Dan Szymborski of the invaluable Baseball Think Factory takes a look at Major League Baseball’s unbalanced schedule in his latest column for ESPN, and comes to the conclusion that the Toronto Blue Jays have the toughest schedule in baseball. With a three game series against the Philadelphia Phillies having been added to the Jays schedule, Toronto barely edges the Baltimore Orioles. On the other end of the spectrum are the St. Louis Cardinals who have the easiest schedule in baseball.
If the two teams were switched, and the Blue Jays played the Cardinals schedule in the NL Central and St. Louis played Toronto’s schedule in the AL East, what would happen? Well, Szymborski uses ZiPS projections to find out.
Suddenly, the Blue Jays chances look a whole lot better. Freed of a division where the team is projected to finish in fourth place, 14 games behind the Boston Red Sox, Toronto suddenly becomes a contender in the NL Central, finishing 86-76 and edging out both the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, currently projected to win 85 games. The Cardinals, still very competitive in the NL Central even after the loss of Adam Wainwright, find themselves suddenly fighting for fourth place with the Orioles in the AL East.
It’s hard out there for an AL East team. In addition to having to face the best teams in baseball more than any other team in the league, you also have to win more games than those best teams in baseball. As much as we talk about adding another Wild Card option and increasing the amount of playoff teams, a balanced schedule would seem to be the most obvious way to ensure a more competitive balance.
But don’t expect the Blue Jays to necessarily be too up in arms over the lack of fairness in the schedule. Toronto is very happy to play host to visiting New York and Boston fans whenever the cities’ teams clash with the home team at Rogers Centre. If the sheer number of Yankees and Red Sox fans in attendance don’t convince you, surely the merchandise counters making the opposing team’s memorabilia available for purchase will sway you.