mariners (6), Angels (5), Indians (4), A’s (3), Rangers (3), Mets (3)

This schedule is intensely favorable for pitching when it comes to the parks: only the three games in Texas are in hitter-friendly stadiums, and the Astros’ pitchers get to enjoy some of the most extreme pitchers parks in Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York. Of course, this is mitigated somewhat by having to face quality offensive teams in the A’s, Angels, and Indians, but Houston pitchers should still see a boost to their value overall.

The news is not good for Houston batters. Those extreme park effects are still in play, but they get only six games against pitching staffs outside the top 11. Ouch.

Final Grade: September will be a good month to take a chance on Houston pitchers, but stay far, far away from their hitters. Far away. Really.

Los Angeles Angels
Home: 10 (0.920, 24th, very pitching favorable)| Road: 16
Opponents: Mariners (7), Rangers (6), Astros (5), Twins (4), A’s (3), Indians (1)

Angels pitchers will enjoy the fact that 19 of their 26 September games will be in pitchers’ parks. Also helpful: half their games will be against the weak-hitting Mariners and Rangers and they’ll face only four games against top-notch lineups (Oakland and Cleveland).

Los Angeles (of Anaheim) hitters won’t like the park effects much, however, and they won’t get much help from opposing pitchers: only the Astros pitching has been truly bad from this bunch, and the Mariners, Indians, and A’s have been very good.

Final Grade: I love Angel pitchers for September, so load up on them if you can. Their hitters…not so much. Avoid them if you can.

Oakland A’s
Home: 15 (0.976, 15th, mildly pitching favorable)| Road: 11
Opponents: Rangers (7), Mariners (6), White Sox (4), Angels (3), Astros (3), Phillies (3)

A lot of mildly favorable home games (not to mention a history of Oakland being more strongly pitching favorable) and three games in Seattle more than balances out six road games in hitter-friendly venues (Chicago and Texas). Oakland pitchers also get to enjoy games against the very bad hitting Mariners and Phillies, and the fairly bad Rangers, while only the seven games against the Angels and White Sox feature tough opposing hitters. All in all, it’s pretty good for Oakland pitchers. That won’t help you find any on the waiver wire, though.

Their hitters won’t benefit from the park situation, but most of their games will be against below average pitching teams, and several will be against truly bad pitching staffs. It probably makes this a roughly neutral schedule for Oakland’s batters.

Final Grade: Pretty much anyone Oakland throws out there to pitch is going to like the schedule, so keep an eye out for their fill-ins and spot starters. Their hitters won’t get any special boost, but the schedule won’t kill them either.

Seattle Mariners
Home: 9 (0.892, 28th, very pitching friendly)| Road: 18
Opponents: Angels (7), A’s (6), Astros (6), Rangers (4), Blue Jays (4)

Eight road games in Texas and Toronto make this month perhaps better than most for Mariner hitters. While all the other road games they play are in pitcher-friendly parks, they’re all still better for hitting in than Seattle itself. More hitter-friendly than usual? Yes. Hitter-friendly? Not really, no.

Mariner hitters get about a half-and-half split on pitching quality too, with 13 games against the good-to-very-good Angels and A’s, and 14 against the below average Astros, Rangers, and Blue Jays. Again, better than usual, but not objectively good.

Mariner pitchers will enjoy the parks well enough (but again, less than usual), but the opponents are a tough draw: the Blue Jays join the Angels and A’s in the top seven offensive clubs in baseball. It won’t be an easy schedule, but that wouldn’t keep me from using pitchers from the AL’s number-two staff by WAR, and MLB’s number-one by ERA (an astounding 2.93 mark).

Final Grade: It’s a tough schedule, as the Mariners face two of baseball’s best teams on both sides of the ball 13 times. It isn’t bad enough to discount Mariner pitchers, but it cuts into their value a little and actually helps Seattle hitters. A little.

Texas Rangers
Home: 17 (1.097, 4th, very hitting friendly)| Road: 9
Opponents: Angels (6), A’s (6), Mariners (4), Astros, (3), Royals (3), Braves (3)

All those home games mean a nice schedule for Texas hitters and a rough one for their pitchers. All their road games are in pitchers’ parks, but only Los Angeles has played far from neutral of the three, and they don’t nearly balance out all those home games in the AL’s top park to hit in.

Unfortunately for Texas hitters, the three games against the Astros are the only ones that don’t come against top-12 pitching staffs. One has to expect that to moderate the park effects more than a little. 

Ranger pitchers, like the Mariners, will spend about half their games (12 in this case) against good-hitting clubs (those same Angels and A’s), and the rest against relatively weak lineups. To me, that’s not enough to recommend Texas pitchers with so many home games. 

Final Grade: Extreme parks can be tough, and this is bad enough for pitchers that I don’t recommend taking chances on the Rangers’ staff in September. Will it be enough to help their hitters against a slate of good pitching, though, is the real question? I’d say…probably, though there are better bets out there.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Home: 9 (1.166, 2nd, extremely hitting favorable) | Road: 17
Opponents: Padres (7), Giants (6), Rockies (4), Dodgers (3), Cardinals (3), Twins (3)

With the Colorado games, half of the Diamondbacks’ games will be in extreme hitters’ environments; another three (in Minnesota) will also be in a hitters’ park. But the other 10 games will be in parks on the other extreme side of the spectrum. You can take advantage of this: the D-Backs’ first ten games are all on the road in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, which Arizona pitchers should enjoy. After that, though, all of the games will be in hitters’ havens. So drop Arizona pitchers no later than the 12th of September, and pick up their hitters at the same time. 

