Projecting Every 2013 MLB Playoff Contender's Final Record
Heading into play on August 2, 16 of Major League Baseball's 30 teams are within 7.5 games of a postseason berth. In other words, more than half of the sport is within reasonable striking distance of the chance to compete in the October tournament.
With the non-waiver trade deadline in the rear-view mirror, most contenders are finished making major acquisitions. While it's always possible that expensive, long-term contracts can slip through the waiver wire for a franchise-changing move, it's not likely to happen.
Outside of impact players (Curtis Granderson, Brett Anderson, Matt Harrison), each contender must make the best of the 40-man roster currently at its disposal.
By Monday, each team will have played roughly 112 games. With 50 or so to guess upon, here's a look at how the final records could look.
Factoring in injuries, potential Biogenesis discipline and strength of schedule, the following is a look into the crystal ball of the final 2013 MLB regular-season standings.
Keep the arguments cordial in the comment section, folks!
Tampa Bay Rays: 95-67
On May 2, the Tampa Bay Rays were 12-15, sporting an anemic offense and staring down the reality of playing in one of the deepest divisions in baseball history. For a team that moved James Shields in a deal for a prospect, Wil Myers, who was a month away from a call-up to the majors, expecting a division title in 2013 seemed like a silly idea.
Yet, three months later, Tampa Bay looks like the class of the AL East and poised for a run towards October.
With the addition of Wil Myers, the health of Luke Scott and the resurgence of James Loney, along with the brilliance of Evan Longoria, the offense in Tampa Bay is more than adequate. Since David Price returned from an arm injury in late June, the pitching staff has excelled.
Now, armed with poise and experience in pennant races, the Rays won't sneak up on anyone, but they might not have to in order to win in 2013. This time, despite their payroll, they just might be better than their opponents.
Boston Red Sox: 93-69
At 66-44, the Red Sox just need to play .500 baseball down the stretch to finish with 92 wins. That number would likely put them in the mix to at least play in the American League Wild Card play-in game.
Of course, with a squad that has been near the top of the American League East all season and that added a major pitcher at the trade deadline in Jake Peavy, bigger things are expected in Boston.
Unless Peavy and Jon Lester morph into their old Cy Young contending arms of old, Boston could run out of steam down the stretch on the mound. But a potent offense will carry the team to the precipice of October.
Baltimore Orioles: 91-71
If this prediction is correct, the Baltimore Orioles, with a better team and more representative run differential, will win two less games than the 2012 squad.
But with a deeper and more reliable rotation capable of giving Buck Showalter strings of quality starts, the Orioles could be a dangerous team in October if their potent lineup muscles its way through American League power pitchers.
To get there, the O's will need the five-man band of Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Scott Feldman, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez to stay healthy and effective.
This isn't a great team, but if the 2012 Orioles came within a few innings of the ALCS, the 2013 squad can dream of a World Series in Baltimore for the first time since the 80s.
New York Yankees: 85-77
Over the course of a 162-game season, the cream will rise to the top.
Despite valiant effort's by Joe Girardi in the dugout, Hiroki Kuroda on the mound and Brian Cashman on the waiver wire, the 2013 New York Yankees aren't built for the long haul.
Yes, Curtis Granderson will return in San Diego to give New York an offensive boost, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, but the AL East must keep an eye on Friday evening's starter, CC Sabathia.
If he can't discover his form of old, the offensive woes in New York will take a back seat to an eroding pitching staff and ace.
Considering the roster, 90 wins would be a miracle, but a miracle like that still might not be enough for even a one-game Wild Card playoff.
Detroit Tigers: 93-69
Despite representing the American League in the 2012 World Series, the Detroit Tigers hardly dominated the regular season. In fact, their 88 wins ranked last, by at least five games, over every other division winner in 2012.
Throughout the summer, the Chicago White Sox battled and pulled ahead in the AL Central, leaving Detroit with a label of disappointment until September.
In 2013, the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals are doing the pushing, but don't expect Detroit to fold. In fact, a big September leading into the playoffs is much, much more likely for a veteran group.
Cleveland Indians: 88-74
Winners of eight in a row, the Cleveland Indians are red-hot and becoming a factor in the American League postseason race.
As Buster Olney of ESPN has pointed out on numerous forums this season, the Indians could do damage if they are within postseason striking distance over the season's final two weeks.
Why? Because of a schedule that includes dates with White Sox, Royals, Twins and Astros.
Yet, it's hard to pencil them in among the AL's elite because of a tendency to streak in the wrong direction. It's easy to imagine Cleveland winning big over the season's final two weeks, but what follows this current eight-game winning streak?
The team is good, but it's also susceptible to a cold streak that would leave it in catch-up mode down the stretch.
Kansas City Royals: 85-77
When the Kansas City Royals decided to trade six years of team control over Wil Myers for two seasons of James Shields, the goal of 2013 and 2014 became clear: win now.
Furthermore, when the team decided against moving impending free-agent starter Ervin Santana at this week's trade deadline, the goal was stated even more clearly: win right now.
