September Schedule


September Schedules Part 2: NL East, AL Central, NL Central

Last Friday we kicked off our September Schedules preview with an introduction of purpose and methodology, then evaluated the upside-down AL East. If you missed it check it out. All I’ll recap here is that I’m using Fangraphs WAR to grade team pitching and wOBA for hitting, and ESPN’s 2014 Park Factors. If I make recommendations based on other stats, factors, or extenuating circumstances, I’ll let you know.

Today we'll hit the NL East, the AL Central, and get halfway done with the NL Central. Next week, we'll finish it all off. This is a long one, so watch for the page break.

Atlanta Braves
Home: 13 (0.947—19th—pitching favorable) | Road: 12
Opponents: Phillies (6), Nationals (6), Pirates (4), Mets (3), Marlins (3), Rangers, (3)

Most of the Braves’ road games are in parks that have favored hitters this year—Texas and Washington, and, surprisingly enough, Pittsburgh and Miami. However, all those games are in the first half of the month: after the 15th every game will be in Atlanta or Philadelphia, which have both played pitcher-friendly. So if you can grab Atlanta pitchers off the wire in the second half of September, go for it. It helps that the Braves get nine games against two of the three worst offenses in baseball (Phillies and Mets), and six more against the below-average Rangers and Marlins. I like Braves pitchers in September.

The hitters won’t enjoy the park effects, so consider dropping fringy Atlanta guys for the second half of September. Plus, they get six games against Washington, the best pitching staff in baseball by WAR so far. Braves hitters do get to beat up on the Mets and Phillies, who are bad on both sides of the ball, and the Pirates, who are the worst pitchers in the game. So, there are pluses and minuses for the hitters.

Final Grade: Good news for Braves pitchers, with great matchups loaded into the second half of the month. Pick them up! Hitters get easy opponents but tough parks—it probably evens out.

Miami Marlins
Home: 13 (1.032—11th—moderately favorable for hitters)| Road: 14
Opponents: Nationals (8), Mets (6), Phillies (6), Brewers (4), Braves (3) 

The Marlins’ road games are a mix that looks like it should help pitchers a little, doing a bit to neutralize Miami’s hitter-friendly home park factor. Only their last four games of the season at Washington are in hitter-friendly road parks…but the Nationals’ league-leading pitching staff should more than balance that out. The good news for Miami hitters is that only the Nationals and Braves offer not-terrible pitching opponents. With so many games against the Mets, Phillies, and Brewers, Marlins hitters get a

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September Schedules Part 1: AL East

Mark has the day off today, and I can’t do what he does…so I’ll just get a head start on what I do. September is approaching faster than it looks. Seriously, I was walking on brown leaves all the way to the coffee shop where I’m writing this, and that means it’s time to start planning for the Most Important Month of the Year.*

*Tied with all the others in roto-style fantasy leagues and in real baseball, technically.

Your roto league has split into the haves and the have-nots and you’ve just got to keep it together for one more month if you’re on top (like I am), or make one last push for semi-respectability (also like me).  Of course, you might be playing in a head-to-head league, in which case we’re rolling into the playoffs and forgetting all that went on before for a last-month roll of the dice 

It’s time to load those dice in your favor.

The league I’ve played in longest is a highly non-standard head-to-head, multiple-opponents, points-counting, weekly-changes, one-free-agent-per-week type of league. It’s intense and it involves a lot of planning ahead. For years, it seemed like my uncle was killing us all with good luck in September, and then we figured out his trick: he was loading up on pitchers with extra two-start weeks in September by trading for them and picking them up off the waiver wire weeks in advance. Well played, Uncle Steve.

Of course, now that everyone has the Internet (seriously, the league is that old), that trick is a little harder to pull. But you know what? It’s still worth doing and now is the time to get started. Since most of us aren’t in weekly-change points leagues, two-start pitchers aren’t quite our targets. Who can we target instead for 5x5 purposes (or points purposes, those will work too)? Players with favorable schedules.

Over the next few articles on RotoAuthority Unscripted, we’ll be, well, working with a script. Team-by-team, we’ll see who has favorable schedules throughout September, for hitters and for pitchers, looking into opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as home and away park factors. Over the course of the whole season these issues don’t matter all that much, and when they do matter, they’re factored into draft slot or auction value. But over the course of a single month, things can be very skewed. This is your shot to skew them in your favor. 

