Updated 2014 MLB Playoff Chances with Just 1 Month Remaining

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

Updated 2014 MLB Playoff Chances with Just 1 Month Remaining

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    There is just one month left in the 2014 MLB regular season, and while the playoff picture is starting to take shape, there is still a lot to be decided between now and October.

    In the National League, there are a total of eight teams that can still be called legitimate contenders. The Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers look like safe bets to win their respective divisions, but the NL Central is still up for grabs, and both wild-card slots are wide open.

    The American League picture is similarly cloudy, as there are nine teams that can be called contenders. The Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels look to be in a good position to be playing in October, but the AL Central and AL West are still up for grabs, and the second wild-card spot behind whoever loses out in the AL West is as tight as any race.

    What follows is a look at each team's chances of reaching the postseason, with the following factors taken into account.

    • Recent performance
    • Key players lost or returning from injury
    • Remaining schedule

    So with one full month of baseball to go, here is a division-by-division look at the playoff chances of all 30 MLB teams.

AL East

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    Baltimore Orioles (75-55, First in AL East)

    Losing third baseman Manny Machado to a knee injury is a significant blow for the Orioles, but with the starting rotation rounding into form and one of the best bullpens in baseball, they still look like the class of the AL East.

    They have plenty of offensive firepower, even without Machado, as they lead all of baseball in home runs. Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis are both hitting below .200 since the All-Star break, though, and they will need to pick it up.

    Playoff Chances98 percent


    New York Yankees (68-62, 3.5 Games Back in WC)

    The Yankees may not have landed an impact talent at the deadline, but the handful of veterans they did acquire have helped to keep them in contention. Chief among them is right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who has stepped into the role of staff ace and gone 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA in nine starts.

    A potential September return from Masahiro Tanaka could make things interesting, and Michael Pineda has pitched well since he came off the DL, so this team is far from finished. But the Yanks definitely have their work cut out for them as they look to land a wild-card spot.

    Playoff Chances12 percent


    Toronto Blue Jays (66-66, 6.5 Games Back in WC)

    There was a time in the first half when the Blue Jays looked like the best team in the American League, but with a 33-42 record since the beginning of June, they are hanging on by a thread at this point.

    The starting pitching has regressed significantly, as the Blue Jays rank 27th in MLB with a 4.47 ERA since the All-Star break. Mark Buehrle (6.23 ERA), Drew Hutchison (6.13 ERA) and closer Casey Janssen (7.98 ERA) in particular have struggled, and J.A. Happ is the only starter with an ERA under 4.00 since the break. They need to right the ship quickly if they are going to have a chance of making the playoffs.

    Playoff Chances1 percent


    Out of Contention

    Tampa Bay Rays (64-68)
    Boston Red Sox (58-74)

AL Central

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    Kansas City Royals (73-58, First in AL Central)

    The Royals have not seen the postseason since 1985, but with an 18-6 record in August, they are as hot as any team in baseball and look poised to finally snap that streak. They made plenty of noise last year with a 43-27 second half, but they still finished 5.5 games out of the second wild-card spot.

    "I'd have to say the second half last year was the funnest half I've had, but this one's not over yet. I'm planning on this one being a lot of more fun than the last one, because of the position we're in and what I feel like this group can accomplish," first baseman Billy Butler told Dick Kaegel of MLB.com.

    The Royals' starting rotation has been rock solid all season, and their bullpen features the best 7-8-9 trio in baseball in Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. The offense is not high powered by any means, but they are averaging 4.19 runs per game in the second half, and with the arms they have, that's more than enough to keep winning.

    Playoff Chances64 percent


    Detroit Tigers (71-59, 0.5 Games Back in WC)

    Despite their splash acquisition of ace David Price at the trade deadline, the Tigers have actually lost 5.5 games in the standings here in August, and they've slipped out of first place in the AL Central as a result.

    The bullpen is still a major question mark, and the team has been struggling to fill the fifth spot in the rotation with Anibal Sanchez sidelined. There is still a ton of talent on this roster, and the Tigers have the horses to make some serious noise in October, but first they need to get there.

    Playoff Chances59 percent


    Cleveland Indians (67-63, 4.5 Games Back in WC)

    The Indians have hit their stride of late, going 14-8 in August and climbing back into the playoff picture as a result.

    Corey Kluber remains the clear ace of the staff, but guys like Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer have upped their game behind him. They still look like the third-best team in this division overall, but they put together an impressive late-season run a year ago, and they appear to be gearing up for a similar push this September.

    Playoff Chances8 percent


    Out of Contention

    Chicago White Sox (59-72)
    Minnesota Twins (58-73)

AL West

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    Los Angeles Angels (78-53, First in AL West)

    Barring something crazy happening, the Angels and Athletics should both earn a playoff spot, but the fight for the division title could go down to the season's final days.

    Losing Garrett Richards was a serious blow for the Angels, and they could make a push to acquire someone like Bartolo Colon before the end of the month as a result. In any event, they'll need Jered Weaver to step into the role of ace and Matt Shoemaker to keep his impressive rookie season going.

    The offense shouldn't be a question, as the Angels have had one of the best attacks in baseball top to bottom all year. It will be all about the starting pitching and whether they can hold it together.

    Playoff Chances99 percent


    Oakland Athletics (77-54, 5.5 Games Up in WC)

    The Athletics are 8-4 against the Angels head-to-head this year, and they have seven games left against them as they look to lock down the AL West title.

    The offense has sputtered since the trade of Yoenis Cespedes, as the A's are hitting just .229 as a team while going 11-13 in August. Brandon Moss (.177 BA) and Coco Crisp (.169 BA), among others, will need to pick things up down the stretch for their offense to get back to where it was in the first half.

    The starting pitching has also dropped off this month, and the trio of Scott Kazmir (6.28 ERA), Jeff Samardzija (4.65 ERA) and Sonny Gray (4.50 ERA) need to return to front-line form as well. The question is whether August is a bump in the road or the beginning of the A's downfall, but for the time being, they get the benefit of the doubt with the former.

    Playoff Chances99 percent


    Seattle Mariners (72-59, 0.5 Games up in WC)

    For as good as the two teams above them in the standings have been this year, the Mariners have the best record in the division this month at 16-7.

    Their pitching currently leads all of baseball with a 2.92 ERA, and their bullpen has been a serious weapon behind a surprisingly good rotation. Offensively, Dustin Ackley (.315 BA, .868 OPS) has caught fire in the second half, giving them another weapon alongside Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.

    With 13 games left against the Angels and Athletics, the M's don't have an easy road ahead, but they're as hot as anyone right now.

    Playoff Chances: 60 percent


    Out of Contention

    Houston Astros (56-77)
    Texas Rangers (51-80)

NL East

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    Washington Nationals (75-56, First in NL East)

    At 12-3 in their last 15 games, no team is hotter than the Nationals, and they have opened up a 7.5-game lead in the NL East as a result.

    The starting rotation is firing on all cylinders behind the duo of Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann, the bullpen has been bolstered by the addition of veteran left-hander Matt Thornton and the offense has no clear hole after the deadline pickup of second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera.

    They have six games left against the Atlanta Braves and non-division series with the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers, but they are as close to a sure thing to reach October as any team in baseball right now.

    Playoff Chances99 percent


    Atlanta Braves (68-64, 1.5 Games Back in WC)

    The Braves lost considerable ground in the division with a rough patch earlier this month, but they have started to pick things up again here to close out August. Catching the Nationals in the NL East standings might be tough, but they are still one of the front-runners for a wild-card spot.

    The trio of Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Jason Heyward are carrying the offense right now, but the starting rotation remains hit and miss after a fantastic start to the season. The Braves are as streaky as any team in baseball, but with a favorable schedule the rest of the way and some momentum heading into September, they look to be in decent shape.

    Playoff Chances57 percent


    Miami Marlins (65-66, 4.0 Games Back in WC)

    The fact that the Marlins are even in the conversation here is impressive, considering they are just a year removed from a 100-loss season.

