Ranking early-season NL schedules

Updated: February 29, 2012, 4:33 PM ET
By Buster Olney

On Tuesday, we ranked the early-season schedules for the American League, and the Minnesota Twins have a brutal opening stretch.

Today we assess the strength of early schedules for National League teams -- and the Phillies should feel good about their chances to get off to a great start.

The teams are ranked according to the strength of their respective early schedules, from toughest to easiest.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates
Games against teams with winning records in 2011: 22 of their first 25
Home games: Nine of their first 25
Notes: Look, it gets a lot easier for the Pirates after the early part of May, but in April, it's like they're gladiators thrown into the middle of a coliseum against tigers and an army. No team in the majors has a more difficult April schedule -- and most of it's on the road. If they are hovering around .500 by May 10, it would be a feat.