Arizona and Tampa Bay are up against it with tough schedules to begin the 2017 baseball season, part of why they're huge long shots on the MLB futures odds.
Coming out of the gate piling up dubyas in April is not a requirement for making the playoffs, but it sure doesn't hurt. It certainly helped the Chicago Cubs last season, the residents of Wrigleyville winning eight of their first nine and finishing April with a 17-5 record.
The team those Cubs would eventually meet in the 2016 World Series started slowly before finding their groove. Cleveland was bitten by Mother Nature with three early postponements and the Indians stood 6-7 through the first couple of weeks and 10-11 through April.
Their successes last year are behind high expectations this season as both the Cubs and Indians are big favorites on the MLB futures odds. Coincidence or not, teams way back in the pack on those odds also have some of the toughest schedules to begin 2017.
Snakes Handed Toughest Early Fixture
Whereas Chicago and Cleveland are 4/1 and 8/1 World Series choices, the Arizona Diamondbacks are a very distant 90/1 pick at Bookmaker. First-year manager Torey Lovullo and the D-Backs got absolutely zero love from the schedule maker, and they could be left choking in the NL West dust after the initial two weeks.
The good news is Arizona does spend the first seven days at home before embarking on an early 10-game road trip. The bad news is those first seven contests are against the Giants and Indians, each among this year's chalk. We should expect the Diamondbacks to be +180 underdogs on the MLB odds in at least three of those first seven since they'll be going up against the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Corey Kluber -- all Cy Young candidates.
Even worse news is after the initial homestand, that long road trip begins in San Francisco, where Arizona could face Bumgarner and Cueto a second time. Following three at the Giants, the D-Backs trek down to Los Angeles to meet the Dodgers for four in a wraparound weekend set. Opposing pitchers at Chavez Ravine include Clayton Kershaw, the frontrunner for the NL Cy Young Award, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu. A break-even 7-7 mark in those first 14 games would be considered a success for Lovullo and the Snakes.
Rays Matched Against Playoff Contenders In April
While Arizona faces the toughest first two weeks, honors for having the most difficult April schedule goes to the Tampa Bay Rays. An even longer shot than the Diamondbacks to win the Series at 110/1, the Rays face legitimate playoff contenders through the entire month of April, starting with a homestand opposite the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays.
Kevin Cash, beginning his third season on the top step of the Tampa dugout, then takes his crew to New York for a follow-up series with the Yankees before heading to AL East favorite Boston to take on the Red Sox, who are loaded with AL Cy Young candidates. The Rays return home to host Detroit and AL West favorite Houston, then go back on the road to meet Baltimore and Toronto. Their first real break on the slate comes at the beginning of May when the Rays have a four-game home-&-home series with the Miami Marlins.
Whatever team or teams you're following, the best schedule of free baseball picks can always be found here at SBR.Talk 2017 Major League Baseball In Our Forum