The Major League Baseball playoffs will start on October 4th. While looking ahead and trying to sort things out, things are not that complicated when it comes to National League projections. However, over in the American League playoff seeds are certainly still up for grabs.
Starting with the fairly simple NL, the following three teams have each clinched their divisions:
Chicago Cubs – Central
Washington Senators – East
Los Angeles Dodgers – West
The Cubs have also clinched the No. 1 seed in the National League, meaning that they will host any series they play in before the World Series. Washington and Los Angeles, who are the 2nd and 3rd seeds at the moment, are certain to play each other in a divisional series. But one thing that remains to be decided is who will have the home-field advantage in that series. From that point of view, Washington enters the final week of the season with the edge, playing .587 baseball to Los Angeles’ .577.
When it comes to the Wild-Card race, five teams remain in the picture mathematically. However, both Pittsburgh and Miami, teams with sub-.500 records entering Monday, are on the edge of elimination. The New York Mets sit as the Wild Card leader while the San Francisco Giants sit second, just one game back of New York. Meanwhile St. Louis sit a half-game back of the Giants.
If you were to project the Wild Card using post-All Star game winning percentages, then it would give you the Mets and the Cards playing in the one-game playoff. The Giants are actually the worst team in the NL since the All-Star break, and they are only in the post-season picture now based on their start to the season.
With the assumption that San Fran will miss the post-season, here’s a probable projection for the NL playoffs.
One-game playoff: St. Louis Cardinals @ New York Mets
ALDS: Winner of one-game playoff @ Chicago Cubs
ALDS: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Washington Nationals (based on current winning percentages)
Basically, the big takeaways from the NL picture heading into the final week is that Chicago can set up their rotation for the playoffs and rest regular hitters. LA and Washington can sort of do that, however, there is a nagging concern that can’t be overlooked. What if home-field advantage in the ALDS makes a difference in how the series eventually goes? You have to think that the Dodgers and Nationals will be playing to win this week despite clinching their divisions already.
In the American League, as stated, things are much more complicated. However, the divisions are already clinched:
Texas Rangers – West
Cleveland Indians – Central
Boston Red Sox – East
Hardly anything separates these three teams in terms of wins entering Monday. Boston and Texas are both .590 while Cleveland is .588. Importantly, the first tiebreaker used when division leaders are tied going into the post-season is head-to-heads.
In the Wild Card picture, Toronto feels half-safe with a 1.5-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles. Other teams not eliminated from contention are the Detroit Tigers (-1.5), the Seattle Mariners (-2.5), the Houston Astros (-3.0), the New York Yankees (-5.5), and the Kansas City Royals (-6.0). New York and Kansas City basically need every possible result to go in their favor now if they are to make the one-game playoff. They aren’t mathematically eliminated, however, they are in the less-than-one-percent-chance category.
Houston and Seattle play a key series starting on Monday. Whoever does better in the three-game series might have a chance to get into the playoff picture, while whoever loses at least two games will surely be eliminated.
Detroit will play Cleveland in a three-game series as the divisional rivals each jockey for position. Detroit will host the four-game series, and they are 43-34 at home on the year.
Chasing a Wild-Card spot, the Tigers won’t be in a terrible position if they can beat Cleveland in 3 of 4. The Orioles and Jays are slated for a set, meaning that one of them has to lose at least a couple games. That’s a good situation for Detroit to gain ground on the teams above them. However, they need to win against a quality team.
The big takeaway from the AL is nothing is set yet in terms of who will play who or who will be what seed. However, it could look like this:
One-game playoff: Detroit Tigers @ Toronto Blue Jays
ALDS: Winner of one-game playoff @ Texas Rangers
ALDS: Cleveland Indians @ Boston Red Sox
October 2nd marks the end of the regular season with playoffs to start two days later.