Assessing All 30 MLB Teams' Postseason Chances After 1 Month of Baseball

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2014

Assessing All 30 MLB Teams' Postseason Chances After 1 Month of Baseball

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    Ross D. Franklin

    With the first month of the 2014 MLB season nearly in the books, we have a decent sample size from which to evaluate the MLB landscape going forward.

    Now, an awful lot can happen between the beginning of May and the end of the season; there is no denying that. In fact, last season was the perfect example of that.

    Had the season ended on April 30 last year, the New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers would have all found themselves in the playoffs.

    That being said, what follows is my attempt to peg each team's chances of making the postseason after one month of play. Here are a few guidelines/notes before we begin:

    • The total percentage for each league will add up to 500 percent, since there are five playoff spots up for grabs in each league.
    • With so much baseball left to be played, I'm not willing to give anyone a zero percent chance of making it, and I'm also not willing to go any higher than a 75 percent chance of making it. There is simply too much that can happen over the next five months for me to go any higher than that.
    • Early-season performance certainly played a role, but this is still largely based on preseason expectationsand rightfully so given the fact that we are well under 20 percent of the way through the season.

    So with that, here is my take on all 30 MLB teams' playoff chances after roughly one month of the 2014 season.

Less Than a 30% Chance, American League

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    Gail Burton

    Baltimore Orioles: 29 percent

    The Orioles again have a potent offense and should get a boost once Manny Machado returns to the field, but the starting pitching is still just not where it needs to be. The Ubaldo Jimenez signing has been a flop to this point, and it's going to be hard for them to make the playoffs without another front-line starter to complement Chris Tillman. The X-factors here are Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, as they still have the upside to make a serious impact in the second half.

    Cleveland Indians: 25 percent

    The surprise postseason team of 2013, the Indians have their work cut out for them if they hope to return to the playoffs this year. Their starting pitching has been a letdown, and their offense has not been good enough to pick up the slack. If Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber can get on track, and if Trevor Bauer can make an impact, they might have a chancebut that's a major "if" at this point.

    Toronto Blue Jays: 25 percent

    After a terribly disappointing 2013 season, the Blue Jays have gotten off to a better start this season, but there is still a question of whether or not they can legitimately contend with the pitching staff they have. The offense has the potential to be very good, but the rotation has struggled to find consistency behind Mark Buehrle. Until they prove they can get quality starts on a consistent basis, it's hard to call them contenders.

    Chicago White Sox: 5 percent

    The team's offense has been a huge surprise so far this season, as the White Sox are currently the highest-scoring team in the American League. However, their rotation is a question mark behind the lefty trio of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks, and their bullpen is a mess. Some time soon, their offense is going to come back to earth, at least somewhat, and they don't have the pitching to make up the difference.

    Minnesota Twins: 5 percent

    Like the White Sox, the Twins offense has been a pleasant surprise here in the early going, with the unheralded Chris Colabello leading the way. However, their starting rotation is still a train wreck, and a year after posting an MLB-worst 5.26 ERA, the additions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes have made little difference. They just don't have the arms to hope for anything better than a fourth-place finish in the AL Central.

    Seattle Mariners: 5 percent

    An offseason spending spree that saw them add Corey Hart, Logan Morrison and superstar Robinson Cano to their lineup has done little to improve the Mariners' offensive firepower so far this season. The pitching has been solid and should only get better once Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker get healthy, but this team still looks to be several notches below the trio of contenders in the AL West.

    Houston Astros: 1 percent

    The Astros added some solid veteran pieces in the offseason, bringing in center fielder Dexter Fowler, right-hander Scott Feldman and a trio of veteran relievers. The future remains bright in Houston, but the present is still a work in progress, and avoiding another 100-loss season could be tough.

Less Than a 30% Chance, National League

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    Jack Dempsey

    Colorado Rockies: 14 percent

    New season, same old story for the Rockies. Their offense might be the best in the National League, led by superstars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and from solid top to bottom. However, their pitching staff is still not up to par, and it will likely hold them back from making a push for a postseason spot once again this year.

