The American League playoff race is far from over, despite the dominating leads that the Yankees and Royals have in their divisions (the Astros are up three games over the Angels), as the race for the second Wildcard spot is heating up.
Currently, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a two game lead on the first wildcard spot (and home-field advantage for the one game playoff) with three teams tied for the second spot. Then there are four teams within five games of the final playoff spot, and another four that are within ten games; including the Seattle Mariners (nine games under .500) and the Oakland Athletics (13 games under .500) are still within 10 games of the final spot, despite selling at the deadline.
So which of the four teams chasing the wildcard, and the four teams currently in the wildcard, which two teams are more likely to play in the Wildcard Round? Let’s take a look.
8) Chicago White Sox,
The biggest reason the White Sox have almost no chance of making it into the Wildcard game is the fact their massive run differential of -63. Chicago’s pitching staff has given up 4.33 runs per game; while their offense has only mustered to score a pitiful 3.72 per game. As a result, it’s going to be nearly impossible for Chicago to string together enough wins to make up the gap between it and the three teams tied for the second wildcard spot.
7) Texas Rangers
Texas’ pitching staff has posted a horrendous ERA of 4.57 with an equally horrifying FIP of 4.26 in a very small home ball park. When you combined their awful pitching with their mediocre defense (ranked 15th best/worst by Fangraphs), it’s really hard to picture the rangers making the necessary push to get into the playoffs…despite their acquisition of Cole Hamels at the deadline.
6) Detroit Tigers
Despite trading away David Price, Joakim Soria, and Yoenis Cespedes, the Tigers are still in the thick of the Wildcard race — even though, they’re three games under .500. Those three players brought back a nice little prospect haul for Detroit that will help the Tigers rebuild and reload for the 2017 season and beyond…while sacrificing 2015 and ’16. Baseball fans shouldn’t expect Detroit to put it together and go on a run to make the postseason.
5) Tampa Bay Rays
While the Rays remained quiet at the deadline, they’re still in the thick of the playoff race. Tampa has a run differential of -17, and has a winning road record…all of these things bode well for a late push for the playoffs. Unfortunately, their losing home record and inconsistent offense don’t. While it’s unlikely the Rays nab the last playoff spot, it also wouldn’t be that surprising if they strung together a few wins and surprised everyone by playing in the one-game playoff.
4) Baltimore Orioles
Despite losing slugger Nelson Cruz in free-agency, the Orioles offense has been surprisingly effective throughout the 2015 season. Baltimore is hitting .255/.209/.422 through 95 games while the offense has been worth 14.4 wins. The offense has helped overcome some of their pitching staff’s inconsistencies that would normally cripple a team’s playoff hopes this late in the season. That being said, their pitching staff is the Orioles biggest weakness, which limits the likely hood Baltimore will snag the last Wildcard spot.
Of all of the eight team’s on this list, the Orioles have the best chance of making a run through the playoffs to reach the World Series — their defense is ranked as the third best in the league by Fangraphs.
3) Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins have a talented core of young players that are in the middle of the playoff race for the first time in their young careers, and that’s what’s concerning about them. Minnesota blew a chance to build a lead over the pack with a four-game series against the woeful Seattle Mariners (at home), and all they managed was a split; as a result, they staid in the crowd and are need to string together a couple of winning streaks to guarantee themselves a playoff game.
2) Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto’s weakest offensive, and fielding, position was shortstop before the trade deadline, so the front office traded for Troy Tulowitziki. The Blue Jays also had a pitching staff that struggled to string together consistent starts at the end of the rotation, so they went and acquired David Price from Detroit; which pushed the four remaining starters back a slot in the rotation.
Both Price and Tulowitziki have been absolutely dominant during their brief stint in Toronto and it should make the Blue Jays serious contenders for the first Wildcard berth and the AL East crown.
1) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels fixed their third base situation by acquiring Conor Gillaspie from Chicago — Gillaspie will be a stopgap until David Freese returns from the DL — added outfielder David Murphy and David DeJesus to increase their rosters corner outfield depth. As a result the Angels are (almost) a mortal lock for one of the two Wildcard berths, and a one-game playoff that kicks off the MLB playoffs in October. That being said, these moves were about chasing the AL West leading Houston Astros instead of increasing their lead over the rest of the Wildcard field.