Updating Each MLB Contender's Odds of Snatching a 2012 Playoff Spot

Ian Casselberry@iancassMLB Lead WriterSeptember 11, 2012

Updating Each MLB Contender's Odds of Snatching a 2012 Playoff Spot

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    With three weeks remaining in the regular season, we have a pretty good idea as to which 10 teams will be in the Major League Baseball playoffs this year. 

    Though three or four of the six division races are still arguably yet to be determined, none of the current division leaders appear to be in jeopardy of losing a playoff spot. Four teams are virtually guaranteed of qualifying for the postseason. 

    The drama will be in each league's wild-card race. Eight teams all have realistic shots of winning wild-card bids, though at least one of those spots is all but assured at this point. 

    With the two extra wild-card spots in this year's playoff format, 15 of the MLB's 30 teams are in contention for places in the postseason. That's exactly how the MLB wanted it. But some clubs have far better chances of qualifying for the playoffs than their competitors. 

    Here is how we see the odds of making the postseason for each of the 15 teams currently in playoff contention, at least based on a look at the current divisional and wild-card standings. A couple of clubs that are still mathematically in the race have probably seen their realistic chances slip away. 

    All statistics mentioned here are current as of Sept. 10. 

Washington Nationals

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    The Nationals have the best record in baseball, 87-54.

    Even after shutting Stephen Strasburg down on Saturday (Sept. 8), the Nats still have the best pitching staff in baseball and a strong offense to go with it. Their run differential of 130 is the highest mark in the MLB. 

    The Nationals' 6.5-game lead in the NL East is second only to the Reds' 9.5-game margin among the MLB's six division leaders. As well as the Braves have been playing recently, they haven't been able to chip away at the Nats' lead at all. 

    Davey Johnson can spend most of September preparing his team for the playoffs—a postseason without Strasburg, but a postseason the Nats have an excellent chance of winning.

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 100 Percent

Cincinnati Reds

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    With a 9.5-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds have the largest first-place margin in the MLB. 

    Even if they were to somehow lose that huge lead in September, the Reds would more than likely fall into one of the NL's wild-card spots. There is going to be postseason baseball in Cincinnati this October.

    The Reds can spend the rest of September getting healthy and working Joey Votto and Scott Rolen back into their lineup. Manager Dusty Baker can rest whomever he needs to and set his starting rotation exactly as he wants it for the postseason. 

    It's a fortunate position to be in, rather than fighting for their playoff lives. 

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 100 Percent

Texas Rangers

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    With a three-game lead over the Oakland Athletics in the AL West, the Texas Rangers' playoff chances might appear to be in just a bit of doubt.

    But only just a bit of doubt. That is, if there's really any doubt at all.

    Mathematically, the A's could still catch the Rangers for the AL West title. However, even if the Rangers somehow lose their division lead, they will still be one of the AL's wild-card playoff teams.

    The team with the best record in the American League is not going to miss the playoffs.

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 99 Percent

Atlanta Braves

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    With seven wins in their past 10 games, the Braves are playing well toward the end of the season, something they did not do last year, as they were blowing what appeared to be an insurmountable lead in the NL wild-card standings.

    Atlanta is unlikely to catch the Nationals in the NL East, but the Braves are playing well enough to have virtually secured one of the league's two wild-card spots. With an 81-61 record, they would be in second place in the NL Central and would lead the NL West. 

    In the current NL wild-card standings, Atlanta is 4.5 games ahead of the next closest competitor. As well as they're playing, the Braves are not going to be overtaken for one of the league's extra playoff bids.

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 99 Percent

San Francisco Giants

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    After winning two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend (Sept. 7-9), the San Francisco Giants have built a five-game lead in the NL West. 

    With the Dodgers' offensive struggles and injury concerns over Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, the Giants' playoff standing looks rather comfortable. If they were to lose their division lead, one of the two NL wild-card playoff spots would likely provide a safety net.

    The Giants have an extremely favorable schedule down the stretch, with two series apiece against the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Perhaps the Padres need to be approached with caution, since they've been playing well recently. But that schedule gives the Giants a major edge through the remainder of the regular season. 

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 96 Percent

New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees only hold a one-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East and are just two games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.

    So it's not unrealistic to think that the Yankees could miss the playoffs. 

    But even with that precarious first-place lead, the Yankees still have the third-best record in the AL and more than likely would still nab a wild-card bid if they were to lose the division to the Orioles or Rays.

    A favorable schedule through the rest of September and into October doesn't hurt the Yanks' chances either.

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 90 Percent

St. Louis Cardinals

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    As of Sept. 10, the Cardinals lead the Dodgers by one game in the NL wild-card standings and sit 2.5 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

    That's too narrow of a margin to call comfortable, but the Cardinals are still in a good position to win the second NL wild-card playoff bid and defend their World Series championship. With two series against the Houston Astros and a three-game set versus the Chicago Cubs remaining on their schedule, the Cards have some favorable matchups down the stretch.

    However, a four-game series at Dodger Stadium later this week (Sept. 13-16) could be absolutely crucial. The Cardinals could either establish a stronger lead in the wild-card standings or fall behind the Dodgers for that last playoff spot. 

    The Cards also close out the season against the Nationals and Reds, the two best teams in the NL. By that point, however, those teams could be more concerned with preparing for the postseason than the games at hand. St. Louis will have to hope that's the case.

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 65 Percent

Chicago White Sox

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    Following their 6-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers Monday night (Sept. 10), the Chicago White Sox built their first-place lead in the AL Central to three games. 

    If the Tigers win the remaining three games of their four-game set with the White Sox, they'll tie the White Sox for the AL Central lead. But Detroit is doing little to inspire confidence in pulling off such a feat, having lost its past four games. 

    The only thing affecting the White Sox's playoff odds is that the runner-up in the AL Central very likely won't have the safety net of a wild-card spot to fall into. With their current 76-64 record, the White Sox would be fourth in the current wild-card standings. The Tigers are now five games behind. 

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 65 Percent

Oakland Athletics

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    The A's still have a chance to catch the Rangers in the AL West, not to mention that they currently have a hold on one of the league's two wild-card playoff bids. 

    Oakland can essentially assure itself of a playoff spot depending on its performance over the next 16 games on the schedule. The A's face the Angels, Orioles, Tigers and Rangers during that stretch. 

    However, 13 of those 16 games are on the road, which doesn't appear to work in Oakland's favor.

    The A's have played well away from home this season, compiling a 37-30 record. But that is a brutal slate of games, one that could knock the A's out of the playoff race. 

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 65 Percent

Baltimore Orioles

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    Losing two of the last three games of a four-game set to the Yankees at Camden Yards over the weekend (Sept. 7-9) did not help the Orioles' chances of winning the AL East. 

    That wasn't a deal breaker for them, of course. Not with three weeks remaining in the regular season. But even if the O's don't catch the Yanks in the AL East, they need to keep winning games to maintain their narrow, one-game lead in the AL wild-card standings. 

    Yet Baltimore's position looks relatively comfortable at this point. The Orioles still have a chance to win their division, and that will keep them ahead in the wild-card race as well.

    With a 39-30 road record this season, they also shouldn't be counted out of winning their season-ending three-game series versus the Rays at Tropicana Field, if it comes to that.

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 60 Percent

Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Rays could give their playoff chances a major boost this week (Sept. 11-16) with three games apiece against the Orioles and Yankees. 

    Of course, if the Rays lose each of those series—both of which are on the road—their playoff chances would take a major hit. 

    Taking two of three from the Rangers over the past weekend (Sept. 7-9) was an encouraging sign, as that was one series against a winning team that the Rays had to face down the stretch.

    But of the three AL East contenders, Tampa Bay still has the toughest schedule to contend with through the final three weeks of the regular season. 

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 45 Percent

Los Angeles Angels

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    The Angels have given their playoff chances a major boost by winning 11 of their past 13 games. 

    Winning the AL West is probably out of the question now, as the Angels are still 6.5 games behind the Rangers and 3.5 back of the Athletics in the division. But the Halos are 1.5 games off the pace in the AL wild-card race. 

    Despite being so close, the Angels will have to overtake three teams in the wild-card standings to win a playoff spot. With just three weeks remaining in the season, that's a pretty formidable obstacle to overcome. 

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 40 Percent

Detroit Tigers

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    The Tigers are three games out of first place in the AL Central and could make up that deficit by winning the remaining three games of their series versus the White Sox this week (Sept. 10-13). 

    But even if Detroit catches the White Sox in the AL Central, it needs to play better against teams it should beat within the division. The Tigers haven't dominated the Indians, Royals and Twins as their talent (and payroll) says they should, and that could be what costs them a playoff spot.

    As we said earlier, the Tigers will almost certainly have to win their division to qualify for the playoffs. At five games back in the AL wild-card standings, nabbing one of those extra postseason bids looks like a long shot.

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 36 Percent

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Dodgers can probably forget about catching the Giants in the NL West. As of Sept. 10, Los Angeles is five games out of first place in the division. 

    With their struggling offense and injuries to their two best players, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, it's not looking good for the Dodgers' playoff chances.

    However, they're only one game behind the Cardinals in the NL wild-card standings and host St. Louis for a four-game series at the end of this week (Sept. 13-16). That's a fortunate position to be in at this point of the season.

    But the Dodgers also have to play the Nationals, Reds and Giants on their remaining schedule. Those matchups could easily knock them out of playoff contention. 

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 25 Percent

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    While their second-half collapse hasn't been as significant as it was last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates have still taken a notable slide from serious playoff contention in recent weeks. 

    Now 12 games back in the NL Central (as of Sept. 10), competing for a division title is out of the question. The Pirates are 2.5 games away from a wild-card bid in the NL, but have to overtake the Cards and Dodgers, both of whom are playing better at this point in the season. 

    With an 11-17 record in August and a 2-7 mark thus far in September, the Bucs are hardly playing their best baseball of the season. And with series remaining against the Reds, Brewers and Braves, the competition down the stretch is not going to be easy. 

    It's a shame to see the Pirates fall short for the second straight season, but that's how their playoff chances look at this point. 

    Odds of Making the Playoffs: 15 Percent


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