At the time Major League Baseball rosters expand from 25 to 40 players on Friday, that's the number of days of baseball remaining in the 2017 regular season. You've got 31 days to make your final push toward a league championship.
For some, Friday -- or at least a date within a few days on either side of it -- means your league's trade deadline. It's also three days shy of the start of head-to-head playoffs in ESPN leagues. Whatever your league's setting, it's as good a time as any to get your roster ready for the final push.
Scheduling advantages can have as much impact as anything in fantasy baseball. We'll have the weekly Fantasy Baseball Forecaster ready to help you in each of the four remaining weeks -- plus the Week 21 edition that takes you through this weekend's games -- but what about the entirety of the September and October schedule?
Using the same projections model used in the Forecaster, here are the teams that stand out on either side, good or bad, in terms of schedule from Sept. 1 forward. Relevant individual players to add, drop, trade for or ship away are also discussed.
Teams with favorable schedules
Cleveland Indians: The Indians have 30 total games, tied for most in the majors with five other teams (and, counting the Indians, four of them play in the American League Central). Seven of those contests will be played against the Chicago White Sox, who boast the AL's worst record and second-worst run differential. Including the White Sox games, 20 of the Indians' final 30 contests will be played against teams that rank among the bottom 10 in baseball in ERA. Among American League squads, the Indians rate among the most likely to see a good volume of left-handed pitching, making lesser-owned players such as Yan Gomes (3.4 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, .258/.353/.506 rates against lefties) and Austin Jackson (2.3 percent owned, .340/.426/.574 against lefties) matchup considerations.
On the pitching side, the Indians have a top-10 schedule, thanks in large part to seven games against each the White Sox and a Detroit Tigers team that struggles much more against righties than lefties (remember that the Indians' current rotation is entirely right-handed). Trevor Bauer (71.6 percent owned) and Mike Clevinger (26.1 percent) should be closer to every-start than matchup considerations.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Though the Dodgers' hitting schedule is middling, their schedule is a dream in the pitching department. No team grades better in terms of strength of opponent or cumulative park factors the rest of the way than the Dodgers, mainly due to their playing 17 of their final 30 games against the three worst teams in baseball in terms of runs per game (San Diego Padres 3.80, seven games; San Francisco Giants 3.96, six games; Philadelphia Phillies 4.12, four games). If you're worried about the Dodgers' constant, DL-influenced shuffling of rotation or the fact that they might skip starters in late September due to their 19-game divisional and 24-game wild-card leads, their schedule should quell some of your concerns. Remember, four starts from Clayton Kershaw or Yu Darvish can provide equal value to six -- roughly the amount that remains for an average starter -- from a very good pitcher with a much tougher schedule, so have no fear trusting either. Hyun-Jin Ryu (56.9 percent owned), who has a 1.54 ERA in six second-half start and has an entirely reasonable 134 2/3 inning pace, could be the difference-maker in many fantasy leagues.
One catch with the Dodgers: Be forewarned that they're off on Thursday, Sept. 28, before concluding their season with three games at Colorado's Coors Field.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs have hardly wrapped up the NL Central, with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals within striking distance, and they'll play seven games apiece against each, meaning a high likelihood they'll be playing their "A" team deep into September. However, the Cubs' specific advantage is the volume of right-handed opposing pitching on their remaining hitting schedule, which grants them the No. 1 left-handed-hitting rating. Only 11 left-handed starting pitchers reside on current 40-man rosters of the Cubs' remaining seven opponents, and of those 11 lefties, only four have made a major league start since the All-Star break: Tommy Milone, Sean Newcomb, Blake Snell and Brent Suter.
