We’ve reached the middle of September, and that means the race for those 10 playoff berths is at a critical stage. So with the 2016 regular season winding its way toward the end, let’s see where our postseason aspirants stand at the moment.
First, let’s lay out, in please internet table format, each contender’s current record (as of Thursday morning), division/wild-card status, playoff percentage (i.e, their chances of making the postseason by any means) according to SportsLine, and finally their remaining strength of schedule (as expressed by the average winning percentage of their remaining opponents) and home/road games left.
First up, the American League …
|Team||Record||Playoff position||Playoff percentage||Remaining SOS, home/away games left|
|87-60||First place in AL West by 8.5 games||100%||.434, 12 H/3 A|
|84-61||First place in Al Central by 6.0 games||99.5%||.514, 9 H/8 A|
|81-64||First place in AL East by 1.0 game||89%||.521, 7 H/10 A|
|80-65||In top wild card position by 1.0 game||79.6%||.493, 11 H/6 A|
|79-66||In second wild card position by 1.0 game||61.3%||.517, 7 H/10 A|
|78-67||Trails second wild card by 1.0 game||33%||.483, 8 H/9 A|
|78-68||Trails second wild card by 1.5 games||13.1%||.476, 10 H/6 A|
|77-68||Trails second wild card by 2.0 games||13.2%||.531, 6 H/11 A|
|76-70||Trails second wild card by 3.5 games||10.3%||.472, 7 H/9 A|
|74-71||Trails second wild card by 5.0 games||0.4%||.503, 11 H/6 A|
And now a few observations on what we see above …
- The Rangers were already mortal locks in the AL West, but, man, take a gander at that remaining schedule. Framed another way, the toughest teams left on their docket may be … the Angels? Texas needs to go 13-2 to the rest of the way to get to 100 wins for the first time franchise history. That’s almost certainly not going to happen, especially once they start resting core players in advance of the playoffs. However, that remaining schedule makes such a finish at least conceivable.
- There are two sides to that tough road ahead for the Yankees. On the one hand, it’s the toughest remaining schedule of any AL contender. On the other hand, they get direct, head-to-head shots at the Red Sox (seven times), Blue Jays (four times), and Orioles (three times). Take care of business, and the Yankees will be in a good spot.
- Speaking of schedules, consider the Tigers and Mariners to get a bit of an edge on that front relative to their fellow wild-card contenders. Having 10 home games left could be big for Seattle.
- No, SportsLine does not like the Royals’ chances. Being 5.0 games out of playoff position sounds doable at first blush, but it’s also about the fact that KC is sixth in line for that second AL wild-card berth. Those are long odds listed above, but they sound about right.
- As you can glean from the odds above, SportsLine right now expects the AL East to produce three playoff teams.
- The Rangers are the closest to clinching a division title in the AL, as they’ll enter play on Thursday with a magic number of eight.
- Elsewhere, the Rays, Angels, and Athletics could be eliminated from playoff contention Thursday night. The Twins are already out.
And now for the National League …
Now for some key takeaways …
- The Cubs’ magic number in the NL Central is one, which means they clinch the flag with their next win or the Cardinals’ next loss. They also hold a hefty 6.5-game lead over the Nationals for top seed in the NL. The Cubs can also play sub-.500 ball the rest of the way and still notch their first 100-win season since 1935.
- Speaking of the Nats, they’ve got a magic number of seven in the NL East.
- The Mets obviously have a huge edge in the wild-card race when it comes to schedule. Specifically, their final 16 games come against the Twins, Braves, Phillies, and Marlins. In part, that’s why SportsLine gives them the highest playoff percentage of any wild-card hopeful.
- The Cardinals and Giants on Thursday begin a four-game set in San Francisco that will be hugely determinative when it comes to that NL wild-card race.
- In the NL West, the Dodgers are five games clear of the Giants. However, the Giants get six more head-t0-head cracks at the Dodgers, so it’s far from settled.
- As for the non-contenders, the Diamondbacks and Padres could be eliminated from playoff contention as soon as Friday. The Braves are already out.
So where does all this leave us? If the regular season ended today, here’s what the playoff bracket would look like …
Consider all of this to be … developing. Very, very developing.
Source: CBS Sports / MLB Playoff Picture: Cubs’ magic number down to 1, Yankees face tough road