Handicapping Final Postseason Chances for Every MLB Contender

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2013

Handicapping Final Postseason Chances for Every MLB Contender

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    Only half of the MLB playoff field is filled entering the final week of the 2013 regular season, but the current standings and remaining matchups allow us to confidently set the odds for every contender.

    Bleacher Report's Postseason Race Tracker reveals that two division titles have yet to be decided and that no wild-card spots have been clinched.

    Although 15 teams across the majors have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason, that means another 15 squads continue to play inspired baseball.

    We approximated their chances of advancing into October based on who they'll face in the coming days, where they'll face opponents and how many wins they'll need. 


    *Stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Updated through games on Sept. 22.

Teams That Have Clinched a Playoff Berth

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    Atlanta Braves (92-63)

    For the first time since 2005, the Braves have secured an NL East title. They enter the regular season's final week with the best record in the National League.

    With seven remaining games—all at Turner Field—against the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta shouldn't have much trouble nailing down home-field advantage throughout the NLCS.


    Boston Red Sox (95-62)

    Boston can beat you in several different ways, excelling on the mound, at the plate, in the field and on the bases. Not surprisingly, baseball's most complete team owns its highest winning percentage.

    The AL East champs—now 20-7 in their past 27 games—hope to get speedster Jacoby Ellsbury back in the lineup on Wednesday, according to Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.


    Los Angeles Dodgers (90-66)

    L.A. has been taking it easy down the stretch after dominating during July and August.

    The Dodgers have an extraordinarily deep pitching staff, and they're hoping that a healthy Matt Kemp can serve as another productive bat. They were the first MLB team to pop the champagne after locking up the NL West title on Sept. 19.

    After resting on Monday, their final opponents will be the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies.


    Oakland Athletics (93-63)

    Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie are thriving in their first full major league seasons. Meanwhile, Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp have found their power strokes at an ideal time. The biggest challenge for manager Bob Melvin might be in deciding which of his many effective position players to squeeze onto the playoff roster.

    Unlike last summer, the A's obtained the 2013 AL West crown with a couple of series to spare.


    St. Louis Cardinals (91-65)

    The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates still have life in the NL Central race, but the Birds have clinched one of the Senior Circuit's five playoff berths. They own the NL's best run-differential, largely because of their ability to capitalize with runners in scoring position.

    However, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, St. Louis has concerns about both slugger Allen Craig and closer Edward Mujica.

Cincinnati Reds

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    2013 Record: 89-67

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 23-25 vs. New York Mets, Sept. 27-29 vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

    Playoff Odds: 99.9 percent

    Six straight losses would leave the Cincinnati Reds susceptible to being leapfrogged by the Washington Nationals. 

    They haven't fallen into that kind of slump at any point this summer, however, and there's nothing to suggest a letdown at Great American Ball Park.

    Cincinnati's superb starting rotation got a major boost with Johnny Cueto's return from the disabled list. He joins a stellar quartet of right-handers, each of whom has pitched at least 190 innings this year while earning quality starts in more than half of their outings.

    The powerful top half of the Reds lineup practically guarantees some run production every night, and John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Shin-Soo Choo's jammed thumb won't keep him sidelined any longer. Surely, Cincy can officially join the postseason field by capitalizing on matchups against New York's Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Detroit Tigers

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    2013 Record: 91-65

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 23-25 at Minnesota Twins, Sept. 27-29 at Miami Marlins

    Playoff Odds: 99.9 percent

    Entering the week with a 23-point edge over Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera has similar odds of seizing his third consecutive AL batting title.

    In the American League's only undecided division, the Detroit Tigers hold a five-game lead over the Cleveland Indians with six games left for each team.

    To put it another way, Prince Fielder and company can seal the AL Central by splitting their remaining series with two of the weakest opponents in the majors. Multiple losses for the Tribe would likewise do the trick.