    With 18 of their 31 remaining games on the road, where they are 28-35, and 18 total games against the Nationals, Braves and Milwaukee Brewers, it's a tough road ahead, to say the least. On an individual level, a winning record on the year could be enough for Giancarlo Stanton to walk away with NL MVP honors.

    Playoff Chances2 percent


    Out of Contention

    New York Mets (62-70)
    Philadelphia Phillies (60-72)

NL Central

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    Milwaukee Brewers (73-59, First in NL Central)

    They have had their ups and downs, but the Brewers have held at least a share of the NL Central lead since April 4. They have their work cut out for them holding off the St. Louis Cardinals, who they have seven games left with head-to-head, but they should find their way into the playoffs one way or another.

    Mike Fiers has given the rotation a big boost stepping in for the injured Matt Garza, while Aramis Ramirez leads the National League with a .407 average in August. Provided they can stay healthy the rest of the way, all the pieces are there for this team to be a legitimate contender.

    Playoff Chances91 percent


    St. Louis Cardinals (71-60, 3.5 Games Up in WC)

    The Cardinals have not been nearly as dominant as many expected them to be this year, but they have a history of putting together late-season runs, and they could be gearing up for another one this year.

    Yadier Molina and Michael Wacha are expected back sometime next month, John Lackey has turned in three straight quality starts and the offense as a whole has been improved, as the team is averaging a respectable 4.25 runs per game this month.

    Outside of their seven remaining games with the Brewers, the Cards have a very favorable schedule, including a pair of non-division matchups with the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. Look for them to make a serious run at the division title, but if nothing else, they should be able to secure a wild-card spot.

    Playoff Chances: 82 percent


    Pittsburgh Pirates (68-64, 1.5 Games Back in WC)

    While Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen both recently came off the DL, McCutchen is still far from 100 percent, and he had to leave Tuesday's game with rib discomfort after going 0-for-3. That's a significant issue, as the Pirates are now 4-9 in their last 13 games and can't afford to continue sliding.

    After they wrap up their current series with the Cardinals, they'll have only 10 games left against teams with a winning record, so that could certainly work in their favor down the stretch. A four-game series at the end of September against the Braves could prove to be a big one, as that could very well be a battle for the second wild-card spot.

    Playoff Chances30 percent


    Out of Contention

    Cincinnati Reds (63-69)
    Chicago Cubs (59-72)

NL West

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    Los Angeles Dodgers (75-58, First in NL West)

    The Dodgers have dealt with their fair share of injuries of late, turning to the likes of Kevin Correia and Roberto Hernandez in the rotation as a result, but they have still managed a 21-15 record here in the second half.

    Getting Hyun-Jin Ryu and Hanley Ramirez healthy will be big heading into October, but they should be able to lock down the NL West title even if those two are hobbled the rest of the regular season. A three-game series with the Nationals and six more games head-to-head with the Giants are the only games the Dodgers have left against teams with a winning record.

    Playoff Chances99 percent


    San Francisco Giants (69-62, 1.5 Games Up in WC)

    Since starting the year 42-21 and opening up a 9.5-game lead in the division, the Giants have gone just 27-41 and have seen that lead turn into a five-game deficit.

    The offense has been solid this month, averaging 4.22 runs per game, but the starting rotation continues to be shaky, and the team finally pulled the trigger on moving Tim Lincecum to the bullpen. Perhaps that will spark the staff as a whole for a late-season surge; it certainly did something to Madison Bumgarner, who took a perfect game into the eighth inning on Tuesday.

    The Giants don't have the easiest of draws the rest of the way either, with series against the Brewers and Tigers to go along with their six remaining games with the Dodgers. But a wild-card spot is still very much within reach.

    Playoff Chances: 40 percent


    Out of Contention

    San Diego Padres (61-70)
    Arizona Diamondbacks (55-77)
    Colorado Rockies (53-78)


    All stats and standings courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted and accurate through Tuesday, Aug. 26. Projected chances for both leagues will add up to 500 percent, as there are five playoff slots available on each side.