The Cleveland Indians were 51-44 at the All-Star break, and when they lost four of their first five games in the second half, it was unclear whether they would remain in contention.
But here’s the thing: The Indians had what appeared to be on paper one of the easiest schedules in the second half, with relatively few games against teams with records over .500 -- and they feasted and made the postseason.
As I’ve written here before, managers and players really don’t care about strength of schedule, but a lot of front offices consider it as they assess their own teams. This is particularly true in the first part of the season, as expectations take shape.
Here is the American League strength of schedule rankings for the first chunk of the season, from toughest to easiest.
Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2013: 31 of their first 40.
Home/road: 18 of their first 40 are at home.
Notable: My son plays a video game called "Injustice," and I think that lineup of villains is easier than what the Twins will face early in the year. They start out the season with six road games, and then beginning April 18, the Twins will play 25 straight games -- count 'em, 25 -- against teams that either made the playoffs or contended, including the Red Sox, Tigers, Rays and Dodgers. The Twins' new pitching will be tested early.