Who is going to make the playoffs from the American League?

Posted: 09/07/2013 by levcohen in Uncategorized

As I’ve said before, the NL playoff participants are just about decided. In fact, going into today’s games, the Reds, at 99%, had the worst chance to make the playoffs of the five almost certain playoff teams. The next best chance to make the playoffs? .1%. So, on September 7th, the NL playoff participants, if not the seeding, is decided. Thankfully, the AL is a different story. Two teams, the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, have pretty much clinched the playoffs. The Red Sox lead their division by seven and a half games (a cautionary tale: on this day in 2011, the Red Sox led the wild card race by seven games. We all know how that turned out), while the Tigers are up by six and a half in the Central. That leaves three spots, and there are seven teams with a realistic chance at playing meaningful games in the last week of September. Let’s take a look at each team’s current standing and outline why each has a shot at making it.

Oakland Athletics: 81-60 (up .5 games in the AL West, 5 games in Wild Card):
The Athletics are in a great spot right now, and should feel confident about their chances to repeat as AL West champions. They are heating up at the right time, and have a much easier schedule than their main competition, Texas. Oakland has just three games left against teams with a winning record, although those three games are in Texas. Their remaining schedule is against teams who win, on average, 45% of their games, as they have seven games against Minnesota, six against the Angels, two against Houston, and three against Seattle, all poor teams, to go along with the three in Texas. I find it hard to believe that they will miss out on the playoffs, but they could be looking at a wild card spot.

Coolstandings playoff odds: 96.9%. Division odds: 60%

Texas Rangers: 80-60 (.5 games out in the AL West, up 4.5 games in Wild Card):
The Rangers haven’t been as hot as the A’s, and have a tougher schedule to close out the season, although 13 out of their 22 remaining games are at home. They are a very talented team, and should have no problem holding their lead in the wild card, but can they win the division? They have to be able to capitalize on their home games (they are a relatively average 39-29 at home, versus an above average 41-31 on the road).

Coolstandings playoff odds: 91.9%. Division odds: 40%

So I think the A’s and Rangers will both make it, one with the luxury of avoiding the wild card game. That leaves just one wild card spot, for which the current leader is the Rays…

Tampa Bay Rays: (77-63, 7.5 games out in the AL East, up 1.5 games in Wild Card):
On August 24th, the Rays and Red Sox were tied for the AL East lead. Since then, the teams have gone in opposite directions. Tampa is 3-10 since tying up the division, and have now fallen well behind in the divisional race. Their focus should now be on holding on to their shrinking-by-the-day wild card lead. And their remaining schedule won’t do them any favors. As well as playing every team in their tough division, the Rays also will have a grueling four game set with the Rangers, who will definitely still have something to play for. The Rays are in a tailspin, and their playoff hopes will go down the drains if they don’t turn it around soon.

Coolstandings playoff odds: 49.3%

Baltimore Orioles: (76-65, 1.5 games out in Wild Card):
This weekend, the Orioles have a four game series against the last place White Sox, and they have capitalized, winning the first three games of the series. After this, though, the rest of their schedule is in the division, including a brutal 10 game road trip in Toronto, Boston, and Tampa. They need to go 6-4 in that stretch to have a chance.

Coolstandings playoff odds: 21.5%

Cleveland Indians: (75-65, 2 games out in Wild Card):
Let me just preface this by saying that I think the Indians will end up being the second WC in the AL. I think this because of their extraordinarily easy remaining schedule. The average win % of the Orioles and Rays remaining opponents are both over 51%. The Indians’ opponents winning %? Well under .500, at .436. That’s a humungous advantage. The Indians were able to go 3-3 against the Tigers and Orioles in their last tough stretch in the season. Now they play the Mets, Royals, White Sox, Royals again, Astros, White Sox again, and Twins to end the season. And they only have to make up two games. So while the AL East teams beat up each other, the Indians should creep up the standings.

Coolstandings playoff odds: 28%

Other contenders:
Yankees (8%)
Royals (4%)

I actually think the Yankees have a better than 8% chance of getting into the playoffs because they should have three easy wins to end the season against the Astros. They also have three games at home against San Francisco, so they should be able to go at least 5-1 against those teams. Then if they go 7-7 against the rest of their schedule, they will end at 87-75. The Rays are projected to end at 89 wins, but it’s plausible that they fall short and the Yankees sneak past them.

The Royals have a tough schedule, and I don’t think they will come back..

So my picks to come out of the AL:
East: Red Sox
Central: Tigers
West: Athletics
WC: Rangers
WC: Indians

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