With a colossal target on their back, the San Francisco Giants will be in familiar territory in 2013. They are the reigning champions for the second time in three years, and everyone wants to knock them off their high horse, making the 162-game marathon that much more difficult.
The new schedule structuring will have them playing American League teams regularly throughout the year as opposed to just during designated days and weeks of the season.
Injuries and all the events that happen to a team on a day to day basis can’t be predicted, to be sure. But uncontrollable factors aside, let’s see how their schedule shapes up monthly.
Note: This list is from difficult to easy.
Home Series: vs. Dodgers (3), Phillies (3), Braves (3), Nationals (3), Rockies (3), Athletics (2)
Road Series: Diamondbacks (1), Blue Jays (2), Rockies (3), Athletics (2), Cardinals (1)
With the exception of the Rockies, the Giants could face all contenders in May.
The Phillies and their somewhat restored outfield—Ben Revere—are always a tall order with their still effective pitching staff intact. Meanwhile, three games against the Dodgers to begin the month could set the tone for the rest of the month.
Worse, San Francisco will see the best of the National League East in the Braves and Nationals. Both boast rotations and bullpens that can easily compete with the Giants’ staff—if not outmatch—whereas their respective offenses may give them a slight edge.
Additionally, the Blue Jays and their revamped roster could also present a difficult task on the road. If their pitching staff lives up to the hype with the additions of Josh Johnson and R.A. Dickey, they could also easily matchup with San Francisco’s dup of Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Their offense isn’t too shabby either, especially with the additions of Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera.
Then with games against the Diamondbacks, A’s and Cardinals, it’s safe to say that the Giants will have their work cut out for themselves. Luckily, they will get the majority of the tougher opponents at home where their pitching staff tends to thrive.
Home Series: Dodgers (3), Mets (3), Diamondbacks (3), Reds (3), Cubs (3)
Road Series: Reds (4), Padres (4), Phillies (2)
Four games in Cincinnati is always brutal regardless of how good the Reds actually are. But to make matters even worse, the Reds are projected to be World Series contenders. And, about 20 days later they will face them again at home.
It’s rare to see a team get two four-game road series in one month, but the Padres (the other four-game series opponent) shouldn’t be too tough of a task, neither should the Cubs or Mets, who are both the in rebuilding stages of the franchise cycle.
The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will be inner-division tests. By July the NL West race will surely be in full swing, and those two series should have some playoff implications. That is, if all three squads are close to contention, which is a plausible prediction.
Arizona’s status as a contender or pretender vastly depends on their decision to or not to move Upton. Otherwise, they’ve added to an already strong rotation and should hang around.
Then, we all know what the Dodgers have been doing since the beginning of the offseason—spending.
Simply, surviving the Reds and Dodgers will be crucial for the Giants in July. A collapse could lead to a repeat of 2011, and that story doesn’t end too well.
Home Series: Blue Jays (2), Padres (3), Marlins (4)
Road Series: Cardinals (2), Diamondbacks (3), Pirates (3), Braves (3), Dodgers (3), Rockies (3)
During June, the Giants’ bats will have to come alive on the road, much like they did in 2012. San Francisco had the highest OPS (.742) and slugging percentage (.415) of an team in the NL on the road.
Except for the Rockies, the Giants will face five legitimate playoff teams. All five have formidable pitching staffs, and including the Rockies, all six have some offensive firepower. Yes, even the Pirates may have an adept offensive squad with the addition of Russell Martin and a full year of super-prospect Starling Marte.
While the Rockies seem like the weak part of San Francisco’s June slate of games, a three-game set could go both ways at the hitters friendly Coors Field. The Giants did find plenty of success against Colorado last year, going 14-4 against them , but the Rockies will have Troy Tulowitzki back in action, and it’s not unreasonable to think that they will make a move to bolster their shaky rotation.
A successful month of June for the Giants will depend on them beating the teams they should beat—Padres, Marlins and Rockies—because the the rest of their schedule will consist of games that they aren’t expected to win, per se.
Home Series: Brewers (4), Orioles (3), Red Sox (3), Pirates (3)
Road Series: Phillies (one game), Rays (3), Nationals (3), Marlins (3), Rockies (3), Diamondbacks (2)
August’s slate of games are thought-provoking. On one hand, the Giants could be faced with a tough month. Then on the other, August could be rather easy if these border-line contenders underachieve.
For example, the Red Sox and Phillies have both made additions to strengthen their respective rosters after disappointing 2012 campaigns. If anything, though, these two once powerhouse teams flaunt a bunch of skepticism. Their offseason moves can only be justified through the actual games.
Then there are the Orioles, Pirates and Brewers. All three teams have the potential to contend, but again, there’s some skepticism The Orioles were a fluky team this past season to begin with, and they’ve supplemented their roster with absolutely no signifianct upgrades to further seal their chances of repeating their 2012 magic. Further, the Pirates and Brewers both have wobbly rotations.
So, August has the possibility to be like July in terms of schedule difficulty, but there are a lot of “if’s.”
Home Series: Diamondbacks (3), Rockies (3), Dodgers (3), Padres (3)
Road Series: Padres (3), Dodgers (4), Mets (3), Yankees (3)
The final month of the season should be one of the easier months from a Giants’ standpoint.
The only noticeable challenges are the Dodgers and Yankees. If everything goes accordingly, that is. Seven games against LA isn’t something to overlook, especially given the playoff implications that will presumably be on the line. A battle in the Bronx with the Yankees also won’t be a cakewalk.
However, if the Giants can fare relatively well against the Dodgers and Yankees, then the rest of their September schedule should be manageable with series against the Padres, Rockies and Mets.
Of course, we won’t know the circumstances until September. Our January prognosis may be much different than what the reality of the situation will be.
Home Series: Cardinals (3), Rockies (3), Padres (3), Diamondbacks (3)
Road Series: Dodgers (3), Cubs (4), Brewers (3), Padres (3), Diamondbacks (2)
How about that? The Giants’ easiest months of the season will be the first and final months. I guess this could workout for them, but it also means that they won’t have many breaks during the dog days of the summer.
As for the schedule, the Dodgers and Cardinals present the biggest games. Ironically, those will be San Francisco’s first two opponents.
Again, the Diamondbacks always seem to feast on the Giants, so no easy task there. But the Cubs, Brewers (they will be without Corey Hart), Padres and Rockies should all be winnable series for the Giants.
The key in April: get off to a fast start because things pickup rapidly in May.