To keep my evaluations more uniform and less subjective, I’ll be using Fangraphs WAR to grade team pitching and wOBA for hitting, and ESPN’s 2014 Park Factors. If I make a suggestion based on something else—like the fact that a team has changed their players significantly during the season, a la the Oakland pitching staff--I’ll let you know where I’m coming from. 

So that’s more than enough introduction for one article…which is why I’ll be trying to post this in relatively bite-sized chunks. But here’s the first installment anyway. And don’t forget: these figures are all for the month of September—you’re on your own for the last two weeks of August.

Let’s get rolling with the AL East.

Baltimore Orioles
Home: 14 (0.863 park factor—30th—very pitching favorable) | Road: 13
Opponents: Yankees (8), Blue Jays (6), Red Sox (6), Reds (3), Rays (3), Twins (1) 

First of all, I wouldn’t get too excited over the fact that Camden Yards has been the most pitcher-friendly in baseball this year, as it played as a hitters’ haven in ’13, ’12, an ’10, and neutral in ’11. They also get four games at Yankee Stadium, which has played as the second-best pitchers’ park this year—but again, I suspect that to be a bit of an outlier. With other away games in Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Boston, the park factors combine to be pretty neutral.

The O’s have six games against the heavy-hitting (third in baseball) Blue Jays and the rest are from mid-pack teams when it comes to hitting. If you believe the park factors for Baltimore and New York are sustainable, then you might want to target Orioles pitchers.

At bat, the O’s play three of the top pitching clubs in baseball: the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays...but all three of those teams have lost significant pitchers to trades and injuries. Unfortunately, their hitters don’t get to exploit any true bottom feeders either.

Final Grade: Neutral for hitters and pitchers

Boston Red Sox
Home: 12 (1.034 park factor—10th—hitting favorable) | Road: 14
Opponents: Yankees (6), Orioles (6), Rays (4), Royals (4), Blue Jays (3), Pirates (3)

A lot depends on if you really believe that the Orioles and Yankees parks really deserve their slots as the best pitchers’ parks in baseball. If you do, that will partially even things out…but if you don’t, this could be a pretty hitter-friendly schedule as far as the parks go. I’d play it safe and not get too excited about the Sox’s waiver wire pitchers—especially since nearly half of Boston’s games (12) come against top-six offences (Baltimore, Toronto, and Pittsburgh). Yeah, I’d avoid Boston pitchers next month.

Hitters should have a medium-favorable schedule on the parks (again, unless you really buy the Yanks and O’s as the two hardest parks to hit in—which would make it closer to neutral). Sox hitters will face plenty of bottom-half opponents, but only the Pirates have truly weak pitching. 

Final Grade: Boston hitters should have a good month, but stay away from their pitchers.

New York Yankees
Home: 17 (0.877—29th—very pitching favorable) | Road: 10
Opponents: Orioles (8), Red Sox (6), Rays (6), Blue Jays (4), Royals (3)

With all those Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards games—a huge majority—the entire park factor grade comes down to what you think of those teams’ yearly park factors. It’s worth keeping in mind that New York has played neutral once in the last four years and as a hitters’ park in the other three. So no, I do not think those factors are sustainable. But that's how the parks have played so far and you can't just write it off either. I wouldn’t bet heavily either way on Yankees players based on park factors. 

Their opponents, however, are a different story. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rays can all hit; while the Red Sox and Royals aren’t intimidating, that’s not enough for me to recommend Yankee pitchers.

The hitters will get to face weaker Baltimore and Toronto pitchers—as well as the depleted Boston and Rays staffs, leaving the Royals as the top pitching opponents. (Though the Rays might still be better even without David Price). I’d still go ahead and snag Yankee hitters off the waiver wire or put them in your lineup.

Final Grade: Yankee hitters are neutral to favorable, but their pitchers look risky.

Tampa Bay Rays
Home: 13 (1.049—7th—hitting favorable) | Road: 12
Opponents: Yankees (6), Blue Jays (6), Red Sox (4), Indians (3), Orioles (3), White Sox (3)

Most of Tampa Bay’s games are in hitters’ parks this year, at home and in Toronto, Boston, and Chicago. For pitchers, that’s exacerbated by the fact that most of their opponents are decent or better at the plate: only the Red Sox are below average. Of course, Tampa Bay has pretty good pitchers, but this will cut into their numbers.

