Odds of Each MLB Wild-Card Contender Making the Playoffs

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent ISeptember 28, 2012

Odds of Each MLB Wild-Card Contender Making the Playoffs

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    When MLB adopted the new playoff format that included an extra wild-card team in each league, they envisioned exactly what is going on right now.

    With just six games remaining for each team, 12 teams are still fighting it out for either a division title or wild-card slot.

    For anyone who isn't anywhere near an abacus or calculator, that's 40 percent of the teams in the majors that still have a mathematical chance.

    This is exactly what MLB wanted—more drama involving more teams heading into the season's final days.

    However, just because each team has a mathematical chance doesn't mean they have a realistic chance.

    We will take a look at each team still in the wild-card hunt and give our best guess as to the actual odds of them qualifying for the postseason.

    We'll discuss a couple of divisional races as well—just to mix things up.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    As of Thursday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks were not quite yet mathematically eliminated from the National League.

    But there about as dead as any team can be.

    The D-Backs' magic number is down to one, meaning that any combination of a St. Louis Cardinals win or Arizona loss knocks them out.

    Odds of making playoffs: 0.5 Percent

Philadelphia Phillies

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    You have to give the Philadelphia Phillies some credit. After a fire sale of players at the trade deadline and soon after, they were presumed to be dead in the water.

    A run starting in mid-August put the Phillies to within 2.5 games of the St. Louis Cardinals at one time for the second wild-card spot. However, the Phillies simply ran out of gas and time.

    The Phillies have dropped three of their last four games. Like the Arizona Diamondbacks, their magic number also stands at one.

    It was a nice run while it lasted.

    Odds of making the playoffs: 0.5 percent

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Much like the Philadelphia Phillies, the Milwaukee Brewers put together a nice little run, winning 26 of their last 36 games.

    Considering they were at one time 12 games under .500, the Brewers did an admirable job of pushing themselves back above the even mark.

    But it will likely end sometime this weekend.

    The Brewers' magic number for elimination currently stands at three. While their remaining six games are against teams already out of contention (Houston Astros, San Diego Padres), all six are also on the road, making the task that much more difficult.

    Odds of making the playoffs: 3 percent

Los Angeles Angels

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    The road to the playoffs for the Los Angeles Angels got a whole lot tougher with their loss to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday afternoon.

    A win would have moved the Angels to within a game of the Oakland A's, who lost to the Texas Rangers earlier in the day.

    Now, the Angels finish up on the road, first in Texas against the Rangers and then at Safeco Field against the Mariners.

    The Angels aren't going to be up against a team playing scrubs, either. The Rangers desperately want to clinch the AL West title as soon as possible. That way they can rest some starters and set up their rotation for the ALDS.

    The Angels absolutely need to win out and hope for help at this point. With a magic number for elimination at five, there is no margin for error.

    Chances of making the playoffs: 8 percent

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers kept themselves in the playoff hunt with an 8-4 victory over the San Diego Padres.

    The Dodgers' magic number for elimination now stands at four, so they too have little margin for error of any kind.

    The Dodgers head home to finish the season with a six-game homestand—first against the Colorado Rockies, followed by the San Francisco Giants. That's a favorable schedule, despite the season-ending series with the Giants.

    San Francisco figures to rest several of its starters and set up its rotation for the upcoming NLDS, so there's hope yet in L.A. Very little, but it's there.

    Odds of making the playoffs: 15 percent

Tampa Bay Rays

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    The Tampa Bay Rays kept their slim playoffs alive on Thursday night, courtesy of none other than third baseman Evan Longoria.

    Longoria's 14th home run of the season in the top of the ninth inning gave the Rays a 3-2 victory over the slumping Chicago White Sox, keeping their magic number for elimination at five.

    It was the eighth straight win for the Rays, who are clearly peaking at the right time. But have they peaked just a little too late?

    The Rays have three more games against the White Sox before traveling to Camden Yards to end the season with a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

    If any team on this list has the moxie to pull it off, it's definitely the Rays. One look at last season alone clearly shows us that.