Although a postseason appearance seems unlikely, despite nine straight wins, the Royals can use the progress of 2013 to springboard into 2014.
Oakland Athletics: 91-71
At 34-18 in Oakland, the Athletics have proven to be a dominant home team over the course of this season. Luckily for the A's, 29 of their 81 home dates remain on the schedule.
Despite two straight losses and the Rangers adding Matt Garza at the trade deadline, Oakland still has a great shot to hold off Texas for a second straight AL West crown.
If it does, it will be very, very close. Don't be shocked if there is an AL West and AL Wild Card scrum at the end of September that causes Major League Baseball logistical headaches for one-game playoff scenarios.
Texas Rangers: 91-71
According to Baseball Prospectus' most recent postseason odds, the Rangers are profiling like an 88-win team, about three or so games behind the Oakland Athletics.
Despite the mathematical predictions and lack of offensive punch it had in past years, a one-two punch of Yu Darvish and Matt Garza can lift Texas to the top of the AL West with a big stretch run.
A look at the Rangers' end-of-season schedule offers this to watch for: seven straight, at home, against Houston and the Los Angeles Angels.
If Texas truly needs to those games and has healthy pitching lined up, it's hard to imagine the Rangers not winning at least five or six to make the October picture very, very interesting.
Atlanta Braves: 93-69
The NL East is the only division in baseball that yields a double-digit discrepancy between the first- and second-place teams.
Due to a deep, consistent outfit in Atlanta and the inept Nationals and Phillies, the Braves are the surest lock for October baseball in the sport.
The team could win 95-plus games if Fredi Gonzalez chooses to go full-tilt for home-field advantage in the National League, but it will likely rest players down the stretch if the division is tied up.
While that's prudent, Atlanta's 38-15 record at Turner Field will give Braves fans something to talk about when the lineup is posted during the final 10 days of the regular season.
Washington Nationals: 84-78
It's unlikely that 90 wins will be enough for the Washington Nationals to capture the NL East crown or be in the mix for one of the two wild-card spots. But if they were to achieve that mark, it would take a 38-16 run starting now.
To achieve 92 wins, a much-more-likely barometer for the NL's postseason berths this year, the Nats would be required to reel off 40 wins in their last 54 games.
For a team that has played .500-or-worse baseball all season long, the idea of a big run out of Washington is becoming more unrealistic by the day.
The Nationals may rebound and finish strong, but the high expectations in D.C. will have to be reset until 2014.
St. Louis Cardinals: 94-68
Yadier Molina's presence behind the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals can't be underestimated, but neither can the resolve of baseball's most well run organization.
Without their star catcher, that resolve will be tested.
Despite losing four of five in Pittsburgh earlier this week, the Cardinals remain the favorite to reel off a stretch of dominant baseball. If they do, the franchise can avoid the perils of a one-game Wild Card play-in game.
Yet, the NL Central battle will ultimately house three postseason teams in some order.
Watching how each franchise weighs the merits of playing 100 percent for a division title, and subsequent guarantee of a best-of-five Divisional Series, against resting up for a one-game playoff will be fascinating.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 92-70
For months, the Pittsburgh Pirates dazzled fans in the Steel City on the their way to the top of the NL Central. But after two years of second-half collapses, it wasn't ridiculous to think the 2013 Pirates would suffer the same fate this season.
After taking four of five from the St. Louis Cardinals, though, Pittsburgh entered August with the best record in baseball.
As long as Andrew McCutchen—now a very possible NL MVP with the injury to Yadier Molina—stays upright and A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano continue to throw strikes, the Pirates will be tough to beat.
Jason Grilli's return from arm discomfort is vital to Pittsburgh's chances at an October run, but it can get there without him at full strength.
Cincinnati Reds: 92-70
With Joey Votto anchoring the lineup, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey atop the rotation and Ardolis Chapman awaiting the ninth inning, Cincinnati has the formula to make October its playground on the way to special moments.
Of course, the Reds must reach that month first.
If not for the second Wild Card instituted prior to the 2012 season, the Reds would be in jeopardy of missing the postseason, despite a stacked roster.
While they'll need to catch fire in order to finish atop the NL Central, there's simply too much talent, along with a lack of a rising wild-card contender, to keep them from at least a one-game playoff.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 91-71
When the Los Angeles Dodgers lost the front end of a double-header on June 19, they fell to 29-40.
At that moment, it would have taken a 62-31 finish to reach the 91 wins they are predicted for in this space.
Only a fool would have jumped aboard that bandwagon in mid-June, but now, anything less than 90 wins for a team that has bordered on dominant in June and July would be a disappointment. The additions of Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez have transformed the lineup, while Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke represent one of most dominant duos in any rotation.
Not only will the Dodgers win the NL West, but they could do major damage in October.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 83-79
Over the course of the first two months of this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks, almost by default in the NL West, were the clear favorites to return to the playoffs come October.
While their chemistry was praised in the aftermath of the Justin Upton deal, it's Upton's new team, Atlanta, looking poised for October.
With the resurgent Dodgers playing excellent baseball, Arizona will be hard-pressed to keep up in the division for the next two months.