Hitters get better news though: the Orioles, White Sox, and Blue Jays are bottom-third pitching staffs, while the Yankees and Red Sox are (as mentioned above) pretty significantly depleted. I’d feel comfortable picking up Rays hitters that are on the fringe.

Final Grade: Rays pitchers are good enough not to avoid, but their schedule won’t do them any favors. Rays hitters make good waiver wire targets and should be picked up.

Toronto Blue Jays
Home: 13 (1.092—5th—very hitting favorable) | Road: 13
Opponents: Orioles (6), Rays (6), Yankees (4), Mariners (4), Red Sox (3), Cubs (3)

Toronto’s home games aren’t quite balanced out by playing in pitchers’ parks on the road, but Seattle, Chicago, and whatever is happening in Baltimore and New York could take some of the shine off Blue Jay hitters and save their pitchers from a couple beatings. Actually, the Orioles are the only top-third offense that Toronto hurlers have to face, giving their pitchers a pretty neutral schedule altogether. 

The Blue Jays hitters should be a little better off: their opponents look mostly mid-pack in pitching quality, but remember the pitchers dealt away by (or injured on) the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Cubs. These aren’t the pitching staffs who put up those numbers. And the Orioles are still pretty marginal. Sit your hitters for those four games in Seattle, though. 

Final Grade: Toronto looks pretty neutral on both sides of the ball: maybe a little unfavorable for their pitchers, but a little helpful for their hitters.



Stock Watch: Strength of Schedule (Part 2)

Welcome to a very special crossover edition of Stock Watch Just days ago on RotoAuthority Unscripted, we examined the September schedules of the first fifteen MLB teams, on the premise that within such a small section of the season, the strength (or weakness) of any team’s opponents can have a huge impact on all its players.

We left off with the Milwaukee Brewers, so any team before them in the alphabet (by location, not nickname) can be found in Thursday’s post.

 Note that I'm taking 2013 park factors from ESPN and team pitching (sorted by xFIP) and hitting (sorted by wOBA) stats from Fangraphs.com. Each team’s name is a link to their schedule, so you can see for yourself if my suggestions are good.

 Minnesota Twins

Total: 28 games (17 home) Athletics 7(3), Indians 4(4), Blue Jays 3(3), Tigers 3(3), Rays 3(3),White Sox 3, Astros 3, Rangers 1, Angels 1

Home park factor: 1.075

Pitching: Fourteen games against top-third lineups, with only 6 against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Only 6 games against top-tier pitching (Rays and Tigers), but 10 against bottom-third pitching staffs (Blue Jays, Astros, Angels, Athletics)

Analysis: If you have any Twins pitchers (besides Glen Perkins), now is the perfect time to let them go. The hitters, however, have a mildly favorable schedule, and play a lot of games in their run-increasing (though homer killing) home park.

New York Mets

Total: 27 games (15 home) Nationals 5(4), Brewers 4, Marlins 4, Braves 3, Indians 3, Giants 3(3), Reds 3, Phillies 3

Home park factor: 0.878

Pitching: Six games against top-tier offenses (Braves and Indians), which all come in the first week of the month; after that 10 games against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Eleven games against top-third pitching; only the 3 Phillies games are against bottom-tier pitching staffs.

Analysis: Wait a week before picking up or starting Mets pitchers, but after that, they should encounter a mostly favorable schedule. Their hitters aren’t so lucky—cut ties with any fringy hitter you can spare.

New York Yankees

Total: 27 games (14 home) Red Sox 7(4), Orioles 5(1), White Sox 3(3), Blue Jays 3, Giants 3(3), Rays 3(3), Astros 3

Home park factor: 1.034

Pitching: The Yankees draw 12 games against the second and third best hitting teams in baseball (Red Sox and Orioles), plus 6 more against top-third lineups; they do have 9 games against lower-third teams.

Hitting: Three Rays games are the only top-third pitchers the Yanks will face, and they have 11 against bottom third pitchers.

Analysis: Pitching has been New York’s brightest spot, but this is a bad month to be a non-ace Yankee—if you can find similarly talented pitchers on other teams on the waiver wire, trade in your Yankee arms. The hitters, however, enjoy a very favorable month.

Oakland Athletics

Total: 27 games (15 home) Twins 7(4), Rangers 6(3), Angels 6(3), Astros 4(4), Mariners 3, Rays 1(1)

Home park factor: 0.881—with the 3 Seattle games and one in Tampa Bay, the A’s have 19 games in very pitcher-friendly parks.

