MLB Playoff Race: Teams in Most Danger of Sliding out of Picture

John Dorn@JSDorn6Correspondent IIISeptember 12, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers adjusts his batting gloves as he warms up on deck during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 11, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With just three weeks left this MLB season, there is much left to be determined. As we've learned in years past, anything—and everything—can change in the season's home stretch. With most of the league's 10 playoff positions still up for grabs, we can expect a lot to change.

However, there are some teams in danger of falling out of the picture completely. With just 20 games to go, every loss counts, and these teams can ill afford to fall victim to a slump at this stage of the game.


Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers certainly haven't failed to grab headlines this season. They've tacked on over $70 million worth of players since Opening Day, even though they seemed to be coasting in first place with their initial squad. 

Adrian Gonzalez has hit just one home run in 16 games as a Dodger, and is batting only .227. In the month of September, the team is batting a combined .238 and averaging just 2.4 runs per game.

Matt Kemp has batted a pedestrian .252 since August 1—as his batting average has dropped from .353 to .315—with only three home runs. This September, he's hit .138 with eight strikeouts and just two RBI.

The pitching staff has kept them afloat this month, with a decent 3.07 team ERA. They've lost 10 of their last 15 however, and currently find themselves on the outside looking in, one game behind St. Louis for the final Wild Card spot. 


New York Yankees

The Yankees are playing baseball in the toughest division there is, and it's not particularly great baseball either. Their team ERA is a bloated 5.27 this month, as they've lost four of 10.

They've played just .500 ball dating back to August 1, and have seen a six-game lead vanish as Baltimore and Tampa Bay have surged to the top of the division as well.

The Yankees and Orioles are tied for the division lead at 79-62, with Tampa Bay right on their heels, two games behind.

Since August 1, Baltimore is 24-13. In that same time frame, Joe Maddon's Rays are are a similar 23-14.

With Oakland two games ahead of the AL East leaders at 81-60, the Wild Card is no safe bet either for Joe Girardi's bombers. The team's September batting average of .238 will need to improve in order to fight off the Tampa and Baltimore threats.


Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates found themselves in unfamiliar territory once the calendar flipped to September, at nine games over .500. Since then, however, they've won just two of 10 and are just three games over .500 at 72-69. 

The division is now out of reach, with powerhouse Cincinnati at 86-57. The Pirates will need to improve on their lackluster .227 team average in order to overtake the rival Cardinals as a Wild Card leader.

An MVP candidate earlier this year, Andrew McCutchen has come back down to earth and has batted a modest .255 since August 1. 

For a second consecutive season, the Pirates have been mentioned in the playoff conversation. Last season, they cooled off early, in plenty of time to ensure that no Pirates fan's heart would be broken too cruelly, as they finished at a weak 72-90.

This season, they've hung around much longer. Unfortunately for the Bucco faithful, they may finally have to get reacquainted with the bitter taste of late-season disappointment.