This makes Anthony Rizzo a top trade target, despite his .269/.361/.458 career September/October regular-season rates (.356 wOBA, 12 points beneath his career seasonal number). It's also great news for three more widely available left-handed Cubs hitters: Kyle Schwarber (51.5 percent owned), who has started 10 of the Cubs' past 11 games as their No. 2 hitter against a right-handed pitcher and has .205/.310/.459 rates against righties this season; Ian Happ (29.3 percent owned), who has started seven of those same 11 and has .242/.336/.545 rates against righties; and Alex Avila (54.3 percent owned), who will lose playing time once Willson Contreras returns, but should still see enough at-bats to be a worthwhile No. 2 catcher.
Atlanta Braves: Though SunTrust Park has played more hitter-friendly than its predecessor, Turner Field, so far, it remains more pitching- than hitting-leaning through more than three-quarters of its inaugural season. Traditionally, that small of a sample isn't enough to draw any judgments on park factors, but as far as the Braves' remaining opponents are concerned, Atlanta should be in for a solid finish on the pitching side. After they face the Cubs and Texas Rangers this weekend and early next week, the Braves play the injury-ravaged New York Mets (seven games), Washington Nationals (six), the 28th-ranked Philadelphia Phillies (three) and Miami Marlins (eight). The Braves' problem is that there isn't a single member of their pitching staff who is a no-doubt-about-it, lock-in-weekly fantasy option, so take this note as more of a pick-and-choose-your-matchups nugget.
Julio Teheran (60.0 percent owned) has a pair of quality starts in his past three outings and has improved of late at SunTrust, but new closer Arodys Vizcaino (40.5 percent owned) might be the biggest benefactor of the team's schedule. After all, good pitching matchups mean a greater likelihood of this team and its 20th-ranked offense (4.54 runs per game average this season) hanging in closer games to generate save chances.
Colorado Rockies: Fifteen of the Rockies' final 29 games will be played at Coors Field, and another four will be played at Arizona's Chase Field, so it's understandable that the Rockies stand out in a big way on the hitting side. One wrinkle, however, is that they're likely to face as much left-handed pitching as any team the rest of the way, as their rival Dodgers and Giants rotations draw from a pool of seven left-handers. Nolan Arenado, a .410/.442/.844 hitter against lefties this season, should be at or near the very top of your trade candidates list. Trevor Story (71.6 percent owned), a .303/.395/.677 hitter against lefties this season, is a much more affordable alternative.
Teams with unfavorable schedules
Baltimore Orioles: They've been the AL's highest-scoring team since the All-Star break (5.77 runs per game, second only to the Cubs' 5.93), but a lot of that has been the product of them fattening up on the weaker pitching of the Tigers, Oakland Athletics and Rangers. Moving forward, the Orioles will play 20 of their final 28 games against teams that rank among the top seven in baseball in ERA -- and that's whether you're ranking their ERA over the full season or since the All-Star break. There's a good chance the Orioles will have to play multiple games apiece against Chris Archer, Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka, and they'll probably also draw Corey Kluber and Chris Sale as opponents during series against the Indians and Boston Red Sox.
Tampa Bay Rays: They don't have it much better than the Orioles, but the Rays' biggest disadvantage is a lesser number of games than most teams, as their 27 is second fewest to only the Giants' 26. In addition, this team's pitching staff has a brutal final three and a half weeks. Beginning on Sept. 8, the Rays play only the Orioles (seven games), Red Sox (six), New York Yankees (six) and Cubs (two) -- teams that rank ninth (4.89), 11th (4.81), third (5.22) and seventh (4.98) in runs per game this season. It's unwise to consider any Rays pitchers besides Archer and Alex Colome as weekly lock-ins. Colome, the No. 6 pure relief pitcher on our Player Rater, is a prime name to peddle if you can still make trades.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Like the Cubs, the Pirates will face a hefty volume of right-handed pitching the rest of the way, which doesn't suit them quite as nicely. Josh Bell stands out thanks to the righty-heavy schedule, but Andrew McCutchen (98.5 percent owned) is a mere .272/.355/.426 hitter against righties for the season who has slumped to .248/.350/.314 rates against them since the All-Star break. McCutchen is is a prime name to shop around in leagues that haven't reached their trade deadlines.