    New York Mets: 10 percent

    Even without Matt Harvey, the Mets were expected to have an above-average starting rotation entering the season, and they have been decent as a whole to this point. Their offense has been a different story, though, as they have been one of the worst hitting teams in baseball, with high-profile newcomer Curtis Granderson among the biggest culprits. Look out for this team next year, but they look to be playing for third place in the division this season.

    Philadelphia Phillies: 10 percent

    Veterans Chase Utley and Ryan Howard are both off to nice starts, and the starting rotation should get a boost with the return of Cole Hamels, but the Phillies are still on the outside looking in as far as contention goes. There are holes in the lineup, the back end of the rotation is far from stable, and the bullpen has been among the worst in all of baseball.

    Arizona Diamondbacks: 5 percent

    After a busy offseason that saw them acquire Mark Trumbo, Addison Reed and Bronson Arroyo, the Diamondbacks looked like they had a chance to at least contend for a wild-card spot in the National League. Instead, they have gotten off to a horrendous start, which has been due in large part to the worst starting rotation in baseball. Unless things turn around quickly, they could be battling just to avoid a last-place finish in the division.

    Miami Marlins: 5 percent

    This is undoubtedly a better Marlins team than the one that lost 100 games last year, as the team made a number of additions this offseason to what was the league's worst offense in an effort to better back a promising young rotation. A healthy Giancarlo Stanton is already off to a monster start this season, but the offense as a whole is still below average. And while the pitching is promising, it won't be enough to carry the team to the playoffs.

    San Diego Padres: 5 percent

    Heading into the season, the Padres looked like a potential dark-horse team after a 2013 season that saw them go 76-86 and show some flashes of taking the next step. While the rotation is significantly better than last year, fronted by a bona fide ace in Andrew Cashner, it's not good enough to carry an anemic offense.

    Chicago Cubs: 1 percent

    In Year 3 of the rebuilding process under Theo Epstein and Co., the Cubs future looks incredibly bright. But for the time being, they are still fielding a well below-average big league roster. The core trio of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija are all playing well right now, and Emilio Bonifacio has been a nice surprise. However, the outfield production is lacking, the bullpen is terrible once again, and Edwin Jackson is one of the most overpaid players in baseball.

Kansas City Royals

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    Pat Sullivan

    Playoff Chances: 30 percent

    Team Overview

    After posting their first winning record since 2003 last season, the Kansas City Royals are now looking to take the next step by reaching the playoffs for the first time since they won the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985.

    The additions of Omar Infante and Norichika Aoki initially looked to be significant upgrades for the offense, but the team has struggled to score runs in recent weeks. The talent is there offensively if the bats can get going, and the rotation outside of Bruce Chen is very good. However, the Royals have an uphill battle ahead of them in a deep American League.

Los Angeles Angels

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 30 percent

    Team Overview

    Losing a red-hot Josh Hamilton to a silly wrist injury certainly hurt, but with Mike Trout doing what he does and Albert Pujols finally starting to look like the superstar of old, the Los Angeles Angels offense has looked very good here in the early going.

    It's the pitching that has been the real difference, though, as their rotation ranks 12th in the MLB with a 3.56 ERA after finishing 22nd last year at 4.30. The additions of Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs to the back of the staff have shored up a major hole, and the team looks the best it has in years as a result.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 35 percent

    Team Overview

    On the strength of a dominant bullpen and a surprisingly effective starting rotation, the Pittsburgh Pirates were able to break a 20-year playoff drought last season. The bullpen has been very good once again this season, but the rotation has not been nearly as dominant as the team needs it to be, even with Edinson Volquez stepping up.