    Even if the Tigers completely imploded and allowed their rivals to sneak past, they would still have a route into October. Another defeat for the reeling Texas Rangers would ensure that Detroit finishes with one of the AL's top five records.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    2013 Record: 89-67

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 23-25 at Chicago Cubs, Sept. 27-29 at Cincinnati Reds

    Playoff Odds: 99.8 percent

    Playing this entire week on the road makes it unlikely that the Pittsburgh Pirates will ascend to first place in the NL Central, but they're almost certainly going to participate in October baseball. Their requirements for a postseason berth are identical to those facing the Cincinnati Reds.

    The Cubs have a 13-27 record in their past 40 games and haven't completed a series sweep in those six weeks of action.

    Expect that trend to continue. Starting pitching matchups of Gerrit Cole vs. Chris Rusin and Francisco Liriano vs. Jake Arrieta both lean decidedly in Pittsburgh's favor.

Cleveland Indians

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    2013 Record: 86-70

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 24-26 vs. Chicago White Sox, Sept. 27-29 at Minnesota Twins

    Playoff Odds: 85 percent

    What the Cleveland Indians lack in All-Star-caliber players, they compensate for with their incredible depth. The lineup is loaded with quality offensive players, and the pitching staff has a ton of arms capable of generating swings-and-misses.

    It's likely that those strengths will be on full display during the AL Wild Card Game when you consider the cellar-dwellers in Cleveland's path.

    Not only have the White Sox and Twins struggled in 2013, but both continue to get trampled down the stretch. The losses have been piling up over the past 28 days for the two as they limp to the finish.

    Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will take the mound two more times for the Tribe, and he has quietly dominated the sport since the All-Star break (1.77 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.1 K/9 in 11 GS).

Tampa Bay Rays

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    2013 Record: 86-69

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 23 vs. Baltimore Orioles, Sept. 24-26 at New York Yankees, Sept. 27-29 at Toronto Blue Jays

    Playoff Odds: 80 percent

    It's been two weeks since the Tampa Bay Rays last had a day off, and they won't get another one until the regular season ends. That scheduling—not to mention several recent extra-inning games—could affect them during upcoming divisional matchups.

    With that said, a two-game advantage over the Texas Rangers gives them some margin for error.

    Tampa Bay shouldn't have much trouble with the Yankees and Blue Jays anyway. The former is extremely inconsistent in all areas, particularly when it comes to starting pitching, while Toronto has lost many of its most talented players to season-ending injuries (e.g. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus).


Texas Rangers

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    2013 Record: 84-71

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 23-25 vs. Houston Astros, Sept. 26-29 vs. Los Angeles Angels

    Playoff Odds: 25 percent

    After excelling in the month of August, the Texas Rangers have been rapidly collapsing. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports appropriately gives them five toilets for flushing away their once-comfortable lead in the AL West.

    Being a single game back of the Cleveland Indians in the loss column means that a flawless week should result in a play-in game, if not an outright playoff berth.

    That's not a likely outcome, however. The Rangers have only swept two homestands in 2013, both of which were comprised of four games or fewer.

    Flipping around that table from the Indians slide, we notice that Los Angeles has actually been great in recent weeks. With Howie Kendrick healthy again and Josh Hamilton occasionally putting balls in play, LA is much more dangerous than its 76-79 record.

    On the bright side, Texas can get two more regular-season starts out of Yu Darvish on normal rest. Avoiding Halos ace Jered Weaver during that ultimate series is another fortuitous circumstance.

Kansas City Royals

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    2013 Record: 82-73

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 23-25 at Seattle Mariners, Sept. 26-29 at Chicago White Sox

    Playoff Odds: 7.5 percent

    Kansas City Royals fans won't admit it now, but this summer has already been a success.

    The Royals sold out the final regular-season home game, witnessed an excellent effort from rotation leader James Shields and walked off via a grand slam (courtesy of MLB.com) to clinch their first winning season of the past decade.

    Unfortunately, this is where KC's mid-August mediocrity of a 2-10 record from Aug. 13-24 really begins to sting. Letting those games get away has put the Royals in a dire situation.

    The Texas Rangers still lead them by two games despite stumbling during this past series at Kauffman Stadium, and as previously mentioned, they're looking up at both the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays.