Pitching: Thirteen games against top-third hitting, with only 4 against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Only 4 games against top-third pitching (Mariners, Rays), with 17 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: Though not helped by the parks they’ll be playing in, the Athletics’ hitters have extremely good matchups. The pitching staff will need the help from those park factors and are not recommended.

Philadelphia Phillies

Total: 26 games (15 home) Braves 7(3), Nationals 6(3), Marlins 6(3), Padres 3, Mets 3, Cubs 1

Home park factor: 1.117

Pitching: The 7 Braves games are the only top-third matchups, while they play 13 against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Phillies hitters face 13 games against top-quality pitching, and only 4 against bottom-third teams.

Analysis: Thanks to the park factor, Phillies pitchers come out more or less neutral with their schedule (maybe a little negative), but it’s probably not enough to recommend their hitters against tough opposition.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Total: 27 games (11 home) Cubs 7(4), Reds 6(3), Cardinals 4(1), Padres 4(4), Rangers 3, Brewers 3

Home park factor: 0.927

Pitching: Seven games against top-third lineups (Cardinals and Rangers), but 11 games against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Seven games against top-tier pitching staffs, but 11 against lower-tier pitchers (Padres and Cubs).

Analysis: Pittsburgh’s schedule is pretty balanced.

San Diego Padres

Total: 27 games (13 home) Giants 6(3), Dodgers 4(3), D-Backs 4(4), Pirates 4, Braves 3, Rockies 3(3), Phillies 3

Home park factor: 0.830. With the 13 games of lowest park factor in baseball, plus 7 more in strong pitchers’ parks (Giants, Dodgers, Pirates), Padre pitching should benefit at the expense of their hitters.

Pitching: Only 6 games against top-third offenses, with 9 against bottom-third clubs.

Hitting: Eleven games against top pitching staffs, with only 6 against bottom-third teams.

Analysis: Padre pitchers are in for a good month, but feel free to drop your Padre hitters.

San Francisco Giants

Total: 27 games (13 home) Dodgers 7(3), Padres 6(3), D-Backs 5(4), Rockies 3(3), Mets 3, Yankees 3

Home park factor: 0.848 The Giants play 23 games in the four strongest pitchers’ parks in baseball. That should tell you more than the matchups will.

Pitching: Only the 3 Rockies games are against top-third hitting, but 9 games are against bottom-third lineups.

Hitting: The Giants get 10 games against top-third pitching, and 9 against lower-tier pitching.

Analysis: The Giants’ schedule is dominated by their September park factor. Drop their hitters and pick up any of their pitchers you can.

Seattle Mariners

Total: 27 games (12 home) Royals 7(3), Astros 4(3), Tigers 4, Rays 3(3), Cardinals 3, Angels 3, Athletics 3(3)

Home park factor: 0.936

Pitching: Seattle pitchers have 13 games against top-flight hitting 11 against bottom-tier hitters (Astros and Royals).

Hitting: The M’s have 10 games against high-quality pitching, and 14 against lower-third pitchers.

Analysis: The best part of the Mariners’ schedule for pitchers is in the first two weeks—after that, the competition is brutal. The hitting schedule is pretty balanced.

St. Louis Cardinals

Total: 27 games (15 home) Brewers 6(3), Pirates 4(3), Reds 4, Rockies 4, Nationals 3(3), Cubs 3(3)

Home park factor: 0.904

Pitching: Cards pitchers face only 4 games (Rockies) against top-third hitting, and only 3 (Cubs) against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Eleven games against top-third pitching, 7 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: This schedule is mostly balanced—Cardinal players are recommendable.

Tampa Bay Rays

Total: 28 games (11 home) Rangers 4(4), Angels 4, Orioles 4(4), Mariners 3, Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 3(3), Twins 3, Yankees 3, Athletics 1

Home park factor: 0.921

Pitching: Rays pitchers have 18 games against top-quality hitting, with only 6 (Yankees and Twins) against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Six games against top-third pitching, with 15 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: It’s time to let go of those Rays pitchers who were so good all year long, but expect good things from Tampa Bay’s hitters.

