So much about the success or failure of a team often has to do with scheduling -- playing the right teams, at the right time, at the right location. ESPN baseball guru Buster Olney knows this and that is why he recently broke down the early season schedules of each team in the National League.
In case you are wondering, and I know that you are, the Reds landed in the middle-of-the-pack as far as strength of scheduling goes. Olney ranked Cincinnati's early schedule as the 8th-toughest in the league, or put another way, the 8th-easiest, since there are now only 15 teams in the NL with the Houston Astros move to the American League West.
Here is the write-up on the Reds:
Games against teams with records of .500 or better in 2012: 25 of their first 41.
Home/road: 22 of their first 41 games are at home.
Schedule notes: Cincinnati gets to hit the ground running with some early-season challenges, opening the year with an interleague series against the Los Angles Angels, then facing the Cardinals and Nationals.
The hurdle ahead: It won't be easy for them, either, in their final games before the All-Star break -- in the last two weeks of the first half, they'll face the Giants, Brewers and Braves (with a series against the Seattle Mariners mixed in).
Last year, the Reds enjoyed one of the easiest schedules in all of baseball. According to ESPN's strength of schedule measurement tool, they ranked 29th out of 30 MLB teams with an opponent winning percentage of .486. Only the Brewers (.485) boasted a more cupcake slate and it wasn't by much.
On a side note, the poor Pittsburgh Pirates top the list as Olney's team with the toughest schedule, by far. Nearly every game they play in the first two months is against a team who had a winning record in 2012.
Fellow NL Central foes Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee ranked 5th, 7th, and 13th, respectively.