    As a result, Kansas City cannot lose to Seattle or Chicago. That's easier said than done when all those contests take place away from home and the team doesn't get an off-day to recover from either long flight. Even going undefeated will be for naught unless one of the present AL wild-card leaders struggle.

New York Yankees

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    2013 Record: 82-74

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 24-26 vs. Tampa Bay Rays, Sept. 27-29 at Houston Astros

    Playoff Odds: 2.5 percent

    Monday figures to be as awkward as any off-day that the New York Yankees have endured in recent seasons.

    Two of the most successful pitchers in club history, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, both fared well against the San Francisco Giants, in seeking to add to their record total of win-save combinations. An enthusiastic crowd of 49,197 made the retiring legends feel appreciated throughout the afternoon.

    Alas, they didn't get the necessary support in a 2-1 loss, as the Yankees lineup went one for seven with runners in scoring position. The team has been limited to single-digit hits in 11 straight games.

    An upcoming series against the Rays presents the opportunity for New York to take a huge bite out of its deficit in the American League wild-card standings. Sweeping their division rivals would leave the Yankees either one or two games back of Tampa Bay, depending upon the outcome of Monday's game at Tropicana Field.

    However, that's only looking at the brightest corner of an otherwise disturbing picture.

    The Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers all begin this week with superior records to the Yankees, and they each get to feast on sub-.500 competition. It's also worth noting that with younger rosters than New York's, fatigue ought to be less of a hindrance.

Washington Nationals

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    2013 Record: 84-72

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 23-25 at St. Louis Cardinals, Sept. 27-29 at Arizona Diamondbacks

    Playoff Odds: 0.3 percent

    It's simply too little, too late for one of baseball's most talented team. Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman have finally come alive, as has the Washington Nationals bench, but where were they during the first three-quarters of the season?

    If the Nats win their final six contests while the Cincinnati Reds or Pittsburgh Pirates go winless, then miraculously, the darlings of the 2013 preseason can snag the second NL wild-card spot. The slightly more realistic objective is qualifying for a play-in game on Sept. 30 by gaining five games on one of those contenders.

    Let's take a closer look at just how improbable such a comeback would be.

    Washington will almost certainly need to complete this coming week undefeated despite visiting two teams with winning records. That means Washington's offense, which has been bullied by left-handed pitching all year, has to produce against Arizona's Patrick Corbin and Wade Miley. Moreover, the Nats must rely on ultra-inconsistent Dan Haren and inexperienced Tanner Roark to make half of their remaining starts.

    Of course, that's only half the equation. Recent history tells us that the Reds and Pirates are too evenly matched to sweep one another, but Washington is clinging to the fantasy that one of them comes up empty in its upcoming face-off and drops at least two of three in its previous series against a cupcake team.

    All of this could happen...and 70-year-old manager Davey Johnson could insert himself as a pinch-hitter before sailing off into retirement. Never give up!

Baltimore Orioles

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    2013 Record: 81-74

    Remaining Schedule: Sept. 23 at Tampa Bay Rays, Sept. 24-26 vs. Toronto Blue Jays, Sept. 27-29 vs. Boston Red Sox

    Playoff Odds: 0.1 percent

    This week could be played 1,000 different times, and perhaps one of those scenarios would lead to the Baltimore Orioles sneaking into the playoffs. We generously rounded up to arrive at 0.1 percent.

    Everything has to go right for them on the field, plus so many dominoes beyond their control must fall at certain angles.

    Facing the Red Sox is never a fun chore, especially when they might still be fighting to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

    The 2013 Orioles have been driven by their offense, so breakout stars Chris Davis and Manny Machado chose the worst possible time to plummet back to reality. Baltimore hasn't scored more than five runs in any of its past 19 games.

    If only it was as simple as winning out. On top of that, the O's will pray that the Houston Astros dominate the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers, and that the Cleveland Indians falter against their sub-.500 opponents.

    It's like trying to watch a full-length feature film with five percent battery left on your computer and no charger in sight. No, wait—seven games left on a 162-game schedule is actually closer to four-and-a-half percent.

    Nonetheless, their prospects of qualifying for October involvement seem very bleak.


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