Texas Rangers

Total: 27 games (14 home) Angels 7(4), Athletics 6(3), Rays 4, Pirates 3(3), Royals 3, Astros 3(3), Twins 1(1)

Home park factor: 0.985—yes, Ballpark at Arlington has been a slight pitchers’ park this season.

Pitching: Eleven games against top-third hitting, with 7 against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Seven matchups against top-level pitching staffs, with 14 bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: Mostly a balanced schedule, with some good news for the hitters.

Toronto Blue Jays

Total: 26 games (13 home) Orioles 6(3), Yankees 3(3), Red Sox 3, Rays 3(3), D-Backs 3, Twins 3, Angels 3(3), Royals 1(1), White Sox 1

Home park factor: 1.149

Pitching: Fifteen games against top-tier lineups, including 9 against the number two and three lineups (Red Sox and Orioles); 8 games against bottom-third lineups.

Hitting: Six games against top pitching, with 10 against low-level pitching.

Analysis: The pitching matchups spell big trouble for Toronto hurlers, but their hitters have a somewhat favorable month.

Washington Nationals

Total: 27 games (11 home) Marlins 7(4), Phillies 6(3), Mets 5(1), Braves 3(3), Cardinals 3, D-Backs 3

Home park factor: 0.981

Pitching: Six games against top-third lineups, 18 against bottom-tier hitters.

Hitting: The Nats have 6 games against top-level pitching staffs, and 6 against bottom-level staffs (all against the Phillies).

Analysis: Though the hitters have a very neutral schedule, the pitchers should look great facing the Marlins, Phillies, and Mets for so many games.

Final MatchupsOverview

Pitchers 

These teams have such favorable matchups that even thier mediocre pitchers are worth picking up off the waiver wire: the Nationals, Braves, Giants, Tigers, and Indians have the best schedules; next are the Padres, Reds, Dodgers, Marlins, Mets (wait a week into the month), and Mariners (drop after two weeks).

Avoid or even release pitchers from these teams: the Orioles, White Sox, Royals, and Blue Jays have the toughest schedules; the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Twins, Yankees, and Rays aren't far behind. Cut ties with any questionable pitcher on these squads.

Pitchers on unlisted teams can be selected or avoided the old-fashioned way: on their personal merit.

Hitters

Look for hitters on these teams when perusing the waiver wire: Yankees, A's, Rays, Braves, Reds, Indians, Tigers, and Angels.     

You can drop non-stars (and stay away from waiver bait) from these teams: Cubs, Royals, Marlins, Mets, Padres, and Giants.

Good luck navigating the playoffs. Next week, Stock Watch will be back to its regular format with specific advice for specific players.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Strength of Schedule (Part 1)

I know. Strength of schedule is for football and basketball, and all those other, lesser sports. Baseball is pure, and played over 162 games that the quality of opponents balances out for everyone but those in the American League East. 

But there aren't 162 games in September, just 28. A great schedule might make a mid-rotation starter seem (and score) like an ace (preview: pick up some Nationals), while a terrible one may take a big bite out of a great pitcher's value. The same thing can be said for hitters, and since we enter our final stretch run or our playoffs when the calendar turns to September, this one small, skewed sample is what will make or break fantasy seasons.

It's happened to all of us before, for better or for worse. I remember once setting a league record for regular season wins, thanks to Chris Carpenter's 28 consecutive 2004 quality starts. Tanked in the playoffs because that streak ended in September. I've also ridden amazingly lucky final months all the way to the league championship, and if you don't like all your chips riding on all that luck...play roto style next year. For now, take advantage to the one part of luck we know in advance: the schedule.

Below, I summarize each team's upcoming schedule, and give a recommendation for their pitchers and hitters based on the parks they'll play in and the quality of their opponents. I'm taking 2013 park factors from ESPN and team pitching (sorted by xFIP) and hitting (sorted by wOBA) stats from Fangraphs.com. I especially recommend taking a look at that park factors list, because there are some surprises. Also, each team name is a link to their September schedule, in case you don't trust my report. Or want to buy tickets, I guess.

Small caveat: I am neither a statistician, nor a mathematician, so I didn't turn this research into a fancy and useful algorithm because I really don't know how.

Arizona Diamondbacks 

Total: 28 games (14 at home--shown in parentheses throughout this post), Dodgers 7(4), Rockies 6 (3), Giants 5, Padres 4, Blue Jays 3 (3), Nationals 3(3).

Home park factor: 0.952. A surprisingly neutral park.

