One of the things I do each season — mostly here in the Official Power Rankings — is track what possible playoff races might go down to the wire. There are reasons for this.
First of all, several close races going down to the wire is good for my job. Let’s face it, if everything is wrapped up with two weeks to play, that makes for a pretty boring stretch. Secondly, my first year with CBS was 2011, when we saw the final day madness that saw both the Rays and Cardinals complete epic comebacks to leave the Red Sox and Braves, respectively, out in the cold. Maybe those still ring fresh in my mind when I think ahead to the regular season ending.
Mostly, though, I think it’s just because I’m still such a die-hard baseball fan after all these years. I’m still a little kid at heart and just want to see some final-day drama like we got in 2011. We’ve all done it, right? Looking ahead and thinking, what if …
What if there are six teams within one game of a wild-card spot heading into the last Sunday of the season? What if there’s a three-way tie atop a division heading into the final day — and two of them play each other? How awesome would that be?
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves — and, yes, the three-team NL wild card battle royal looks great — but the American League is really shaping up for us here. We seem headed for chaos.
The Rangers and Indians are almost certainly in, but past that, we’re looking at four teams with a shot at the AL East (the Yankees are in fourth and are just four games back) and the three that don’t win it are in the mix with four other teams for two wild-card spots.
The teams all seem to go hot and cold intermittently as well. Remember when the Royals couldn’t lose? They’re stumbling now. How about when the Astros had won 13 of 17 heading into last week’s rankings? That’s fallen by the wayside. The Mariners were left for dead, but have now won seven straight. The Yankees sold at the trade deadline and started their rebuild, but now they still have a shot at the AL East. The Tigers were hot and had an easy schedule, but have lost three of their last four against losing teams.
We could go on and on. It’s been fun and it’s headed (hopefully!) toward insane.
Right now, the Royals and Astros seem too far back, given the number of teams in front of them — but that was said about the Mariners before their current winning streak. Anything seems possible with this group.
You know that saying, “this is a playoff atmosphere!” Yeah, we’re bound to hear that a lot in the upcoming 19 days, because I just counted and there are 37 head-to-head games remaining between teams from the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees, Tigers, Royals, Mariners, Astros group.
To borrow a phrase from an outstanding roller coaster (c’mon Midwest people, you know it):
KEEP ARMS DOWN
AND HOLD ON
Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, allow me to remind you that if we disagree about something, one of us is either stupid or biased — maybe both. It’s probably not me, either.
|Kyle Hendricks’ lead in ERA right now is 2.03 to 2.43. A Cubs pitcher hasn’t led the league in ERA since 1938, when Bill Lee did it at 2.66.||—||92-52|
|Elvis Andrus’ contract is going to look like an albatross, I think, for quite a while at eight years and $118 million through 2022. He is, however, having his best career offensive season at .293/.352/.416 with 22 steals.||—||87-59|
|A bit after the All-Star break, we discussed how many more home games than road games the Red Sox had played. From July 28-Sept. 11, 31 of their 43 games came on the road to even things out. In those 34 road games? The Red Sox went 18-16 while making a 2 1/2 game deficit into a two-game lead. That might not sound that too big a deal, but that’s a hellacious stretch of road games that could’ve broken a team.||3||81-63|
|On one hand, the Indians haven’t had a good Danny Salazar for months. On the other hand, they were at their best when he was at his best (June). With no chance of that coming back, the deep postseason run is far less likely.||1||83-61|
|I really did think Stephen Strasburg was headed to another Tommy John surgery when I saw his reaction to the on-mound injury. It’s good that this isn’t happening, but I have zero confidence in a healthy return in 2016. Without that, it’s tough to see a World Series run.||1||86-59|
|Here’s your biggest threat to the Cubs in the NL. That is, of course, assuming Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill avoid recurring injuries. And that’s no sure bet.||1||81-63|
|The O’s have a shot at the all-time MLB home run record. They also currently sit with the third-fewest stolen bases ever in a season. Remarkable split.||1||79-65|
|The Jays entered the month in good shape. They are now 3-8 in September.||1||79-65|
|Mets in April: 15-7. Mets May 1-Aug. 19: 45-55 Mets since then: 17-6 Never underestimate the potential to bounce back during the MLB marathon.||2||77-68|