The opponents (influenced by their parks, you think?) match up pretty similarly: two of the D-Backs’ first three series are against weak-hitting squads, so you can still feel safe (-ish) using Arizona pitchers. Actually, the Rockies are the only heavy-hitting opponent the Diamondbacks will face in the second half of the month, but I’m still not taking my chances on Diamondback pitchers in Arizona. Maybe if they were any good….

You really will want to avoid your Arizona hitters during their road weeks at the beginning of the month, but after that opposing pitching staffs shouldn’t scare you away: the Giants and Padres may have good team ERA’s, but their pitching WAR still totals among the lower teams in baseball.

Final Grade: It’s a tale of two months. First half, feel safe using Arizona pitchers in friendly California parks. After the 12th, drop ‘em and pick up hitters, because the schedule becomes great for their batters.

Colorado Rockies
Home: 14 (1.384, 1st, off-the-charts hitting favorable)| Road: 12
Opponents: Padres (6), Dodgers (6), Giants (4), Diamondbacks (4), Cardinals (3), Mets (3)

The Rox get nine games in extreme pitchers’ parks, but 14 home games and three in St. Louis (third most hitter-friendly in baseball) mean this is a very nice park schedule for Colorado hitters. Though the Dodgers are the only tough-hitting opponent on the schedule, even the Mets and Padres get a little bite in Colorado. Pass on Rockies pitchers if you weren’t already. (And why weren’t you?)

All the home games make it easy: you like Rockies hitters in September. None of their opponents make it into the top 10 in pitching WAR this year, though the Dodgers and Cardinals seem like they should be tougher than they have been. That’s the closest I’ve got to a caveat. Get those Rockies hitters into your lineup.

Final Grade: Bad for pitchers, great for hitters. The only surprise is that the disparity is even greater than usual.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Home: 15 (0.930, 23rd, very pitching favorable) | Road: 10
Opponents: Giants (6), Rockies (6), Cubs (4), Padres (3), Diamondbacks (3), Nationals (3)

The Dodgers have three games in Colorado, but their pitchers should roll through everything else, as all their other road games (in San Francisco and Chicago) are in pitchers’ parks. Making things even better: only the Rockies offer a high-scoring offense (and they’re without their best two hitters, don’t forget). With so many games against bottom-level offenses, this is one of baseball’s most pitching-friendly schedules.

Dodger hitters won’t benefit from the park effects, that’s for sure. They’ll enjoy the opposing pitchers a little more, though, as only the Nationals and the now-depleted Cubs have gotten good work from their pitchers this season.

Final Grade: Pick up Dodger pitchers; even their scrubs could enjoy very valuable months with great parks and weak opponents. Los Angeles hitters will be hurt by park effects, but should benefit from facing bad pitching staffs. I’d call it roughly even for the batters. 

San Diego Padres
Home: 14 (0.896, 26th, very pitching favorable) | Road: 13
Opponents: Giants (7), Diamondbacks (7), Rockies (6), Phillies (4), Dodgers (3)

An even home/road schedule has a hard time not coming out favorable for Padres pitchers; throw in seven road games in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and Pad Pitchers will be really happy. Of course, that’s mitigated by the six games in Arizona and Colorado (which are spaced so that each pitcher should get at least one of them—ugh), but the parks still come out well for the pitchers. And correspondingly bad for the hitters. 

Padre pitchers are blessed with a lot of games against bad hitters too. The depleted Rockies shouldn’t be nearly as much a threat as they look (when they’re in San Diego), leaving only the three Dodger games against opponents outside the bottom third of offenses. Making things extra useful: starting September 15th, every game the Padres play is against a bad offense and in a pitchers’ park. Plan accordingly. 

The parks are really rough for Padres hitters, but there’s a silver lining: their opponents are really bad at pitching. The Diamondbacks, Giants, and Rockies are among the five worst pitching staffs in baseball, and the Phillies aren’t much better.

Final Grade: It’s a very favorable schedule for Padres pitchers, especially in the last two weeks of the season. Padres hitters will benefit from facing weak pitchers, but not enough to overcome playing in pitchers’ parks.

San Francisco Giants
Home: 10 (0.930, 23rd, very pitching favorable) | Road: 16
Opponents: Padres (7), Dodgers (6), Diamondbacks (6), Rockies (4), Tigers (3)

San Francisco pitchers will enjoy 16 games in friendly parks…and 10 more in some of the worst pitching stadiums in baseball. It still evens out in the pitchers’ favor, but September will probably be worse than most for Giants pitchers and better than most for their hitters.

Opponents will be feast and famine for Giants pitchers as well, with tough games against the Tigers, Dodgers, and Rockies balanced against games against the Padres and Diamondbacks. Again, it comes out slightly in favor of San Francisco pitchers.

The month doesn’t work out quite so well for Giants hitters, though they’ll get bright spots in Colorado and Arizona.

Final Grade: With a lot of extremes, this schedule is one for mixing your spots. The pace of the schedule will make it more difficult for you to take advantage in weekly changes leagues, but daily leaguers will find San Francisco’s hitters and pitchers potentially useful.

All right—that it, all the teams September schedules turned into some numbers and a couple paragraphs. In the coming days (maybe next week), I’ll try to turn all this information into a quick evaluation of the highlights. But for now, this is more than enough….



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