The schedules in the East and Central division pods are gradually returning to normal, and the projected schedules for many starting pitchers are beginning to take better shape as well. This rendition of the schedule outlook is fixated more on opponents, and less on schedule uncertainty like it was in Week 2.
Shane Bieber (Cleveland Indians)
Bieber is the current MLB leader in innings pitched, strikeouts, and FIP. He carries plenty of momentum into Sunday for his next start, but his placement on the ‘great’ schedule list is more because of who he faces after Sunday. The hot-hitting Chicago White Sox stand in Bieber’s way, and they are in MLB’s top-four in all figures on the batting slash. The August 9th showdown lines up to be a fun one.
After Sunday, Bieber’s future schedule awaits the Tigers (8/14) and Pirates (8/19). Both currently rank near the bottom of their leagues in batting slash figures, and both were projected by FanGraphs to win a combined 49 games.
Cleveland has scheduled off-days on August 10 and 13, but neither fall on a day that Bieber would pitch on a five-day schedule. Manager Terry Francona may elect to keep Bieber on a true five-day routine, but also has the luxury of giving him extra rest.
Jose Berrios (Minnesota Twins)
The 4-10 Kansas City Royals appear to be facing Berrios twice in their next six games (8/9 and 8/14). Kansas City ranks 24th in wOBA and WRC+, and Berrios is coming off his best start of the year last Tuesday against Pittsburgh.
DeGrom could be in line to face the Marlins in three of his next four starts (8/9, 8/19 and 8/25). The Marlins do currently lead the AL East (with about half as many games played as the Mets), but an outbreak of coronavirus through the team didn’t help their hitting depth. Miami is currently in the middle of the MLB pack in both wRC+ and wOBA, and FanGraphs projected Miami at the bottom of their division this year.
Perhaps the most challenging start on deGrom’s horizon is an outing in Philadelphia (8/14). The hot-hitting Phillies rank fifth in OPS, but like the Marlins, they have only played seven games.
After his last start against the Braves on Thursday, it appears Pearson will throw in Toronto’s opening series in Buffalo (8/11 or 8/12). He will likely face the Marlins next week.
Toronto has off-days on August 10 and 13, and they may elect to go to Hyun-jin Ryu on a true five-day schedule before they return with Pearson. This would mean he would avoid a series with the Rays, and instead face the Orioles (8/17 or 8/18). The Orioles are projected to finish last in the AL East on FanGraphs, while the Rays are forecasted for second.
With the Tigers (8/8), Reds (8/13) and Indians (8/18) coming up, the left-handed Holland will see the respective 23rd, 15th and 30th clubs in team wRC+. He could then see back-to-back starts against the Brewers beyond that, and their wRC+ currently ranks 26th.
Senzatela will pitch the west coast nightcap in Seattle tonight against a Mariners squad that has lost five of their last six. He will look ahead to the Diamondbacks after that (8/12), a team currently in the NL West cellar. Arizona has the fourth-worst OPS in baseball.
From August 14-20, the Rockies will play the Dodgers and Astros for seven straight games. Senzatela’s road ahead isn’t as rigorous as that stretch may suggest; should Germán Márquez or Jon Gray bump up a rotation spot with an August 13 off-day, it appears Senzatela will pitch in only one of those seven games.
Kershaw is scheduled for this Saturday against the Giants in his second start of the year. If Kershaw adheres to a five-day rotation, all three of his next starts will be at home (Giants, 8/8; Padres, 8/13; Mariners, 8/18). For a model of consistency like Kershaw, his familiar Dodger Stadium routine could welcome him back after he began the year on the injured list. None of his three projected opponents are currently ranked above third in their respective divisions.
Gray will look ahead to the Brewers (8/9), Pirates (8/14) and Royals (8/19). All three are currently in MLB’s bottom third for both OPS and wRC+. Gray leads the NL in strikeouts, and his 0.96 ERA suggests any opponent will have their hands full against him.
Cease has the Indians tonight. They currently rank last in wRC+ and are hitting .181 as a team. He will presumably see Detroit in consecutive outings after that (8/12 and 8/17 or 8/18), and the Tigers haven’t played since Sunday (due to postponements with the Cardinals). Detroit will have some time to heat up before facing Cease, but their team average barely clears the Mendoza line.
