When you're in the midst of one of the most depressing 162-game seasons of all time, it always goes over so well when you're reminded that there'll be another 162 games the next season, too. Still, what's done is done, so armed with the tentative yet seemingly legitimate 2011 regular season schedules released by Major League Baseball Tuesday night, let's take a little look at what's in store. First, the AL West opponent breakdown, with bold denoting an interleague matchup:
Every team in the AL West plays 57 divisional contests - 19 against each. Of those, the Angels get to play 30 at home, while the Mariners get 29, the A's get 28, and the Rangers get 27. I don't know how meaningful that is, but it isn't insignificant. Divisional games are the most important games, and playing at home is a bigger advantage on a game-to-game basis than I think most people realize.
Now let's take a look at a different sort of table that shows the differences between schedules. Below, you'll find three tables, pairing the Mariners with the A's, the Rangers, and then the Angels. Here's the first one:
Shown are the teams' schedules when common games are erased. Here, for example, we can say that the Mariners' schedule and the Athletics' schedule differ by 18 games. The M's play six against the Padres, while the A's play six against the Giants. The M's play three more games against the Rays than the A's do, while the A's play three more games against the Orioles the M's do. And so on. For the sake of simplicity, I'm not including the home/road distinction. If I wanted to be really detailed, I'd note that the M's play five more road games against the Tigers than the A's do, while the A's play five more home games against the Tigers than the M's do. But I'm not digging that deep. Also note that I erased head-to-head matchups as common games, even though the teams aren't even. Playing the Rangers 19 times is harder for the M's than playing the M's 19 times is for the Rangers, but, whatever.
Now, the other two pairs:
Obviously, it's too soon to try and figure out who has the easiest schedule, and whose schedule looks the most difficult. A lot is going to change between now and next year. A lot is then going to change between Opening Day next year and whenever some of these games are played. The Padres look like a tough interleague opponent for the M's, but they may make the mistake of looking down. While it definitely seems like the Mariners are looking at the toughest slate in 2011, who the hell knows? Maybe it evens out in the home/road discrepancies. Maybe it evens out in some other way. Maybe it doesn't even out at all.
As a final note, check out this string of Mariner opponents, beginning on June 27th:
vs. San Diego
@ New York
vs. Tampa Bay
@ Tampa Bay
That's 15 series - eight on the road - spanning 45 games, and who's going to be the worst team in there? The Angels? The A's? Both those teams have reason to believe they could be pretty good a year from now, which makes this stretch appear absolutely terrifying.
Guess it's nice to know that, come trade deadline time, the team probably will have established beyond any doubt whether or not it has a real chance.