Pitching: no games against baseball's best offenses, though the Blue Jays, Rockies and Dodgers are in the upper half (and the Dodgers are on the upswing). They have 9 games (Padres and Giants) against low-ranked offenses.

Hitting: they play 10 games against top-tier pitching staffs (Dodgers and Nationals), and 7 against bottom-tier staffs (Padres and Rockies).

Analysis: Balanced schedule

Atlanta Braves

Total: 28 games (14 home) Phillies 7(4), Marlins 5(1), Mets 3(3), Padres 3(3), Nationals 3, Cubs 3, Brewers 3(3).

Home park factor: 0.966

Pitching: Zero games against average or above-average offenses. Eight games against the worst two offenses in baseball, with 14 more against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Three games against a top-third pitching staff, 13 against bottom-third staffs.

Analysis: Pick up every unowned Braves pitcher you can. Even the relievers in some formats. Don't be afraid to keep your hitters in the lineup too.

Baltimore Orioles

Total: 28 games (14 home) Blue Jays 6(3), Red Sox 6(3), Yankees 5(4), White Sox 4(4), Rays 4, Indians 3

Home park factor: 1.017 

Pitching: Nineteen games against top-third offenses. Only the Yankees and White Sox (both in bottom-third) give any respite.

Hitting: Only 4 games agaisnt top-third pitching, and 6 against bottom-third.

Analysis: Stay away from O's pitchers, but their hitters have a balanced schedule.

Boston Red Sox

Total: 25 games (13 home) Yankees 7(3), Orioles 6(3), Tigers 3(3), Blue Jays 3(3), Rays 3, Rockies 2, White Sox 1(1)

Home park factor:  1.048. Another park that hasn't played as hitter-friendly in the past.

Pitching: Fourteen games against top-hitting teams, including 9 against two of the top four offenses. Eight games against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Ten games against top pitching; nine against bottom-tier pitching.

Analysis: Expect streaky hitters (take it series by series in daily leagues), and reserve pitchers except when playing the Yankees and White Sox.

Chicago Cubs

Total: 27 games (13 home) Pirates 7(3), Brewers 7(3), Marlins 3(3), Reds 3, Braves 3(3), Cardinals 3, Phillies 1(1)

Home park factor: 1.160 (2nd highest in MLB)

Pitching: Six games against top-third hitting; 4 against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Sixteen games against top-third pitching staffs; only one against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: Drop your Cubs hitters, despite the extra-Friendly Confines. It's not like they were hitting anyway.

Chicago White Sox

Total: 28 games (15 home) Tigers 6 (3), Indians 6(4), Royals 4(4), Twins 3(3), Orioles 4, Yankees 3, Red Sox 1, Blue Jays 1

Home park factor: 1.042

Pitching: Eleven games against the top three offenses; seven against bottom-third opponents.

Hitting: Nine games against top-third pitching; 11 against bottom-third.

Analysis: Sox pitchers could be getting crushed in September. Avoid them, and even pick your spots with Chris Sale.

Cincinnati Reds

Total: 26 games (16 home) Pirates 6(3), Cardinals 4(4), Mets 3(3) Dodgers 3(3), Cubs 3(3), Brewers 3, Astros 3, Rockies 1

Home park factor: 1.102. 

Pitching: Five games against top offenses; 9 games against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Ten games against tough pitching staffs, but 7 against low-quality pitching. 

Analysis: The number of home games and strong park factor should help Reds hitters, while the below average offenses they face should keep the park from hurting their pitching too much. Reds pitchers and hitters get favorable schedules.

Cleveland Indians

Total: 27 games (15 home) Royals 6(3), White Sox 6(2), Twins 4, Astros 4(4), Orioles 3(3), Mets 3(3), Tigers 1

Home park factor: 0.953

Pitching: Four games against top offenses, but 21 against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Only one game against top pitching, but 11 against bottom-third pitching staffs.

Analysis: Pick up Indians, as they have great schedules for pitching and hitting--the first four games of September are their only matchups against contenders.

Colorado Rockies

Total: 25 games (13 home) Dodgers 6(3), D-Backs 6(3), Cardinals 4(4), Padres 3, Giants 3, Red Sox 2(2), Reds 1(1)

Home park factor: 1.186--by far the highest factor in baseball (but you knew that).

Pitching: You know you don't want Coors starts, so we'll focus on their road matchups, where they have 6 games against low-quality opponents.

