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Ranking strength of AL schedules

Updated: February 23, 2013, 12:26 PM ET
By Buster Olney

GOODYEAR, Ariz.  When the late, great Mike Flanagan served in the Baltimore Orioles' leadership in 2005, the team got off to a strong start, winning 30 of their first 46 games. I called "Flanny" in late May and asked him whether he thought they would be aggressively adding players before the trade deadline.

He was always honest with me, and he told me that, no, the Orioles probably wouldn't be making big deals. The fact is, he explained, Baltimore's start was partly the product of a favorable early schedule, and there was an expectation within the front office that there would be regression. If the team held its ground in the next seven weeks, then, yes, it might do something noteworthy, but the sense was that there was a bill to pay because the schedule was about to get tougher. Which is what happened.

Other general managers have offered different variations of that through the years, relative to their teams. Front offices pay attention to strength of schedule and evaluate it to help frame their decisions.

A projected strength of schedule doesn't always apply, of course: The Pittsburgh Pirates had a 70-60 record late in this past August, and 13 of their final 32 games came against the lowly Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs -- and Pittsburgh still couldn't get to .500. But sometimes it does: The Phillies had an incredibly easy schedule at the outset of last year, and when they started poorly and were unable to take advantage of that pillow-soft slate of games in April and early May, it was a sign they would never be able to fully dig themselves out.

As I wrote here earlier in this offseason, the fact that the Astros have shifted from the NL Central to the AL West is expected to hurt the playoff chances for the teams they left behind -- along with teams in the AL East and Central -- and markedly enhance the odds for teams such as the Angels, Rangers and Athletics.

Here is a ranking of the American League schedules, toughest to easiest -- which include a crazy quirk in the slate of the Tigers and White Sox.

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