With a little over 8 weeks remaining in the 2012 season, exactly half of the teams in MLB are in serious playoff contention. Of those fifteen teams,ten will advance to the postseason and five will go home. This week we’ll examine those fifteen contending teams and make some predictions about who will be playing playoff baseball in October.
If The Playoffs Began Today
In the AL:
The Oakland A’s would host the Detroit Tigers in a one game playoff to determine who would face the Texas Rangers in the next round.
The New York Yankees would have home field advantage against the Chicago White Sox in the other series.
In the NL:
The Atlanta Braves would host the Pittsburgh Pirates in a one game playoff to determine would would face the Cincinnati Reds in the next round.
The Washington Nationals would have home field advantage against the San Francisco Giants in the other series.
The Yankees currently lead the AL East by 6 1/2 games over the Orioles and by 7 1/2 games over the Tampa Rays. The Red Sox and Blue Jays are quality clubs but simply don’t appear to have the makeup to get back in the playoff picture.
The Yankees have been dealt severe blows with injuries to Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, and Brett Gardner and are 11-11 since the All-Star break. Playing .500 baseball the rest of the way will not win the AL East for the Yankees, nor will it gather them a playoff spot. The Yankees begin a brutal seventeen game stretch this evening in Detroit that will probably go a long way towards deciding their playoff fate. Four games in Detroit are followed by 3 games in Toronto. Upon returning home the Yankees face the Rangers in a four game series that is followed by a 3 game series with the Red Sox and 3 games on the road with the White Sox. If the Yankees can post a winning record in this stretch they will be in a strong position to win the AL East.
The Orioles have been outscored by their opponents this season by 57 runs yet have managed to hang around in playoff contention due to their incredible record in both one-run and extra inning games. The Orioles are 21-6 in one-run games and 11-2 in extra inning games, both MLB bests. The Orioles have a more favorable home vs. road schedule remaining than both the Yankees and Rays do with 30 home games remaining vs. only 24 road games. It is time to accept the Orioles as a legitimate contender for not only a playoff slot but also to win the AL East. While the Yankees play seven difficult road games this week, the Orioles will play seven home games vs the Mariners(where they don’t have to face King Felix) and the Royals.
The Rays are eagerly anticipating the return of Evan Longoria to their lineup and that return may come as early as tomorrow night. The Rays have had a frustrating season up to this point but Longoria’s return should give a a big boost to the Rays struggling offense. Rookie pitcher Matt Moore is rounding into serious form after a slow start and David Price continues his impressive 2012 season. The Rays should be able to make yet another late season run this year.
Prediction: This division is likely to wind up very tight when it is all said and done. Despite a 6 1/2 game lead, the Yankees failure to take advantage of an easy schedule run after the All-Star break could really come back to haunt them. The AL East’s depth could make it difficult for a wildcard team to come out of the division. The Yankees still have 35 games left with AL East opponents, the Orioles have 31, and the Rays have 28. I expect this division to come to the final week and give the Yankees the slimmest of edges over the Rays, who get the last wildcard narrowly over the Orioles.
While the White Sox have managed to hang on to a slim lead in the Central so far, it really looks like it is just a matter of time until the Tigers put the division away. The additions of Infante and Sanchez from the Marlins have made the Tigers even more talented than they were already, which was plenty talented.
The Tigers have underachieved very badly so far in 2012, but at some point figure to go on a good run that should blow the Central wide open.
Prediction: The Tigers draw away to win the Central easily and get the 3 seed. The White Sox hang around in wildcard contention until the final week, but fall short of the playoffs.
The Texas Rangers have the best lineup in baseball, plain and simple. While losing pitchers Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis were big blows, the additions of Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster may offset those injuries to some extent. The Rangers have also had to deal with a severe slump from Josh Hamilton as well as the most vicious schedule run they will deal with all year long. Since the All-Star break, 18 of the 21 games that the Rangers have played have either been a road game, a game vs. a playoff contending team, or both. The Rangers have gone 11-10 in that span. The Rangers aren’t out of the woods yet, as their next 16 games will also be vs. playoff contending teams, road games, or both. The six weeks of schedule hell that the Rangers are enduring probably have them waking up tired and are testing their grit. Easier days await them and they have the makeup to endure what they are going through now.
The Oakland A’s started July with a 16-2 record that launched them into playoff contention before cooling off with a 5-5 record in their last ten games. A vicious September schedule awaits them, one that will make the playoffs an unlikely event for the A’s.
The Angels continue to underachieve, despite yet another high profile addition of pitcher Zack Greinke before the deadline. A favorable schedule with 29 home games remaining as compared to only 24 road games is also working in their favor.
Prediction: The Rangers survive the vicious schedule run they are in the midst of right now and win the AL West comfortably and garner the 1 seed in the AL. The brutal September schedule the A’s face knocks them out of playoff contention. The Angels nail down the first wildcard slot with a solid September.