|The seven-game winning streak through Saturday was their longest of the season.||3||77-67|
|It’s kind of amazing how much the Mariners have teased their fans all season. They get hot, then cold, then very hot, then fall apart. Last week I noted that they had lost 11 of their last 14. Since then: 7-0.||5||77-68|
|The Astros are 3-15 against the Rangers this year. No wonder the fan base was so angry about the move to the AL.||3||75-70|
|The only teams with a worse home record than the Cardinals (33-40) are the Phillies, A’s, Twins, Diamondbacks and Braves. It’s awfully tough to make the playoffs that way, but the Cardinals still might do so.||1||76-68|
|After dropping four of six, they needed a breather. Enter the Twins! Oh wait, they lost to the Twins 8-1 on Tuesday …||4||77-67|
|OK, Giants, it’s time. It’s the proverbial “put up or shut up” moment of the season starting Thursday. They host a four-game series against the Cardinals before visiting the Dodgers for three.||—||77-67|
|Joakim Soria has allowed runs in four of his last seven outings and two of those were multiple runs. In that span, he’s 0-3 with three blown saves while his ERA is up to 4.19. He inherited one runner in that span and allowed it to score as well.||2||74-70|
|Only Hall of Famer Ed Walsh has more 200-strikeout seasons in a White Sox uniform than Chris Sale. Sale is only 27.||3||70-74|
|The Marlins rank second in batting average in the NL, but 12th in runs. How is that possible? Well, they don’t walk (14th in NL) and don’t hit for much power (12th in NL in slugging, 14th in home runs). This is what I mean when I say hollow batting average. Just hitting a bunch of singles doesn’t produce runs on a regular basis.||—||72-73|
|That’s now losses in 12 of their last 15 as we can effectively forget about this team for the rest of the season.||2||70-73|
|This is one of the more intriguing teams for me heading into the offseason. I’ll elaborate later when I’m not limited to a blurb, but there are actually many reasons to be optimistic for 2017, assuming the front office as aggressive enough to attack holes this offseason.||1||69-76|
|We don’t need hindsight. The Billy Butler signing at the time was one of the more head-scratching in recent memory. And it’s been every bit the disaster it could have been. The A’s will now be paying him eight figures to not play for them next season.||3||62-82|
|Believe it or not, the franchise record in losses is 95 (many teams have had 100-loss seasons). That means absent a major losing streak, they should avoid that record for futility. At a current pace of 71-91, they are on pace for their worst season since 1999, though.||1||63-81|
|Many of their other young pitchers haven’t (yet?) come around, but the Reds have something in Anthony DeSclafani.||3||62-82|
|Take a look at the lineups they are running out there and realize they have a winning record (against some quality competition, too) in September and you have to tip your cap to manager Craig Counsell. They have a good one here.||2||64-81|
|Through June 15, which is past the “it’s still early” threshold, the Rays were 31-32 and didn’t look too bad. They were actually ahead of the Yankees and 3 1/2 games back of the second wild card. Since then they are 30-51, good for the worst record in baseball.||2||61-83|
|There’s some good personnel here. Not enough, but some. The offseason needs to be a time when ownership cleans house and starts making smarter hires.||1||60-84|
|Wil Myers has 24 home runs and 25 steals. Yes, I realize the 25-25 club isn’t really a thing, but there’s only been one Padres player ever to get to 25 HR/25 SB. Can you name him? Give it a real shot and don’t cheat. I’ll reveal in the No. 30 comment.||2||61-84|
|A preseason top-10 prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford had a rough season in Triple-A. He’s also only 21 and only got 87 games of experience there. It’s not like the Phillies were built to win the division next year anyway. Don’t give up on this guy, Phillies fans.||—||64-81|
|Can you give someone down-ballot (like 10th) MVP consideration on a team this bad? Because Freddie Freeman is having arguably his best offensive season while playing clubhouse leader at age 26 and he hasn’t missed a single game all season. I’m not even talking “was out of the lineup and pinch hit.” He’s started 143 of 143 games.||2||56-89|
|The last time the Twins had the first overall pick, it turned out just fine (Joe Mauer). They appear to be headed that way again. Oh, and don’t be the person who acts like Mauer didn’t turn out more than fine. MVP, six-time All-Star, was one of top players on three playoff teams is a resume anyone would take in a heartbeat at No. 1. (The Padres trivia question answer is Reggie Sanders with 26 HR, 36 SB in 1999)||—||54-91|
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / MLB Power Rankings: AL playoff race cruises toward insanity in final weeks