Handicapping MLB Teams' Odds to Make the Playoffs
With less than two weeks remaining in the 2012 MLB season, most of the playoff field has been determined.
Thanks to the addition of a second wild-card playoff spot, however, hope is alive for more teams as we approach the end of the season. We count 16 teams that have a chance of playing past Oct. 3 on their schedules.
What are the odds of those contenders making the playoffs? Well, that's what we're here to figure out.
Since the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds have officially clinched postseason berths, however, there's no sense in listing their odds. The San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees are all but assured of being in the playoffs as well, so there didn't seem much sense in listing their odds at 1-100.
But that leaves 10 teams fighting for four remaining spots in the postseason. Two of them look like pretty heavy favorites to make the playoffs, but there's still a chance they could lose.
Here are the odds for the 10 teams whose playoff chances remain alive as of Sept. 22.
Philadelphia Phillies: 99-1
So you're saying there's still a chance.
Yes, the Philadelphia Phillies still have a chance to win the NL's second wild-card playoff spot. They're three games back in the standings.
But the Phillies have to get past the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals to do it. And they basically can't lose a game the rest of the season.
That's not going to be easy with the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins on their remaining schedule. However, the Phillies have gone 14-5 in September to put themselves into contention. Maybe they will keep on winning.
Tampa Bay Rays: 14-1
Trailing the second wild-card spot in the AL by 4.5 games, the Tampa Bay Rays are on the fringes of playoff contention.
Joe Maddon's club would have to overtake the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and/or the Baltimore Orioles to win a wild-card playoff bid.
Nothing should be considered impossible for the Rays, considering their surge last September to beat out the Boston Red Sox for the AL Wild Card.
But Tampa Bay isn't exactly blazing to the finish. The Rays have lost six of their past 10 games and have a 10-9 record in September.
Facing the White Sox and Orioles in their final seven games—two teams that need to win every game they can as well—makes for a difficult task.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 12-1
The Dodgers still trail the Cardinals for the NL's second wild-card bid with 11 games remaining in the season.
But the Dodgers now also have to contend with the Brewers, who have jumped a half-game ahead of them in the standings. That gives them two teams to overtake, making their playoff path more difficult.
The remainder of the Dodgers' schedule seems favorable, with three games apiece against the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres, though the Padres have played well in September.
Five more games against the Reds and Giants don't bode well, either, especially when the Dodgers are 8-10 thus far through the month.
Los Angeles Angels: 10-1
With Oakland's loss to the Yankees on Friday (Sept. 21), the Angels gained a game in the AL wild-card standings and are now 3.5 games away from a playoff bid.
The Angels have played well in September, going 12-7 thus far through the month. However, 3.5 games is still a considerable margin to overcome with 11 games remaining in the regular season.
Five of those games are against the White Sox and Rangers. But perhaps six games against the Seattle Mariners will give them a boost through the final days on their schedule.
Milwaukee Brewers: 4-1
No team has been hotter and made the NL wild-card race more exciting in September than the Brewers.
The Brew Crew looked as if their season was done back in July. But the team kept steadily playing better through August before exploding in September with 15 wins in 19 games.
Milwaukee is now 1.5 games behind the Cardinals for the NL's second wild-card bid, leapfrogging the Dodgers in the standings.
The Brewers do have to contend with the Nationals and Reds in six of their final 12 games, which presents a difficult obstacle. But the Astros and Padres could provide a smoother path to the end of the season.
Detroit Tigers: 3-2
With the White Sox's 6-2 loss to the Angels in Anaheim on Friday (Sept. 21), the Detroit Tigers are only 1.5 games behind for first place in the AL Central.
(Forget the Wild Card for Detroit. They're 5.5 games back in the standings.)
The Tigers' game vs. the Minnesota Twins was rained out, which means they'll have to play a doubleheader on Sunday to make the game up. That's not going to help a pitching staff that's been roughed up by injury and poor performance in recent days.
However, the Tigers couldn't have a much easier end to their schedule than six games against the Twins and seven against the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers just have to beat the teams they're supposed to beat, something they haven't always been able to do this season.
St. Louis Cardinals: 1-3
Despite a mediocre September during which they've gone 9-10, the Cardinals still hold the second wild-card spot in the NL.
However, their lead over the Brewers is now down to 1.5 games after the Cards lost to the Chicago Cubs, 5-4, on Friday. Wouldn't it be glorious for Cubs fans if they were able to play spoiler and knock the Cardinals out of playoff contention?
The Cardinals play the Cubs and Astros over their next five games, which could help them maintain or extend their wild-card lead. But ending the season against the Nationals and Reds could also result in a crash landing.
Chicago White Sox: 1-3
The White Sox just can't pull away from the Tigers in the AL Central. Their first-place lead was cut to 1.5 games after losing to the Angels on Friday (Sept. 21).
The primary reason the White Sox can't build a lead over the Tigers is that they can't put together a streak of sustained success. Thus far through September, Chicago is 9-10 and is only three games over .500 (34-31) since the All-Star break.
Six games against the Indians should help the White Sox pad their win total during the final 12 days of the regular season. But they also have six games against the Angels and Rays, both of whom need to win every game possible to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Oakland Athletics: 1-7
We close out this list with the odds-on favorites to win the wild-card spots in the AL.
The A's have a 3.5-game lead over the Angels for the AL's second wild-card bid, which looks like a pretty solid lead with 12 games remaining in the regular season.
However, Oakland has to navigate some treacherous territory to get to the end of its schedule and hold on to its playoff spot.
The A's lost two of three to the Tigers earlier this week and finish a brutal road trip with six games against the Yankees and Rangers. (Oakland began its three-game set in the Bronx with a 2-1 loss to the Yanks Friday night.)
Ending the season with three more games against the Rangers isn't going to make things easy for the A's. (However, if Oakland wins enough of these head-to-head contests, it could still overtake the Rangers for the AL West title.)
Even as a current favorite to make the playoffs, Oakland will have to earn that postseason spot through some tough matchups.
Baltimore Orioles: 1-9
The Orioles still have a shot to win the AL East, trailing the Yankees by just one game as of Sept. 22.
That gives the O's perhaps the most fortunate position of any of the AL's playoff contenders and it's why they top these rankings with the best odds to make the playoffs. Baltimore will likely either win a wild-card spot or the AL East.
The Orioles have a favorable schedule to close out their season with nine games against the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, the bottom two teams in the AL East.
There does remain some slight danger with a three-game series against the Rays at the very end of the season. But the O's could have a playoff spot locked up by then, thanks to compiling a 13-6 record thus far through September.
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