The Tenth Inning Week 23 – Playoff Chances ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic
Labor Day is upon us, meaning that as both college football and the NFL season take center stage in the minds of most of the sporting world, we here at The Tenth Inning will be significantly more focused on the postseason playoff chase. It’s one that will likely see a bit more drama come from the American League as opposed to the National League, but let’s look at all of the contenders that we have yet to officially “eliminate” in our dead pool (this is, of course, prior to actually eliminating one this week) and place some fun, completely made up percentages as to each team’s playoff and World Series chances.
Detroit Tigers (80-57) – The defending AL champs appear all but assured of another Central division title as the Indians and Royals sit 7.5 and 9.5 games back, respectively. Still, the injury to Miguel Cabrera is beginning to get just a little concerning – if he’s not 100%, it definitely makes this a beatable team come October
Texas Rangers (79-57) – It’s hard to separate this year’s team from the teams that coughed up the World Series two years ago and then surrendered the AL West title to Oakland last year, but this seems to be a different group. They’ve played better post-All Star break, and they’ve actually outpitched both of the teams above them. The star power isn’t necessarily there anymore, but the chances of a postseason run have to be considered legitimate.
Oakland Athletics (78-58) – It’s back to a one-game separation between the A’s and Rangers thanks to Oakland’s domination of Detroit and Tampa this past week (6-1). It’s a pretty impressive statement made by a team with a pretty weak closing schedule, so it would appear that yet again the small-market, low-payroll A’s will be playing postseason baseball.
Tampa Bay Rays (75-60) – Joe Maddon’s group has been in tight races before, coming from behind to catch Boston in 2011. This time, though, they’re now the hunted, sitting in the second Wild Card spot with a small but manageable lead – 3.5 games over Baltimore, 4 games over the Yankees. Getting swept in Oakland certainly wasn’t a great omen, though, if that’s ultimately where the one-game Wild Card playoff game would be held.
Baltimore Orioles (72-63) – Avoiding a sweep at Yankee Stadium was big for the O’s, who still stay in third place in the AL East. The schedule isn’t favorable (4 vs. Yankees, 6 vs. Red Sox, 4 vs. Rays, 3 vs. Indians) so it’s a tough road to haul, but if they do get it, they’ll certainly have earned it – likely on the backs of one of the most underrated offenses I’ve ever seen.
New York Yankees (72-64) – It’s been an all-around bad year by Yankees standards, from the injuries to most of the infield to the underperformance from ace C.C. Sabathia to the entire A-Rod fiasco, and yet here sits New York, just 4 games out of a playoff berth. The schedule is actually somewhat favorable – they get 4 with the O’s, 3 with the Rays, and still have a series with the White Sox, Giants, Blue Jays, and Astros to help make up ground. It’s still probably a long shot, but don’t count this team out just yet.
Cleveland Indians (72-64) – With the exact same record, you may be wondering why the Indians have less of a chance to make the playoffs, but it’s all about opportunity. The Yankees have 3 games against the Rays, whereas the Indians have zero, and right now the slimmest of margins will make all of the difference. Cleveland’s chances at the AL Central are almost nil, and the lack of chances to gain ground head-to-head in the Wild Card may be that difference.
Kansas City Royals (70-66) – See below for a more detailed breakdown of the Royals, but it’s just one year away for this group. They have to at least be given an outside chance with a record 4 games over .500 and just 5.5 games behind the Rays, but it’s likely just too many teams to jump in too short a time for this group to make the playoffs this year.
Los Angeles Dodgers (81-55) – The Dodgers have all but locked up the NL West, sitting 11.5 games ahead of Arizona after this past weekend. At this point, the better question is whether they’ll be able to catch the Braves for the best record in the National League. If they do, I think they easily become the favorites to win the pennant, but if they’re the 2-seed it’s a good 50/50 split with Atlanta.
St. Louis Cardinals (79-57) – No one should be discounting this group as potential World Series winners. They have quality at just about every position, as well as plenty of experience still left on the roster from the 2011 championship team. There isn’t a more seasoned NL team on this list – and that’s why, if I had to pick today, I still think this is the pennant winner.
Pittsburgh Pirates (79-57) – The losing season streak of 20 years is all but assured of ending, and will probably happen sometime this week. This weekend will be the final meeting between the Pirates and Cardinals, and with such a huge emphasis on winning the division, it will be incumbent upon the Pirates to keep the momentum they earned taking two of three from St. Louis this weekend. Either way, there will be a playoff game for Pittsburgh this season.
Cincinnati Reds (76-61) – ESPN places the playoff chances at just under 92%, but that gives way too much credit to the two teams below them. Arizona and Washington just aren’t very good baseball teams compared to the Reds, even those Cincinnati hasn’t necessarily played the best baseball recently. It would take an ’07 Mets or ’11 Red Sox type of collapse for this team not to reach the playoffs – but they are a notch below the other four teams.
Arizona Diamondbacks (69-66) – I only give this group a small chance simply because they get a lot of games down the stretch against a weak NL West, while the Reds and Pirates will play each other six times over the final two weeks. Still, the chances are slim that this group can catch whichever of the three NL Central teams finishes behind the other two.
Washington Nationals (68-67) – And talk about slim. Last year’s best team in the entire NL has been flirting with the .500 mark all season long, thanks to a lot of sub-par years from players like Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and Adam LaRoche. It’s been an overall disappointing season for the Nats – one that won’t be ending with participation in any sort of playoff game.
Playoff “Dead” List
Three series to watch this week…
Three series to watch this weekend…
If the playoffs started today…
*The Cardinals would host the Pirates in a one-game playoff to determine the NL Central champion. The loser would host the Reds in the one-game Wild Card playoff game.
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