If you haven’t noticed, the Cardinals are in the middle of a stretch during which they play 16 games in 16 days. That alone is tough enough, but somewhere in the middle of that they are starting inter-league play (aka – “The unbalanced schedule”). Maybe it’s a statistical certainty that over a really long period of time the impact of inter-league play on individual team records evens out. I could care less. I know that there are some seasons in which it sure seems to work out favorably for some teams, and it’s a nightmare for others. What about the 2011 schedule for the Cardinals? On paper, it looks like it could be interesting to me.
- 3 games @KC (20-22)
- 3 games vs KC (20-22)
- 3 games vs Toronto (21-21)
- 3 games @Baltimore (19-22)
- 3 games @Tampa Bay (25-18)
The Royals are young, talented and just brought up the highly touted prospect Eric Hosmer to join a team that is currently 6th in the league in scoring runs. Given that the Royals are 15-11 at home, the first inter-league series for the Cardinals looks to be a challenging one. Fortunately, the Royals aren’t exactly road warriors (5-11 on the road), so maybe that trend will continue when the Royals make the trip across I-70 to St. Louis. As a Cardinal fan, I’d be quite pleased with a series victory along the lines of 4-2 in the 6 games played. My biggest concern as a fan is the collective speed the Royals have on the bases. They currently lead the AL in stolen bases with 48, and that could be a difference maker in close games. Just a thought.
Toronto is a completely different story. They are playing .500 baseball in what I consider the toughest division in the league, and they are 7th in the league in runs scored. Maybe I’m a bit biased due to having Jose Bautista on one of my fantasy league teams, but he’s definitely one of the guys I want to see play in-person this year. Bautista currently has a slash line of .372/.522/.843/1.365 with 16 hr and 27 rbi. You might say that Bautista is really good at baseball, and last season was no fluke. He’s putting up Pujolsian numbers, although he could certainly benefit from more rbi opportunities. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of a mini slump when the Jays come to the Gateway City.
At 19-22, the Orioles are the 2nd biggest surprise to me behind the Indians this season. To be honest, I’m not sure how they are doing it with a run differential of -24, but they are within striking distance of .500, and you can color me impressed. Based on the record and run differential, one might be tempted to think that they just manage to put together enough timely hitting with decent pitching to grind out wins when they can. Nope. This team goes from one extreme to the other. They shut out the Twins 11-0 one day and lost to the Yankees 15-3 only 4 days later. The one element that might really favor the Cardinals in that matchup is that the Orioles starting staff only features 1 LHP. Unfortunately, that lefty happens to be their ace – Zach Britton. If by luck of the draw, the Cardinals happen to miss Britton’s start, then they likely get some combination of Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergeson, and Chris Tillman. FYI – Arrieta was born in Missouri and escaped somehow.
You probably don’t need much of a summary on the 25-18 Tampa Bay Rays. They are 7th in the majors in ERA and 3rd in batting average against. More importantly, they are leading the AL East after being written off during the past offseason by many a scribe. Sure, it’s a long season, but the starting 4 of James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Wade Davis are a collective 18-10 right now. The #5 guy is Jeff Niemann, and while is 5.74 era isn’t exactly noteworthy, his 1.372 WHIP isn’t that bad. He just gives up a few too many hits and home runs right now. If he can learn to keep the ball in the park, this looks like a team that can stay on top for the long haul. After all, they’ve only had the benefit of all-world 3B Evan Longoria in the lineup for 17 games this season. At best, this is a toss up for the Cardinals, unless they are fortunate enough to miss David Price’s start. Price is the only left-handed starter for the Rays, but I doubt the Cardinals could get that lucky.
As for my take on “inter-league ploy”, I understand and commend the strategy behind it. I just don’t necessarily care for it all that much. Why not? Maybe it’s the scheduling which is at least partially a by-product of the fact that the divisions are not evenly filled. The NL Central has 6 teams, and the AL West has 4 teams. The other divisions each have 5 teams. Doesn’t that make sense to everybody? Nope. It’s stupid. Remember when the Brewers were an AL team? Yep, so do I. They could still be an AL team an playing in the AL Central. KC could be in the AL West, but Noooooo. Forget geography. Who designed this thing? A monkey with a dartboard? Sorry. That’s really an insult to monkeys.
TIDBIT: Yes, I realize that the Cardinals have had great success in inter-league play. No, that still doesn’t change my mind. Also, I’m picking the Redbirds to go 9-6 in the 15 games of inter-league play.