The Rangers will face Canning this evening, a team ranking 28th in wOBA and wRC+. He will look to face the A’s next week (8/12), avoiding a weekend series with the Dodgers. His next start would then come against San Francisco (8/17 or 8/18).
Snell will face the Yankees this evening, and looks forward to the Red Sox (8/12) and Yankees again (8/18). New York leads all of baseball in wOBA and WRC+. Boston ranks 10th and 11th, and both teams will look to gain ground on a divisional opponent. Tampa Bay doesn’t have a scheduled game outside their division until August 28.
It appears Snell won’t pitch in a weekend series with Toronto from August 14-16. With an off-day on August 17, he can at least have an extra day of rest before his second start against New York.
Ray’s WHIP is 1.95 and he has averaged 7.43 walks per nine innings. He will go to work against a Rockies lineup on Monday (8/10) in Coors Field; both the opponent and the ballpark can be unforgiving with such free passes.
He will match up against San Diego next weekend (8/15 or 8/16); the Padres currently rival the Dodgers for the best wOBA in the NL West. The Athletics loom even further in the distance (8/19 or 8/20), so two of his next three presumed opponents are currently leading their division.
He might face the Twins for three consecutive starts. Seriously.
Duffy is scheduled to pitch this Saturday (8/8) when the Twins visit Kansas City, and he won’t pitch again until at least next Friday (8/14) when the Royals head to Minneapolis.
With two off-days next week, manager Mike Matheny may elect to skip a rotation spot to give his Opening Day starter the ball next Friday at the earliest (8/14). This would put Duffy in line to face the Reds after that (8/19), dispelling a shot at the Twins schedule trifecta. Minnesota and Cincinnati have a wOBA that is almost identical, but facing the 5-8 Reds might be an easier task than the 10-3 Twins.
Smeltzer kicks off Minnesota’s three-game set with the Royals this evening, but his longer road ahead features the Brewers (8/12). It isn’t to say he actually will start beyond this evening, however; Smeltzer currently has an 11.57 ERA, and all of his outings this year have been after a different pitcher has thrown as an opener.
Minnesota has an off-day on August 13, and manager Rocco Baldelli could elect to keep Jose Berrios on a five-day schedule. This could push Smeltzer out of another outing with Kansas City, and he would instead line up to face Milwaukee again (8/18-20).
Atlanta’s next seven games are against the Phillies and Yankees. Both opponents are top-six in OPS, wRC+ and wOBA. Forward momentum could be on Wright’s side, however; he is coming off 3.1 innings of scoreless work against the Mets. That outing was far better than the five earned runs he allowed against Tampa Bay in 2.2 innings to start the year.
Mike Soroka (Atlanta Braves)
Soroka has the Phillies on Saturday. He appears to avoid a two-game set in the Bronx next week, instead facing the Marlins (8/14) after an off-day. The two opponents after that are what really put Soroka on the ‘poor’ schedule list: the reigning World Series champion Nationals (8/19) and the American League favorite Yankees (8/25).
He has the second most strikeouts in the AL behind Shane Bieber, but Lynn’s next outing (8/9) comes against the Angels with the second lowest strikeout percentage among AL teams. Lynn has still managed a .143 BABIP, so even if he’s allowed contact, it hasn’t been strong.
Lynn’s road beyond the Angels features the Rockies in Denver (8/14 or 8/15). He’s at least had some experience in the altitude after spending six seasons in the NL with St. Louis.
The Braves (8/12) and Red Sox (8/17) rank 8th and 10th in OPS, and both will likely face Tanaka after he squares off against the Rays this evening. Tampa Bay ranks 22nd by that measure, reasonably making Tanaka’s start tonight as likely the easiest of the three.
Any Pitcher for the Giants
San Francisco’s new manager Gabe Kapler has made a routine of announcing starters extremely late, so forecasting the road ahead for several Giants pitchers can be difficult. No matter what their rotation looks like, they have the Dodgers, Astros, and Athletics coming up.
Any Pitcher for the Cardinals
St. Louis hasn’t played since July 29. The Cardinals anticipate a return to action this evening against the Cubs, but not before a 10 day intermission has disrupted the routines of all of their arms.
Graphic by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter)