I was looking at the standings after today’s game, and there’s something interesting afoot. The division races are pretty much locked: either Cleveland or Detroit will win the AL Central unless something dramatic happens: they’re both way better teams than Minnesota. The M’s could still catch the Angels, but skip that for a second.
In the wild card, the straight listings run:
Detroit 61-49, .555
Seattle 60-49, .550 -0.5
New York, 61-50, .550, -0.5
Minnesota 57-53, .518, -4
Detroit should really be “AL Central runner-up, .560 or so”. Whoever wants to win the wild card will likely have to put up a record that would win the AL Central.
Anyway, here’s the same race, but with expected win-losses based on runs scored and allowed (from mlb.com):
New York, 68-43
Obviously teams don’t get credit in the standings for how many games they should have won or lost: the only thing that matters from here on out is how well they play for the remaining games. But it’s hard to look at the Yankees, who started horribly and have played extremely well for months now, and wonder if there’s another team besides Detroit in that bunch that can keep up. The Yankees offense is putting up almost six runs a game (seriously — 660 runs, 111 games, 5.95 runs a game)(M’s are at 4.83). For all the abuse the pitching’s taken, it’s in the middle of the AL pack, and when you score six runs a game… yeah.
There’s the problem. With 50 games left to play, if the Yankees keep this up, they’ll win another thirty games. The Tigers/Indians can put that together, too, so the wild card question becomes “can the M’s keep up that pace?”
That’s tough. Which is why it may actually be easier for them to take the division. Really. Here’s their schedule against their potential competition for playoff spots:
August 27th: 3 game series against the Angels
August 30th: 1 game makeup in Cleveland
September 3rd: 3 games in New York
September 7th: 3 games in Detroit
September 20th: 4 games in LA
September 25th: 4 games against Cleveland
The Angels might be as good as Detroit/Cleveland, but there’s only one of them. The M’s get seven games against the Angels, and if they go in with a 3.5 game gap in the standings… that’s where the opportunity is.
This is why you can look at the postseason odds right now and see the M’s playoff chances through the division title are about four times better than the wild card. Many things have to break right for the M’s to see their wild card competition fall away, but the Angels… well, it pains me to say this after this week’s games, but I hope Boston hands them an even more embarrassing beating than we had to endure.