FROM A TO ZINKIE: Finding the September schedule quirks

You pored over your draft lists last winter until they were perfect. And when you slowly found out over the past five months that those lists weren’t perfect, you adjusted on the fly, making a series of deft trades and wise free-agent additions until you arrived to the beginning of September with a contending team. But finishing off this championship run isn’t going to be easy. With September call-ups, injured players who don’t land on the disabled list, and managers who make unusual moves with bloated rosters, owners are constantly challenged to make the right decisions during the final month of the regular season.

Schedules are an underrated part of navigating through September. While team schedules tend to even out across a full season, some squads have much more favorable September slates than others. And while schedule quirks aren’t going to make an owner bench Nolan Arenado (3B, COL) or Max Scherzer (RHP, WAS), they are going to make a big impact on the back end of the active lineup. Let’s take a look at players who should have favorable or unfavorable schedules:
 

PITCHERS

Favorable Schedules

With clubs set to play many divisional games in September, the Indians are no surprise as the team with the most favorable pitching schedule. After all, the Tribe reigns supreme in a division with three rebuilding clubs and a Twins squad that fell far short of expectations this year. Cleveland will play seven of their final eight series against teams who are in the bottom half of the majors in runs scored, with two of those series coming against the lowest-scoring club in baseball (Royals) and two coming against a strikeout-prone White Sox squad that is near the bottom in runs scored. Corey Kluber (RHP, CLE) and Carlos Carrasco (RHP, CLE) could have spectacular finishes, and Shane Bieber (RHP, CLE) should have a strong finish to his rookie year.

The Twins also have a favorable schedule, as they will face the Royals twice, Tigers twice and White Sox once. Detroit has been especially ineffective since the All-Star break. Jose Berrios (RHP, MIN) should make a big late-season impact, while lesser hurlers such as Kyle Gibson (RHP, MIN) and Jake Odorizzi (RHP, MIN) could be streaming options on several occasions.

The Reds have a surprisingly favorable September schedule, by virtue of a trio of appealing series outside their division (Royals, Marlins, Padres). And like the Twins, Cincinnati could provide streaming options such as Luis Castillo (RHP, CIN), Matt Harvey (RHP, CIN), and Anthony DeSclafani (RHP, CIN).

Unfavorable Schedules

It’s a good thing that the Red Sox have a massive lead and an excellent starting staff, as their quintet is going to be tested during September. Boston faces their rival Yankees twice, as well as tangling with the Astros, Indians, and Braves. That’s five series against teams who are comfortably in the Top 10 in runs scored. David Price (LHP, BOS), Rick Porcello (RHP, BOS), and Nathan Eovaldi (RHP, BOS) could be on the mixed-league lineup bubble some weeks.

The Blue Jays will also force their starters to run a gauntlet. And the slate is especially unfriendly to those in head-to-head leagues, as they face the Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees in three consecutive series from Sept. 6-16. For good measure, they also take on the Astros during the final week of the season. Marcus Stroman (RHP, TOR) may not be a reliable rotation member in fantasy circles when he returns from the disabled list, and this is not a good time to speculate on youngsters such as Ryan Borucki (LHP, TOR).

Perhaps no club can match the hardships that will be faced by the Diamondbacks’ starters during September. Beginning on Sept. 6, the club hosts the Braves, travels to Coors Field, continues on the road to Houston, and then returns home to tangle with the Cubs. They also face a deep Dodgers lineup twice in September. Zack Greinke (RHP, ARI) and Patrick Corbin (LHP, ARI) will be tested during September, while Robbie Ray (LHP, ARI) and Zack Godley (RHP, ARI) may spend considerable time on mixed-league benches.
 

LEFT-HANDED HITTERS

Favorable Schedules

The Pirates will enjoy three series (Royals, Reds twice) against clubs who have really struggled against left-handed hitters. Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT) and Corey Dickerson (OF, PIT) could enjoy strong finishes to the season, while Adam Frazier (OF, PIT) and Colin Moran (3B, PIT) could make an impact in deep-mixed leagues.

In the NL West, the Dodgers and Giants both have some favorable series for the southpaw sluggers. This news will be music to the ears of those who own Cody Bellinger (OF, LA), Max Muncy (1B, LA), Joc Pederson (OF, LA), Brandon Belt (1B, SF), and Brandon Crawford (SS, SF).

Unfavorable Schedules

The Blue Jays will log four series against three clubs (Astros, Rays, Red Sox) who have been among the best against left-handed bats this season. Luckily, lefty slugger Curtis Granderson (OF, TOR) and switch-hitters Justin Smoak (1B, TOR) and Kendrys Morales (DH, TOR) are the only prominent Toronto hitters who regularly bat from the left side.

The Orioles also have a tough schedule for lefty bats, as they tangle with the Rays, Red Sox, and Astros. But Baltimore has a righty-heavy lineup that should not be greatly impacted by this situation. AL-only owners who are hoping for a late-season surge from Chris Davis (1B, BAL) will likely be disappointed.
 

RIGHT-HANDED HITTERS

Favorable Schedules

The righty sluggers on the Rays could have a spectacular finish to the season, as the club will play five September series (Rangers, Orioles, Blue Jays thrice) against clubs that have struggled to put righties away this year. Rookie Willy Adames (SS, TB) could hit for average and provide late-season steals, while C.J. Cron (1B, TB) has power potential and Carlos Gomez (OF, TB) could close an otherwise unremarkable year on a high note.

The Indians’ lineup is already scary enough, and their offense could even more productive than usual for their right-handed bats in September. Cleveland faces a woeful Royals staff twice and also tangles with the Blue Jays. Switch-hitting superstars Francisco Lindor (SS, CLE) and Jose Ramirez (3B, CLE) should enjoy strong finishes to their career years, while Yan Gomes (C, CLE) and Rajai Davis (OF, CLE) could make deep-league contributions.

Unfavorable Schedules

The right-handed hitters on the Braves will endure some tough series down the stretch. The club draws two series against a Phillies staff that has been tough on righties, and they also face the Cardinals. Phenom Ronald Acuna (OF, ATL) could be tested in those series, while both of the team’s catchers (Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki) bat from the right side. And Dansby Swanson (SS, ATL), who has already been underwhelming this season, is not set up for a strong finish.

Another NL East team—the Mets—faces a tough September schedule for right-handed hitters. Like the Braves, the Mets face the Phillies twice. And New York is also scheduled for a series against a Dodgers staff that has been tough on righties. Prominent right-handed hitters on the Mets include Wilmer Flores (1B, NYM), Todd Frazier (3B, NYM), and Amed Rosario (SS, NYM).


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.