Hitting: Ten games against top pitching staffs.

Analysis: The park factor is so strong here that it takes a scheduling miracle for me to suggest picking up random Rox starters--no miracle here. 

Detroit Tigers

Total: 26 games (11 home) White Sox 6(3) Royals 6(3), Mariners 4(4), Red Sox 3, Twins 3, Marlins 3 Indians 1(1)

Home park factor: 1.104

Pitching: The 3 Red Sox games, and the one against the Indians are the only ones against good hitting. With 18 games against bottom-third teams, the Mariners' series will be one of the Tigers' biggest challenges.

Hitting: Those 4 Seattle games are the Tigers' only ones against top-third pitching, but they have nine against low-quality staffs.

Analysis: Even the back of the Tigers' rotation should shine in September, as should their whole lineup. 

Houston Astros

Total: 27 games (13 home) Indians 4, Mariners 4(1), Athletics 4, Angels 3(3), Reds 3(3), Rangers 3(3), Yankees 3, Twins 3(3)

Home park factor: 1.086

Pitching: Ten games against top-third lineups (Rangers, Angels, and Indians), but only 3 (Yankees) against bad lineups.

Hitting: Seven top-third pitching matchups (but none against elite pitchers); seven against bottom-third pitching (Athletics and Angels).

Analysis: Not nearly a good enough schedule to make up for the Astros players' weaknesses.

Kansas City Royals

Total: 27 games (13 home) Mariners 7(4), Tigers 6(3), Indians 6(3), White Sox 4, Rangers 3, Blue Jays 1

Home park factor: 1.046

Pitching: With 16 games against top-level offenses (including 6 against the league-best Tigers), KC pitchers will have a tough time of things.

Hitting: They'll play 13 games against top-ten pitching staffs, including 6 against those Tigers. At least one game against the Jays should be favorable.

Analysis: The Royals have terrible matchups on both sides of the ball. Drop or trade any KC players you can.

Los Angeles Angels

Total: 28 games (13 home) Rangers 7(3), Athletics 6(3), Rays 4(4), Mariners 3(3), Astros 3, Blue Jays 3, Twins 1, Brewers 1

Home park factor: 0.974

Pitching: Fourteen games against top-third offenses; only 4 against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Seven games against top-quality pitching, but 10 games against the worst three pitching staffs.

Analysis: Angels hitters are fair game, but cut ties with any questionable Angels pitchers, even relievers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Total: 27 games (11 home) D-Backs, 7(3), Rockies 6(3), Giants 6(3), Padres 4(1), Reds 3

Home park factor: 0.854

Pitching: Only the 6 Rockies games are against top-third lineups, but the Dodgers get to play 10 games against the bottom-third Padres and Giants.

Hitting: Only the 3 Reds games are against high-quality pitching, while the Padres and Rockies offer 10 games of bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: With an off-balance home/road split for the month, Dodger hitter should benefit from playing away from home...except that 6 of those road games are in San Francisco and San Diego. Parks aside, the Dodgers have great matchups on both sides of the ball.

Miami Marlins

Total: 28 games (13 home) Nationals 7(3), Phillies 6(3), Braves 5(4), Mets 4, Cubs 3, Tigers 3(3)

Home park factor: 1.081

Pitching: Eight games against top-quality offenses; 13 against bottom-third lineups.

Hitting: Fifteen games against top-third pitching is bad news for a bad lineup--3 games against the Cubs won't make up for that.

Analysis: Feel free to drop Marlins hitters not named Giancarlo. If you're desperate, the pitching has a pretty favorable schedule, provided you release the Fish from you net before their final series against Detroit.

Milwaukee Brewers

Total: 27 games (14 home) Cubs 7(4), Cardinals 6(3), Mets 4, Braves 3, Pirates 3(3), Reds 3(3), Angels 1(1)

Home park factor: 1.067

Pitching: The Brew Crew faces top-third offenses 7 times, but has 11 games against bottom-third clubs.

Hitting: With 15 games against top pitching staffs, and only 8 against low-quality staffs, the Brewers hitters could be in for trouble.

Analysis: The schedule is mostly balanced, but that isn't enough to recommend many players on this team.

Join us on Saturday for a very special episode of Stock Watch...in which we evaluate the schedules of the remaining fifteen teams and provide a quick summary of who to target, who to avoid, and who to drop.





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