    Offensively they remain a below-average group, as Andrew McCutchen is the only regular hitting over .260 on the season, and their .230 team batting average is 26th in the MLB. McCutchen has shouldered the offensive load before, but someone needs to step up and help him if the Pirates are going to have a chance at returning to the playoffs.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 45 percent

    Team Overview

    Despite reaching the playoffs three times in the past four years, the Cincinnati Reds gave manager Dusty Baker the hook for his inability to get beyond the first round of the postseason. The roster is still an extremely talented one, but they could have trouble even reaching the postseason this year, let alone reaching the NLCS and beyond.

    Say all you want about his game-changing speed, but replacing Shin-Soo Choo with rookie Billy Hamilton atop the order has been a significant step backward for this team. The rotation is strong, but the bullpen has been shaky with Aroldis Chapman on the DL, and the lineup has some clear holes. They have the pieces to contend, but this team is certainly not without some areas that need to be addressed.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 45 percent

    Team Overview

    When the season first kicked off, I probably would have pegged the Milwaukee Brewers' playoff chances at around 20 percent. The starting pitching was deep and the lineup looked to be on track for some significant improvement, but they had their work cut out for them in their own division, let alone contending for a playoff spot.

    Now that we're roughly a month into the season, I'm confident in more than doubling those chances, as this team looks like a serious contender. If their rotation can avoid injury, they have a chance to be one of the better staffs in all of baseball from top to bottom. The bullpen is terrific, the offense has taken a huge step forward due to the return of Ryan Braun and a healthy Aramis Ramirez, and they have plenty of momentum heading into May.

San Francisco Giants

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    Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 45 percent

    Team Overview

    Looking to get back on track after a disappointing 2013 season that saw them battle just to avoid a last-place finish in the NL West, the San Francisco Giants are off to a solid start here in 2014. The offseason additions of Tim Hudson and Michael Morse have already payed huge dividends, and the offense as a whole looks to be significantly improved over last year's group.

    The back of the rotation is still a question, as you never know exactly what you're going to get out of Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong at this point. The bullpen remains one of the best in the business, though, and while they may not be able to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division title, they should be right in the thick of the NL wild-card hunt.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 45 percent

    Team Overview

    The Tampa Bay Rays were my pick to win the AL pennant heading into the season, and while it's still far too early for me to consider backing out on that prediction, they are not off to a promising start here in 2014.

    Losing Matt Moore for the season hurts a lot, and throwing an injury to Alex Cobb on top of that has exposed this team's relative lack of starting pitching depth compared to years past. A healthy Cobb and a few key bats like Wil Myers and David DeJesus snapping out of their early slumps could get things right back on track, but for now their chances get bumped down a bit.

Boston Red Sox

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    Darren McCollester/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 50 percent

    Team Overview

    There is no doubt that this is not the same Boston Red Sox team that pulled off an impressive worst-to-first turnaround to capture the World Series title last season. The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury in particular has stung, as the team's leadoff hitters are batting .183/.267/.269 on the season so far.

    Getting Shane Victorino back healthy and Dustin Pedroia on track after an early wrist injury will certainly help the offense, but it's fair to assume at this point that they won't repeat as the highest-scoring team in baseball. Throw in a rough start to the year for the rotationoutside of Jon Lester and Jake Peavyand 50 percent seems just about right at this point.

New York Yankees

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 50 percent

    Team Overview

    Say what you will about the health of the New York Yankees over the long term and their lack of depthand there are some legitimate arguments therebut this is a franchise that simply knows how to win games. They won 85 times with a significantly less talented overall roster last season, and there is no reason to think they can't win more games this time around.

    Masahiro Tanaka has lived up to the hype so far thanks to his devastating splitter, and the trio of Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann (despite his slow start) have more than offset the loss of Robinson Cano. They could deal with some rough patches here and there, but this team looks to have as good a chance as anyone to win the AL East at this point.

Oakland Athletics

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 60 percent

    Team Overview

    Coming off of back-to-back division titles and 90-plus win seasons, the Oakland Athletics are not going to take anyone by surprise this time around. They may lack star power, but that has not stopped them the past few seasons, and it is not a reason to underestimate them anymore.

