I can hear the reporters already: “Another bad April.” It seems like every year, the Phillies start off slowly and struggle during the first month of the season. Could 2013 be different? The answer could be in the schedule.
The Phillies are not going to immediately start off with an easy team. The Atlanta Braves are predicted by many to be a very good team in 2013. However, once the Phillies leave Atlanta, the schedule might appear to be a little easier.
The Phillies Home Opener is against the Kansas City Royals, who have the reputation of being a terrible team. Actually, the Royals are projected to be better this year, and finish close to .500. They probably will not compete, but expect improvement from the Royals. They still have many questions, but their starting rotation has improved with the additions of James Shields and Ervin Santana. Despite the Royals being better, this is still a team that the Phillies should beat early on in the season.
I am also going to clump the Cleveland Indians into the same category as the Royals. The Indians are known for being bad, but they have made some changes that will result in more victories. Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn will boost their outfield. The Indians’ pitching is going to be their biggest concern. The Phillies play the Tribe twice in April and two more times in early May. Although the Indians are improved, they are still a team the Phillies should beat early on in the season.
After the Royals, the Phillies play six games with the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. As of now, these two teams are contenders for the worst team in baseball. The Mets lost Johan Santana for the season and the only major threat the Marlins have is Giancarlo Stanton, who could be traded at some point. The Phillies play the Mets later in April and the Marlins at the beginning of May, so it is important to beat these teams early and capitalize on their struggles.
The Phillies also play the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates in April. The Reds will not be an easy series as many people have them slated to win the National League Central. Although the Reds are going to be good, the Phillies have had success at Great American Ballpark in previous seasons. Cole Hamels owns the Reds, and Ryan Howard puts up some pretty big numbers in Cincinnati. It’s not going to be an easy series, but the Phillies recent success against Cincy is something to take into account.
I’ll also count the Cardinals as a tough series, especially since the Phillies have had a tendency to struggle against them. The Cardinals are projected to have around 85 wins in 2013, so they will not be taken lightly. Adam Wainwright will be their ace, but their rotation has some questions especially with Carpenter out for the year.
The Pirates almost had a winning season in 2012, but a September slump ruined it. The Pirates are projected to have another losing season, but they do have potential MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates’ starting rotation contains some guys with decent resumes in A.J Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and Wandy Rodriguez. While all those guys have experienced success at times, they have also hit major downfalls. Once again, the Pirates are a team the Phillies should beat early on.
For the most part, I would say that the Phillies have a fairly easy schedule during the first month of the season. The Phillis must capitalize in playing poor teams like the Mets and Marlins if they want to avoid “another bad April.” It isn’t going to be a breeze, but the Phillies really need to take advantage of their schedule. The Phillies have been known to be a second half team, but a good April could put them in a good position rather than playing catchup.