WTNYMarch 18, 2004
The AL on 5/1
By Bryan Smith

On May 1 of this year, most of you will open up a newspaper and look at the Major League standings. Most likely, you’ll find yourself somewhat surprised by who is on top and who is on bottom, trying to recall the events of the past month. A key principle in this will be how the teams played in April, how good their opponents were, and how many times they’re playing within their confines.

It seems that Major League Baseball scheduling is an inexact science, and while teams finish the same in the long run, magnifying the short term will tell us things as well. Today I’ll be changing the site name to ‘Wait ‘Til Next Month”, in honor of my American League shirt that’s years old.

Each American League division has three ‘contenders’, although I would argue that the Blue Jays, White Sox and Mariners are all pretenders this season. Toronto is a good team in a great division, the White Sox have disastrously bad pitching, and the Mariners don’t have nearly the star power that Anaheim or Oakland possess. And don’t even ask about the Orioles, let’s just say I’m a seller on them.

Baltimore will play twenty-four games before May 1, tied with Seattle, New York and Boston for most in the American League. The other division teams, Toronto and Tampa Bay, will play twenty-three and twenty-two games respectively. Camden Yards will see 14 of the 24 games, or approximentally 58.3%, third best in the AL. Baltimore got the fourth overall ranking in my Strength of Opponents test, basically applying numerical values to each hand. When combining the Home% and test% and ranking the teams, you’ll get this list:

1. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2. Texas Rangers
3. Oakland Athletics
4. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Boston Red Sox
6. Anaheim Angels
7. Seattle Mariners
7. New York Yankees
9. Baltimore Orioles
10. Detroit Tigers
10. Cleveland Indians
12. Chicago White Sox
13. Kansas City Royals
14. Minnesota Twins

Baltimore is not sensational, good for the ninth easiest April 2004 schedule, bur I was feeling a little more sick to my stomach. The Orioles must invest in pitching in the future, or none of the players will be in the Majors the next time an ace comes about. It will be pitching that really holds the Orioles back, but the team will only be forced to throw their fifth starter twice during the month. The Yankees and Blue Jays will need their fifth starter three times, while the Orioles could get away with just one. This luxury offers managers more time to make their decision. For example, the team hasn’t decided on who is going to be the fifth starter, so it allows more time for that too.

The Yankees and Red Sox will be playing against eachother seven times this April, by contrast, the Blue Jays aren’t scheduled to play New York in it’s first trial in this lunch period. But the Yankees play the Devil Rays and White Sox quite often, so they have that going for them. Boston will need series wins over the three big AL East threats, something I’m a bit doubtful of.

In the AL Central, the five teams came out to have the five most difficult records in the American League. Minnesota plays the Tigers and Indians a combined twelve times in April, and that should do a lot to elevate their status. The Twins should win it in April, and you have to wonder, will Minnesota fold in this situation?

Finally, the AL West. Texas is my vote for worst record after April, seeing as though the Kansas City Royals are the worst team they play. Anaheim should catch the division lead by May 1st, but ultimately, Jerry Seinfeld will do with his ending than the Angels. And that’s not saying a lot.

May 1: NY, MIN, and ANA