    The starting rotation has done a phenomenal job of stepping up with Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin on the sidelines, and despite the early struggles of Jim Johnson, the bullpen looks stout once again. The offense may not look pretty on paper, but they are again one of the highest-scoring teams in the AL, as they know how to get the most out of their entire roster.

Washington Nationals

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    Alex Brandon

    Playoff Chances: 60 percent

    Team Overview

    The Washington Nationals have frequently been called the most overrated team in baseball, and there is no question the media is enamored with them, but understandably so. Once Doug Fister gets healthy, their rotation has a chance to be the best in all of baseball, and they currently have the third-highest scoring offense in the National League to back it.

    Health remains a question, as Bryce Harper is always one crash into the wall away from a DL stint, and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is currently on the shelf once again. However, they have avoided the slow start offensively that plagued them last year, and they seem poised to duke it out with the Atlanta Braves for NL East supremacy all season. Now, if only they could find a way to beat them head-to-head.

Texas Rangers

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Playoff Chances: 65 percent

    Team Overview

    Dealing with myriad injuries to both their lineup and starting rotation, the Texas Rangers still find themselves with the best record in the American League, fresh off a sweep of the division rival Oakland Athletics.

    Martin Perez has stepped up big alongside Yu Darvish at the top of the rotation, and unsung veterans like Kevin Kouzmanoff, who is playing for the injured Adrian Beltre, have made huge contributions. This is a team that looks to have its best baseball still ahead of it, and that is a scary proposition for the rest of the American League given how good they are currently playing.

Atlanta Braves

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    Frank Franklin II

    Playoff Chances: 70 percent

    Team Overview

    Count me among those who thought the Atlanta Braves were doomedor at the very least in for a rough first month of the seasonafter three-fifths of their projected starting rotation landed on the disabled list this spring. Instead, they enter play on Thursday with the best team ERA in baseball at 2.10, and it's their starters (1.50 ERA) that have led the way.

    Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd will both be healthy at some point, giving the team some enviable pitching depth, but it's hard to imagine them making any drastic changes to the staff at this point given how well they've thrown the ball. It looks like the offense will be "feast or famine" once again with so many streaky hitters outside of Freddie Freeman. But with the pitching they have, it's not a huge concern at this point.

Detroit Tigers

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    Carlos Osorio

    Playoff Chances: 75 percent

    Team Overview

    Prince Fielder and Doug Fister are gone, there is a glaring hole at shortstop, and all-world slugger Miguel Cabrera is off to a very slow start, yet the Detroit Tigers still look like one of the best teams in all of baseball and the clear front-runner in the AL Central once again.

    It's hard not to like the chances of a team that has a rotation fronted by Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, and that trio has been terrific once again this season. It's only a matter of time before Cabrera comes around, and with Ian Kinsler, Austin Jackson and Victor Martinez all off to solid starts, the offense looks strong once again, even without Fielder.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Ralph Freso

    Playoff Chances: 75 percent

    Team Overview

    Even with the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw on the sidelines, the Los Angeles Dodgers have still looked like the class of the NL West and one of the best all-around teams in all of baseball here in the early going.

    There is still plenty of room for improvement offensively, as guys like Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez are all off to relatively slow starts at the plate. On the pitching side of things, the top-four starters all have an ERA under 3.00, and once Kershaw returns to replace Paul Maholm, they may have the best staff in all of baseball. Throw in an improved bullpen for good measure, and it would take a major upset for this time not to make the postseason.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Frank Franklin II

    Playoff Chances: 75 percent

    Team Overview

    Their offense has been middle-of-the-road and there have been some hiccups in the bullpen, but the St. Louis Cardinals are still finding ways to win games. There is no team in baseball better set up for the long haul of a 162-game schedule, as they have terrific depth and should be able to deal with whatever the season throws at them.

    The duo of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha atop the mound is as good as any in the National League, the offense should improve significantly once Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta get things going, and the bullpen is loaded with talented young arms. They remain the favorites to win the NL Central, and they are the team to beat in the National League and my pick to win it all in 2014.