    Odds of making the playoffs: 15 percent

Oakland Athletics

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    The Oakland Athletics hit five home runs against the Texas Rangers on Thursday afternoon, yet they still came up short, 9-7.

    The loss leaves Oakland one game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the top wild-card spot in the American League and two games up on the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays.

    The A's finish the season at home—first with the Seattle Mariners coming to town, followed by the Texas Rangers.

    The A's control their own destiny at this point. The Mariners will play the part of the spoiler as best they can, and they've won three of five games at O.co Coliseum to boot.

    If the Rangers wrap up the division title by the time they get to Oakland, that could be to the A's benefit as well. Manager Ron Washington will be looking to set up his rotation for the ALDS and get starters like Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton some downtime.

    Odds of making playoffs: 35 percent

Baltimore Orioles

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    The Baltimore Orioles control their destiny even more than the Oakland Athletics.

    The O's hold the top wild-card spot in the American League, and they take on the slumping Boston Red Sox at home before traveling to Tropicana Field to take on the Tampa Bay Rays to end the regular season.

    The Orioles could well have a wild-card slot wrapped up by the end of the weekend, especially if Red Sox starters continue absolutely stinking up the joint.

    Odds of making the playoffs: 42 percent

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Entering play on Thursday night, the St. Louis Cardinals held a huge advantage in the race for the second and final wild-card slot in the National League.

    The magic number to clinch a postseason berth stood at four. If the Cardinals take two out of three games in their weekend series with the Washington Nationals, they're likely in.

    That's a tall order, however. The Nats are still looking to clinch the NL East title.They won't put the brakes on until they achieve that goal. The Cardinals will have to work for it, and their task won't get much easier on Monday when taking on the Cincinnati Reds.

    However, I just don't see anyone leaping over the Cardinals at this point. Not with a three-game lead with six games to play.

    Odds of making the playoffs: 81 percent

AL Central Division Title: Chicago White Sox

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    The Chicago White Sox absorbed another tough loss on Thursday night at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. Evan Longoria's home run in the top of the ninth inning was the difference as they took down the White Sox, 4-3.

    The loss puts the Sox two games behind the Detroit Tigers in the race for the AL Central title.

    Chicago's only chance at the postseason will come with a division title. With three more games against the Rays and three at Progressive Field with the Cleveland Indians, the club's road is clearly uphill.

    Chance of winning the AL Central: 30 percent

AL Central Division Title: Detroit Tigers

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    The Tigers blew a four-run lead before Alex Avila's grounder scored pinch-runner Don Kelly with the winning run on Thursday against the Kansas City Royals.

    The win, combined with the White Sox loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, gives the Tigers a two-game lead with six to play.

    The Tigers face the Minnesota Twins and Royals again to end their season, a decidedly better schedule than what the White Sox face in the final six days.

    Odds of winning the AL Central: 70 percent

AL East Division Title: Baltimore Orioles

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    The AL East is still very much up for grabs over the final six days, and the Baltimore Orioles will be going all out to get into the postseason with a division win.

    Just a berth in the postseason would be nice for a team who hasn't been there in 15 years, but the Orioles certainly have a legitimate shot.

    The O's are at home to take on the Boston Red Sox starting on Friday, and they close the season at Tropicana Field with the Tampa Bay Rays.

    The Orioles' fate is likely to come down to the last two days, and they are clearly not ready to lie down for anyone.

    Odds of winning the AL East: 45 percent

AL East Division Title: New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees are doing everything they can to stay atop the AL East, but the Baltimore Orioles just won't go away.

    New York is 15-9 in September, but the Orioles are 16-9, so obviously the Yankees haven't been able to create any space at the top.

    The Yankees take on the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox. While they are divisional rivals, both teams are staring at 90-loss seasons. The Yankees have a clear advantage in terms of strength of schedule.

    Odds of winning the AL East: 55 percent


    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.