In a recent Insider post, Buster Olney looked at the early season schedules for American League teams.  He presented two schools of thought – that you’d rather have an easy schedule early, in order to get a “head start” on other teams, or that you’d rather face more difficult teams early before they’re firing on all cylinders.

Of all of the AL teams, Olney ranked the Indians as having the easiest schedule through the middle of May.  Could the Indians be in line for another hot start like last season, when they went 30-15 in April and May?  What makes their schedule “easier” than other teams in the AL?

There were a few factors taken into account:

- Only 6 of their first 30 games are against teams that had records of .500 or better in 2011.

- 18 of their first 30 games are at home.

- The Indians won’t play a team that finished 2011 above .500 until the Angels come to town on April 27.

Early season performance often has a lot to do with the perception of a team.  If a team gets off to a great start, fans are enthused and management isn’t already thinking of a mid-season fire sale.  If a team gets off to a poor start, it isn’t necessarily “season over,” but enthusiasm is often depressed and heads can start to roll (as an example, Olney mentions the firing of manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Josh Byrnes in Arizona when the team got off to a bad start in 2010).

The teams the Indians face prior to April 27 include: Blue Jays, White Sox, Royals, Mariners and Athletics.  While they were all under .500 last year, there’s a chance that a couple of those could see some improvement this year.  There’s a chance a couple could be significantly worse (I’m thinking Athletics and possibly the White Sox).

There are also people that have discussed the Indians’ early season schedule from an economic perspective.  In this post from Joel Hammond in Crain’s Cleveland Business, he points out that the Indians prefer to have fewer home games in April and May.  Not only is the weather usually colder/more miserable, but kids are still in school from Monday through Friday.  The split in April and May for the Tribe this year is 27 home games, versus 20 away games.  In June, it drops to just 9 home games, versus 17 road games.

The Indians don’t have much control over the schedule, unfortunately.  As it was explained to me before, they put in “requests” to the Major League scheduler.  For example, they may ask for fewer April and May home games.  I know in the past (since they moved Spring Training to Goodyear) they’ve asked to open the season away, in an AL West city.  They also ask for Boston and New York to come to town later in the season, when attendance is likely to be higher.

The weather has been so unpredictable this winter, it’s tough to determine what April and May will be like (not that it’s ever that easy).  I remember sitting at Saturday games with temperatures in the 30s and bitter wind; I went to Opening Day a few years ago in a t-shirt.  While I’m there regardless of the weather, a nasty day in April and May at least typically means that I have the stadium to myself!

If the Indians benefit from an easier schedule early in the season, and if Grady Sizemore is able to return (although that may be a big *if*), it could provide a boost to the team as the schedule gets more difficult.

6 Comments

  • Will McIlroy says:

    I know teams like to have Opening Day as early as possible after the start to generate enthusiasm and get out of the gate. However, having Snow Belt clubs open at home always seemed silly. I’ll take an easy early schedule (as if we could change it) to build momentum like last year and, if we need to, earn our points against better teams later in the year.

    I recall a trip to Cleveland with my grandparents way back when for a series against the Yankees in late May. Bobby Bonds led off with a HR for the Tribe but I felt so bad for my freezing Grandad (temp in the 30′s) I agreed to leave in the 3rd inning. Ended up staring out the window at the stadium from the Howard Johnson’s on the lakefront, watching the game on tv. Tribe won 8-0 and I missed it.

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    Not cool! Although that was nice of you to leave for your grandad…my family has been forced to suffer with me in all kinds of weather! (And I haven’t been nice enough to leave) It may be why I have trouble getting people to come to games with me…

    I should add, what really drives me nuts is when they put non-division match-up games with the Snow Belt opening day teams. For example, in 2007 when it was Seattle and they had a heck of a time trying to make the games up. Or even Toronto in 2009…I remember sitting through an almost 4-hour rain delay because they did not want to worry about a make-up.

  • Will McIlroy says:

    If I recall, didn’t we play a ‘home’ makeup in Seattle at the end of the season? Seems like we had clinched and tanked the game which ended up costing us home field against the Red Sox in the playoffs. Game 7 at home, maybe history is kinder . . . and we beat Colorado in the Series.

    Who knew? Small things have a way of engineering big things.

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    I think you’re right…history may have been kinder with a Game 7 at home. I still feel certain that if the Indians would’ve gotten past Boston, they would’ve been able to beat Colorado.

  • Mary Jo says:

    As a Tribe fan living in exile in MA I have to disclaim that the Red Sux fans around here think their two World Series wins in this century are both earned. Seriously, when you consider the 2007 series against the Rockies you have to admit that the local watering hole’s beer league could have beaten the Rockies. Just sayin’… :-)

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    HA! I’ll never forget a very loud Red Sox fan that I happened to meet, that said the Indians didn’t deserve to win anyway because of the Paul Byrd revelation that came out before game 7. I wish I could find that fan and just say “Manny Ramirez” and call it a day!