Why are the Twins, Braves and Angels smiling?


Because they have some of the easiest second-half schedules among contenders.  That according to Buster Oleny who breaks it all down in his latest column.

Really the Reds and Cardinals have the easiest schedules left, but considering they’re competing with each other for the NL Central title, the cake schedule doesn’t really give either of them an advantage. At least not against one another. Each of them will have an advantage in the wild card race against the runners up in the East and the West, however. And here you thought the Pirates, Astros, Cubs and Brewers had no place in the playoff conversation.

Outside of the NL “cupcake” Central, the Twins get some help from the scheduling gods, with seven more games against sub-.500 teams than the White Sox have, and three more home games as well. The Braves have one more game against losers than do the Mets, but they also have six more home games. Given that both the Braves and Mets have done much better at home, this really works in Atlanta’s favor.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Dodgers, who play 58 of their 74 remaining games against winners, 11 more than the team with the next toughest go of it, the Rockies. The Padres have an easier time overall, but their schedule is backloaded, with several tough series in September.  Think it’s a coincidence that San Diego is thinking about putting Mat Latos on the disabled list right now?  He may not be that badly hurt, but given that he has an innings cap this year, better to have him fresh, healthy and available in September than July or August.

But before we get too far down this schedule = destiny road, let’s remember something: unlike football, baseball really is a game of any given Sunday (and Monday thru Saturday too). Anybody beats anybody, and what matters more than schedule, I believe anyway, is health.

So this is all fun, but ultimately the teams who suffer the fewest key injuries are the teams who will be the best off.

Clayton Kershaw completes spring training with a 0.00 ERA

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Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.

In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.

The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.

The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.