Ranking the toughest early AL schedules

Jose Altuve and the Astros face arguably the most challenging early-season schedule in MLB. John Rivera/Icon Sportswire

Managers and players don’t really peruse schedules the way that general managers do, because for those in uniform, the season plays out like a baseball version of "Groundhog Day." There’s always a charter, or a bus to the ballpark, or a specified report time for home games, and always a ballgame. They worry only about the team in front of them.

But a GM must assess his club and players relative to the competition, so they’ll weigh the strength of schedule to see where the possible pitfalls and opportunities are over the months of games.

In 2015, it looks as though the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics will be candidates to start well, based on their early-season schedule -- the first quarter of their games or so -- and on the other hand, the Astros’ very difficult slate of games in the first weeks of the season might set them on a trajectory to be sellers before the trade deadline.

These early-season schedules are ranked from most difficult to least difficult, and today, we break down the American League. We’ll rank the National League schedules Sunday. Something worth remembering: There will always be scheduling quirks that make players and managers grumble, and creating an arrangement of games that will equally satisfy the interests of all 30 teams is impossible.

1. Houston Astros

Games against teams that had records over .500 in 2014: 39 of their first 48 games are against teams with records over .500.

Home/away: 22 of their first 38 games are at home.

Noteworthy: It’s hard to imagine the Astros having a more challenging start than what they face in 2014. Twenty-two of their first 41 games are against the Angels, Athletics and Mariners, who finished 1-2-3 in the AL West last year, and they also have out-of-division series against the Giants, Blue Jays, Indians and Tigers.