Some things in baseball will never change. Games played on grass will always be better than games played on turf. The Rogers Centre will always be better when the roof is open. Jonathan Papelbon will always be the worst.
And fans everywhere will always gripe about the unfairness of the schedule.
In the early 2000’s it was Jays fans who hated the unbalanced schedule, as Toronto was forced to play 38 games a year against the two biggest powerhouses in the game, while teams in other divisions could load up against teams like the 100-loss Tigers, or the awful
Rangers. This year I’m sure Pirates fans are unhappy about having to play 38 against the Cubs and Cardinals while the Mets – a team they are battling against for a Wild Card – plays 38 against Philadelphia and Atlanta.
But there is another part about the schedule that can also play havoc with teams records, and it has nothing to do with divisional play or interleague imbalance. It is all about timing.
Everybody can agree that the Atlanta Braves are one of the worst (if not the worst) team in baseball this year, but don’t tell that to the Marlins this week, who opened up a two game series against a Braves team that had won 5-straight games. They promptly made it 6-in-a-row by taking game 1.
Yes, even the worst teams in baseball can catch fire,
just like the best teams can struggle. The truly random aspect of when those things happen, however, can completely alter a team’s schedule. A series that may have been penciled in as “easy” might not be so simple if the opponent is red hot.
The Blue Jays have played 23 series in 2016. Not counting the first series of the year against Tampa Bay, when every team in baseball was tied for first, the Jays have played a first place team eight times:
– April 19th series vs. Baltimore
– April 25th series vs. Chicago White Sox
– May 2nd series vs. Texas
– May 9th series vs. San Francisco
– May 27th series vs. Boston
– June 3rd series vs. Boston
– June 9th series vs. Baltimore
– June 17th series vs. Baltimore
An additional four series have been played against second place teams.
Some other wonky stats that the Jays have faced include:
– Six times they have opened a series against a team riding a winning streak of 3 or more games
– Nine times they have opened a series against a team that had won 4 of its previous 5 games
– Five times they have opened a series against a team that had won 7 of its previous 10 games
– 15 times they have opened a series against a team with a .500 or better record
To me, that is a tough, tough road. But it has been even tougher. Even some of the series that could have potentially been seen as “easy” have come at bad times. Toronto faced Oakland in late April when the A’s were on a five game winning streak. They played the underachieving Yankees beginning May 24th when New York had won five straight. The up and down Tigers hosted Toronto at a time when they were definitely up, having won three straight and four of five. And in the series that just concluded at the dome, the badly flopping Diamondbacks came in on a four game win streak and 7-3 in the past 10.
Only twice this year can the Jays say that they have played a team that was truly in the dumps: the series’ against Minnesota (L3, 2-8 in past 10) and Philadelphia (L4, 3-7 in past 10).
And it doesn’t get any better for the Blue Jays. They head to Chicago to open up a 3-game set against the White Sox this weekend, and face a team that has self-destructed since the last time they met. In late April, the Sox were 13-6 and in first place when they came to Toronto and swept the Jays. However, Chicago is just 9-18 in its past 27 games, a mark that is one of the worst in baseball and has seen them plummet to 4th place.
But, keeping true to form, the Jays visit them at a time when they appear to be pulling out of their funk. Entering this afternoon’s game, the White Sox have won three straight games against Boston, ensuring that they will be hot when Toronto comes to town.
Timing is everything in baseball, and unfortunately for the Blue Jays, they have been on the rotten end of a lot of it.
Knowing this, their 40-34 record looks a whole lot better.