Handicapping MLB Teams' Odds to Make the Playoffs
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Each MLB team is down to the final two series on its schedule. For the teams still in contention for a playoff spot, those last six or seven games will be crucial.
The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves have clinched playoff spots in the NL, while the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants have won division titles. So those teams won't be listed here.
We're also putting the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees down as playoff teams, though neither club has officially clinched a postseason bid or division title. However, both teams have the safety net of the Wild Card even if they lose their division. It's 99 percent certain the Rangers and Yankees will make the playoffs.
The standings say that 11 teams still have a chance at the postseason. Realistically, however, seven of those clubs are still alive in the playoff race.
Here are the odds of making the playoffs for the 11 teams still mathematically in the hunt.
Philadelphia Phillies: 1,000/1
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The chances of making the playoffs are extremely slim for the Philadelphia Phillies. We're looking at 0.1 percent odds for them at this point.
After an 8-4 loss on Wednesday (Sept. 26) to the Washington Nationals, the Phillies were five games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League's second wild-card spot with eight games remaining in the season.
Four of their final seven games are against the Nationals, who, despite being tied for the best record in the NL, need to keep winning.
First of all, the Nats have to try to finish ahead of the Cincinnati Reds for the league's top seed in the playoffs. Second, the Braves still have a chance to catch them for the NL East title.
Three games against the Miami Marlins won't be enough of a help for the Phillies at this point.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 250/1
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The Arizona Diamondbacks have a 0.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. So their odds are just a bit better than the Phillies', but still pretty lousy.
Going into play on Sept. 26, the D-Backs were 5.5 games away from the NL's final wild-card bid with eight games left to play.
Even with six of those games being against the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies, Arizona would have to overcome three teams ahead of it in the standings. That is one tough, extremely narrow path to the postseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 49/1
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With an 8-2 win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers closed to within 3.5 games of the Cardinals for the NL's last remaining playoff spot.
But with seven games left on the Dodgers' schedule, there isn't much opportunity to make up more ground.
Even with three games against the Colorado Rockies, the Dodgers end with a three-game set versus the San Francisco Giants. The Giants arguably have nothing left to play for but would surely relish the opportunity to make sure their archrivals don't make the playoffs.
However, Clayton Kershaw is set to start on Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times. That would give him a chance to start two more games before the end of the season. If Kershaw can pitch effectively, that might give the Dodgers' playoff hopes a bit more life.
Milwaukee Brewers: 24/1
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Following Wednesday's 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, the Milwaukee Brewers are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL wild-card standings, 3.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
Making up that deficit with seven games remaining on their schedule doesn't seem likely. But there's still a chance.
The Brewers finish the season with three-game series against the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres. That provides Milwaukee with an easier path than the Dodgers have to contend with. But having to beat out two teams for that final playoff spot will be difficult.
Tampa Bay Rays: 9/1
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Just 2.5 games away from a wild-card bid in the AL, the Tampa Bay Rays' chances of getting into the playoffs still look pretty good, even with seven games left to play.
However, the Rays are matched up with the Chicago White Sox for the next four games, and the Whit Sox need every win they can get as they try to beat out the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.
Three games versus the Baltimore Orioles to end the season doesn't make the Rays' path to the playoffs any easier. The final playoff spot in the AL could come down to who wins that series. At least that three-game set will be played at Tropicana Field.
Los Angeles Angels: 3/1
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Going into their game with the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 26, the Los Angeles Angels were just two games behind in the AL wild-card race. If only the Halos had any games remaining against the Oakland Athletics.
The Angels have a three-game set with the Texas Rangers among their final seven games of the season. That series will be played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as well.
The Rangers' place in the postseason is virtually assured, but they still need to beat out the New York Yankees for the top seed in the AL playoff field. So Texas won't be taking those three games off.
However, the Angels could compete for the final wild-card spot to the very end of the season.
Chicago White Sox: 13/12
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The Chicago White Sox are basically a 50-50 shot along with the Detroit Tigers to win the AL Central and get into the playoffs.
But the White Sox's chances are a bit lower than the Tigers' due to their remaining schedule.
Before ending the season with a three-game set versus the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox have to get through four games against the Tampa Bay Rays. That series could be a fierce one with both teams fighting for a division title or wild-card bid.
By the way, the White Sox just lost two of three to the Indians in their most recent series (Sept. 24-26), so that final series at Cleveland might not be a soft landing.
Detroit Tigers: 13/12
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The Detroit Tigers ended play on Sept. 26 with a one-game lead in the AL Central.
That gives them slightly better than 50 percent odds to win the division and make the playoffs. To be exact, their chances are now 52 percent.
The Tigers had better odds than the White Sox anyway due to their schedule. With three games apiece against the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals, the rest of the regular season looks pretty favorable for Detroit.
However, the Twins did take two of three from the Tigers last weekend (Sept. 22-23) at Comerica Park, so that series shouldn't be written up as an automatic win. Minnesota—and the Royals, for that matter—would probably love to spoil the Tigers' playoff chances.
Oakland Athletics: 1/4
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With Wednesday's 9-3 win over the Texas Rangers, the Oakland Athletics have assured themselves of at least a split going into Thursday's (Sept. 27) series finale. Their chances of making the playoffs are just over 80 percent.
Getting at least four wins during a brutal 10-game road trip against the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Rangers has to be considered a victory of sorts. Five wins, of course, would be even better.
Oakland maintains at least a two-game lead over the Angels for the second wild-card spot in the AL. But having to play four of its final seven games versus the Rangers is not going to make getting that playoff bid very easy.
Texas will likely still be battling the Yankees for the top seed in the AL playoffs, so that should dispel any belief that the Rangers might take it easy in that final series.
Baltimore Orioles: 9/41
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If those 9/41 odds look a bit strange, let's translate the Baltimore Orioles' playoff chances into a percentage. The O's have at least an 82 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason.
Three games at Tropicana Field versus the Tampa Bay Rays is a rather large obstacle to overcome, however. The final wild-card spot in the AL could very well be decided by who wins that series.
Baltimore will have two of its best starting pitchers going this weekend (Sept. 28-30) against the Boston Red Sox. Chris Tillman (8-2, 3.08 ERA) and Steve Johnson (4-0, 1.62) are scheduled to pitch the first two games of the series with Sunday's starter to be announced.
With the Rays playing the White Sox, the Orioles might have an opportunity to build on their lead over Tampa Bay and the Angels in the wild-card standings.
St. Louis Cardinals: 1/24
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The St. Louis Cardinals' lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers was cut to 3.5 games after the Cards' 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros Wednesday night.
That's still a solid lead with six games remaining on the Cardinals' schedule. However, St. Louis has to play the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds in those six games, which doesn't provide a smooth path to the end of the season.
The Nationals and Reds will be battling for the top seed in the NL playoffs, so the Cardinals shouldn't count on those teams taking it easy.
Washington manager Davey Johnson insists he'll rest his starters if the Nats clinch the NL East, but they haven't done so yet. So the presumption is that St. Louis will get the Nationals at their best. The Cardinals won't get to coast to a playoff spot.
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