Buster's Buzz: Early MLB schedule easy on Yanks, fuels Nats-Mets rivalry

There are always quirks as a new baseball season begins. Here's how the opening slate affects top contenders -- like the Yankees, who will be without ace Luis Severino for at least the first month of the season. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

At least some front offices will evaluate strength of schedule to better evaluate performance context. If a team's early-season slate is stacked with a bunch of games against contending teams, or it has a couple of brutal road trips on the opposite coast, or a bunch of games against tanking teams, then the folks who made the decisions can apply the appropriate qualifiers to the results, whatever those are.

This will be particularly relevant this year, now that the July 31 trade deadline has been cemented. Under the old rules, decisions about whether to buy, sell or hold could be deferred until late August, but those decisions now must be made just after the All-Star break at the latest. "There is nothing after that deadline," one executive said Monday. "If you're really looking to improve that club, that's when you have to do it."

The early-season schedules and results will inform those decisions, and every schedule bears a unique set of quirks. Here are a few, among the contenders: