Every MLB Contenders' 2014 Playoff Odds with One Month Remaining

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2014

Every MLB Contenders' 2014 Playoff Odds with One Month Remaining

0 of 16

    Al Bello/Getty Images

    And then there was one.

    The marathon that is MLB's six-month regular season is down to its final leg, with 15 teams sprinting toward the finish line that has become visible on the horizon.

    Five months down, one to go. For those teams that fancy themselves contenders, the playoffs start today. Regardless of their place in the standings, every game left on the schedule has become a must-win for these clubs.

    Some are hanging on by a thread, knowing that their next loss might be the one that puts the final nail in their coffin. Others are looking for more breathing room and the ability to rest key players down the stretch to ensure they are fresh—and healthy—for the playoffs.

    For our purposes, teams must be within five games of a playoff spot to qualify as a contender, and we'll look at the following criteria as we determine each team's playoff odds:

    • Remaining schedule
    • Recent performance
    • Key players that have recently (or are expected to) return from injury
    • Current place in the standings

    Note, all three criteria are not created equal, and significant importance is being placed upon a team's remaining schedule. After all, a team can only control what's in front of them, not what has already transpired.

    With that in mind, let's take a look at the odds for each contender playing meaningful October baseball as we enter the season's final month. Teams are listed in order of least likely to most likely.

Toronto Blue Jays

1 of 16

    Jose Bautista can only carry Toronto so far without help.
    Jose Bautista can only carry Toronto so far without help.Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Record: 69-67 (5 GB in wild card)

    Games Left: 26 (13 home, 13 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 14

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .502 (409-406)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 31-29 (.517)

    Key Series: at New York (Sept. 18-21), vs. Seattle (Sept. 22-25)

     

    Overview

    Even after taking two of three from the Yankees and getting big-time performances from young starters Drew Hutchison (0.69 ERA, 13 IP, 16 K) and Marcus Stroman (1.17 ERA, 7.2 IP, 6 K) over the past week, Jose Bautista isn't ready to say the Blue Jays are back in the playoff hunt.

    “I don’t want to talk about their bright future as if this season was over,” Bautista, who heads into September having hit a home run in five consecutive games, told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Sun. “I think they’re going to be able to help us win games in the rest of this season and hopefully we win enough of them to get us back in the playoff contention.”

    After a 9-17 August, it's going to take more than hope for Toronto to reach the postseason.

    Toronto not only needs to go on a run like they did in May (21-6), but with games against only two of the five teams that it's chasing for a wild-card berth, it needs some outside help as well—and fast.

    That's asking for a lot—probably too much at this point.

    The odds are far better that Toronto will find itself out of contention before they hit the really brutal part of the schedule, which finds the Blue Jays facing Baltimore, New York, Seattle and Baltimore again over its last 13 games of the season.

     

    Playoff Odds: 1 percent

New York Yankees

2 of 16

    Masahiro Tanaka isn't going to save the day in the Bronx.
    Masahiro Tanaka isn't going to save the day in the Bronx.Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images

    Record: 70-65 (3.5 GB in wild card)

    Games Left: 27 (17 home, 10 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 15

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .513 (348-331)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 26-30 (.464)

    Key Series: Sept. 12-14 (at Baltimore), Sept. 18-21 (vs. Toronto)

     

    Overview

    The Yankees had a chance to gain ground on Detroit and put some distance between themselves and Toronto last week and failed on both fronts, dropping two of three to each. That doesn't bode well for a team that has one of the toughest schedules down the stretch.

    Only Seattle faces opponents with a higher winning percentage (.533) than the Yankees do, and unlike the Bronx Bombers, Robinson Cano's squad has the pitching needed to get them to the promised land.

    You can forget about Masahiro Tanaka returning to save the day, with the rookie dealing with "general soreness" in his arm, pushing back his timetable on a potential return by at least a week, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal (video link):

    And if you know, as you've read, Tanaka went back to New York (Friday). He wants to work with a physical therapist there. He wanted to back off his throwing program. He had general soreness in his arm and he believes, according to Cashman, that it's from a lack of cardiovascular fitness, that he needs to get back in shape a little bit better before he returns to the mound. So they're going to back off him for a week and then try again.

    Maybe the Yankees can get a start or two out of him toward the end of the month—but the dream of Derek Jeter playing meaningful baseball in October one last time may very well be over before then.

    The team's erratic offense continues to undermine what has been Joe Girardi's best managerial job to date, while the arms that picked up the slack in Tanaka's absence, like Brandon McCarthy, are showing their warts. Over his last two starts (12.1 IP), McCarthy has allowed nine earned runs and 14 hits.

     

    Playoff Odds: 5 percent

Cleveland Indians

3 of 16

    Can Cleveland REALLY count on Carlos Carrasco in a must-win September game?
    Can Cleveland REALLY count on Carlos Carrasco in a must-win September game?David Banks/Getty Images

    Record: 70-64 (3.5 GB AL Central, 3 GB in wild card)

    Games Left: 30 (17 home, 13 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 12

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .509 (425-410)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 35-33 (.515)

    Key Series: vs. Detroit (Sept. 1-4), at Detroit (Sept. 12-14), vs. Kansas City (Sept. 22-24)

     

    Overview

    Bolstered by a starting rotation that pitched to the lowest August ERA in baseball (2.57), Cleveland won seven of its last 10 games and heads into September on a roll.

    With eight of their first 13 games coming against Detroit (seven) and Los Angeles (one), the Tribe is going to need that pitching to sustain that kind of success for a few more weeks. That's especially true for when they go up against the Tigers, who they are chasing in both the division and wild card.

    Therein lies the rub: Outside of Corey Kluber, the rotation has been pretty mediocre all season long. Consider Carlos Carrasco, who has made eight starts for the team this season:

    SplitERAWHIPIPHBB/K
    First four starts6.951.5022.0249/23
    Four Aug. starts0.730.5724.2113/24

    Some regression seems far more likely than the group—including Carrasco—continuing their recent success does.

    Even if they run the table against the Tigers, the Indians still have to get past Seattle (and Oakland perhaps as well) to claim a wild-card spot. That's tough to do when you don't face either team the rest of the way.

    Realistically, Cleveland's best shot at reaching the playoffs might be as division champs, which makes the three-plus game series* against Kansas City toward the end of the month the biggest series of them all—so long as they take care of business before then.

     

    Playoff Odds: 25 percent 

     

    *The Aug. 31 game between Cleveland and Kansas City, which the Indians led 4-2 in the top of the 10th inning, was suspended due to rain and will be completed before the start of their game on Sept. 22.

Pittsburgh Pirates

4 of 16

    Andrew McCutchen continues to produce despite playing in pain.
    Andrew McCutchen continues to produce despite playing in pain.Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Record: 71-65 (2 GB in NL Central and wild card)

    Games Left: 26 (9 home, 17 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 10

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .494 (467-478)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 32-35 (.478)

    Key Series: Sept. 1-3 (at St. Louis), Sept. 19-21 (vs. Milwaukee), Sept. 22-25 (at Atlanta)

     

    Overview

    Pittsburgh doesn't like playing games away from PNC Park, evidenced by the team's 27-37 road record. That's a .422 winning percentage and a major problem for a team that starts September on a 10-game road trip and ends the month on a seven-game jaunt.

    If Andrew McCutchen and Co. can buck that trend and emerge from that 10-game trip with a winning record, they'll be rewarded with six winnable games at home against the Cubs and Red Sox before Milwaukee comes to town. 

    Of all the team's renaming foes, the Brewers have proven to be the most difficult, beating the Pirates 11 times in 16 games, including five of seven in Pittsburgh.

    A lot of things are going to have to go right for the Pirates to reach the playoffs for a second straight season.

     

    Playoff Odds: 35 percent

Atlanta Braves

5 of 16

    Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton need help if the Braves are going to turn things around.
    Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton need help if the Braves are going to turn things around.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Record: 71-64 (6 GB in NL East, 1 GB in wild card)

    Games Left: 25 (12 home, 13 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 10

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .482 (393-422)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 36-25 (.590)

    Key Series: Sept. 8-10 at Washington, Sept. 22-25 vs. Pittsburgh

     

    Overview

    Atlanta has played losing baseball since May 1, yet remains in the thick of the race for a wild-card spot and still with an outside chance of defending their NL East crown.

    For the latter to happen, the Braves are going to have to continue their domination of Washington, a team they've beaten nine times in 13 games. 

    Atlanta has hovered around .500 since the beginning of May, going 54-56 after a sizzling 17-8 start to the season and has more games on the road than they do at Turner Field, which is an issue for a club that has struggled away from home.

    A three-game stint against Washington in early September will likely decide the division, and while the Braves have gone 9-4 against their division rivals this season, anything can happen. Should they fail to catch the Nats in the NL East, a late-season showdown against Pittsburgh could be for a wild-card berth.

    It'd be a lot easier to project the Braves as a playoff team if someone besides Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward or Justin Upton would do something—anything—productive at the plate. After that trio, the team's most dangerous bat among regulars in August was Chris Johnson, he of the .633 OPS.

    Even with a relatively easy schedule, Atlanta's maddeningly inconsistent offense could ultimately be their toughest opponent.

     

    Playoff Odds: 45 percent

Detroit Tigers

6 of 16

    Miguel Cabrera hasn't been his usual MVP-caliber self for most of the year.
    Miguel Cabrera hasn't been his usual MVP-caliber self for most of the year.Jeffrey Phelps/Getty Images

    Record: 74-62 (0.5 GB in AL Central, second in wild card)

    Games Left: 26 (16 home, 10 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 16

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .500 (339-339)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 28-25 (.520)

    Key Series: Sept. 1-4 (at Cleveland), Sept. 8-10 (vs. Kansas City), Sept. 19-21 (at Kansas City)

     

    Overview

    Three games under .500 (21-24) since the All-Star break, Detroit finds itself in a battle for its playoff livelihood with a month to go.

    Last year's AL ERA leader, Anibal Sanchez, believes that he might miss the rest of the season due to injury, according to MLive's James Schmehl, while the ankle issue that has bothered Miguel Cabrera all season may force manager Brad Ausmus to augment his lineup down the stretch, per MLive's Chris Iott.

    Ausmus said he recently discussed the idea of giving Cabrera four or five consecutive days off to rest the ankle. He said that could still happen at some point between now and the end of the season.

    He also made it clear he doesn't expect the injury to be 100 percent healed until after the 2014 season ends.

    That isn't going to make the 13-game stretch that the Tigers begin September on when they face Cleveland (twice), Kansas City and San Francisco any easier. Throw in the team's continuing issues at the back of the bullpen and it's not all that difficult to see Detroit missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

     

    Playoff Odds: 50 percent

Milwaukee Brewers

7 of 16

    Jonathan Broxton will help in the late innings, but Milwaukee's offense continues to sputter.
    Jonathan Broxton will help in the late innings, but Milwaukee's offense continues to sputter.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Record: 73-63 (tied for first in NL Central, tied for second in wild card)

    Games Left: 26 (14 home, 12 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 10

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .495 (337-344)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 31-26 (.544)

    Key Series: Sept. 4-7 (vs. St. Louis), Sept. 16-18 (at St. Louis), Sept. 19-21 (at Pittsburgh)

     

    Overview

    Playing .500 baseball (26-26) since the All-Star break has landed Milwaukee exactly where it didn't want to be—facing must-win games in September against division rivals.

    The Brewers face a potentially devastating nine-game road trip from Sept. 16-25 that takes them to St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the latter of which has given the Brew Crew fits this season and would love nothing more than to ruin their postseason aspirations.

    Adding Jonathan Broxton to the bullpen will help to solidify a unit that has pitched to a mediocre 4.38 second-half ERA, but the team failed to address its biggest issue: the offense.

    A lineup that produced the sixth-most runs in baseball over the first half (423) has crossed home plate only 157 times since, putting the Brewers in a tie with the Cubs for 21st in baseball. 

     

    Playoff Odds: 55 percent

Seattle Mariners

8 of 16

    Dustin Ackley and Kendrys Morales must continue to produce for Seattle to sneak into the playoffs.
    Dustin Ackley and Kendrys Morales must continue to produce for Seattle to sneak into the playoffs.Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Record: 73-62 (0.5 GB in wild card)

    Games Left: 27 (9 home, 18 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 13

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .533 (342-340)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 31-25 (.554)

    Key Series: Sept. 1-3 (at Oakland), Sept. 12-14 (vs. Oakland)

     

    Overview

    For other teams, playing nearly 70 percent of its games on the road in September would be a major issue. That's not the case in Seattle, where the Mariners own the American League's best road record (37-26), second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers (43-28) for the top spot in baseball.

    What is a major issue is that the Mariners have one of the toughest remaining schedules of any contending club.

    A seven-game stretch from Sept. 12-18 finds them playing the Angels and A's, and after three games against Houston, another rough seven game-stretch against the Angels and Blue Jays awaits them to finish the season.

    While the team's pitching has been superb all season long, Seattle's playoff hopes rest on the bats of Dustin Ackley, Kendrys Morales and Logan Morrison, all three showing signs of life in August after struggling for much of the year.

    If the team's offense reverts back to relying solely on Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, you can kiss the team's playoff hopes goodbye.

     

    Playoff Odds: 55 percent

Kansas City Royals

9 of 16

    Eric Hosmer should be a part-time player upon his return from the disabled list.
    Eric Hosmer should be a part-time player upon his return from the disabled list.Colin E. Braley/Associated Press

    Record: 74-61 (first place in AL Central)

    Games Left: 27 (13 home, 14 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 13

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .478 (389-425)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 25-28 (.472)

    Key Series: Sept. 8-10 at Detroit, Sept. 19-21 vs. Detroit, Sept. 22-24 at Cleveland

     

    Overview

    While Kansas City's remaining opponents don't have a great combined record, the Royals have struggled against the teams they have left to face. Of the six teams on their schedule, the Royals have winning records against only two: Chicago (8-4) and Texas (2-1).

    That said, the Royals tied Baltimore for baseball's best August record (19-9) despite dropping their last three games, and they have reinforcements on the way. First baseman Eric Hosmer, out since late July with a fractured hand, has begun his Triple-A rehab assignment (h/t Reuters) and could be back in about a week.

    When he does return, the Royals cannot afford to give him his starting job back.

    Billy Butler has rediscovered his All-Star form as the full-time first baseman, hitting .292/.350/.451 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 30 games, a major factor in Kansas City's August success.

    For the team to continue that success in September, leaving Butler alone while platooning the left-handed Hosmer with the right-handed Josh Willingham as the team's designated hitter is the right move to make. 

    As for the schedule, the team's playoff hopes will be decided by a seven-game stretch* against Detroit and Cleveland toward the end of the month. Considering how much trouble the Royals have had against their division rivals (a combined 11-18 this season), ending the team's 29-year playoff drought is far from a sure thing.

     

    Playoff Odds: 55 percent

     

    *The Aug. 31 game between Cleveland and Kansas City, which the Indians led 4-2 in the top of the 10th inning, was suspended due to rain and will be completed before the start of their game on Sept. 22.

St. Louis Cardinals

10 of 16

    Yadier Molina's return to action might be the biggest boost any contender got heading into September.
    Yadier Molina's return to action might be the biggest boost any contender got heading into September.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Record: 73-63 (tied for first in NL Central, tied for second in wild card)

    Games Left: 26 (12 home, 14 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 10

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .477 (325-357)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 38-23 (.622)

    Key Series: Sept. 1-3 (vs. Pittsburgh), Sept. 4-7 (vs. Milwaukee)

     

    Overview

    If St. Louis can win more than it loses over the next week, the Cardinals will be in fantastic shape for the rest of the season.

    After a seven-game stretch against the Pirates (three) and Brewers (four), St. Louis plays only three of its remaining 19 games against a winning club (Milwaukee at Busch Stadium, Sept. 16-18).

    The impact of Yadier Molina's return behind the plate can't be understated. Not only is he one of the premier catchers in the game and a terrific hitter, but he's the Cardinals' unquestioned leader in the clubhouse. That last part wasn't lost on manager Mike Matheny.

    "I think he (Molina) can have a huge impact, and I think anybody in baseball would want to have him on their club in any capacity," manager Mike Matheny told MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch. "We want to have him right, too, so we have to see how he looks when he gets back. The leadership he brings, everything, the package, is important."

    With a relatively easy schedule against competition that they have dominated this season, the Cardinals have to be considered one of the favorites to land in the postseason.

     

    Playoff Odds: 70 percent

San Francisco Giants

11 of 16

    The Giants could use Madison Bumgarner's 1.58 ERA and 0.58 WHIP in August for another month...or two.
    The Giants could use Madison Bumgarner's 1.58 ERA and 0.58 WHIP in August for another month...or two.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Record: 74-62 (2.5 GB in NL West, first place in wild card)

    Games Left: 25 (10 home, 15 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 9

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .479 (326-354)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 28-25 (.528)

    Key Series: Sept. 12-14 (vs. Los Angeles (NL)), Sept. 22-24 (at Los Angeles (NL))

     

    Overview

    As Bleacher Report's Scott Miller so aptly noted recently, San Francisco's postseason destiny lies in the arms of its pitching staff, which is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in that many of those arms, such as Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson, are battle-tested veterans who know what it takes to win in September.

    It's a curse in that, as Miller notes, this isn't your Giants' staff of old. While the rotation was terrific in August, pitching to a 2.95 ERA (tied with Los Angeles (AL) and Washington for the fourth-lowest mark in baseball), the bullpen wasn't up to the challenge, with a 3.97 ERA that found them tied with Toronto for 19th overall.

    The good news for the Giants, however, is that they have one of the easier schedules of any contender. Even if they stumble in their six games left against the Dodgers, the rest of the schedule is favorable enough that the Giants should be able to slide into the playoffs as a wild-card team.

     

    Playoff Odds: 80 percent

Oakland Athletics

12 of 16

    The addition of Adam Dunn may be too little, too late for Oakland.
    The addition of Adam Dunn may be too little, too late for Oakland.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Record: 78-58 (5 GB in AL West, first place in wild card)

    Games Left: 26 (15 home, 11 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 9

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .479 (392-426)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 33-27 (.550)

    Key Series: Sept. 1-3 (vs. Seattle), Sept. 12-14 (at Seattle)

     

    Overview

    Coming off its first losing month of the season (12-17), Oakland heads into September a desperate team.

    Their lead in the AL West gone, the A's, who for much of the season had baseball's most productive offense, suddenly can't hit and are now battling for their playoff lives. Trading for veteran slugger Adam Dunn should help, but he's historically at his worst in September.

    Asking him to energize the team's moribund lineup is asking a lot.

    If there's a silver lining to Oakland's slide, it's that they face only two teams—the Angels and Mariners—with winning records the rest of the way.

    Seattle holds a 7-6 advantage over the A's so far this season, but if they can take four of six from the Mariners down the stretch, they'll all but guarantee themselves a spot in the postseason.

    If they can't, things could get interesting, though the ease of their remaining schedule (Chicago (AL), Houston, Philadelphia and Texas) should find the A's still playing meaningful October baseball.

     

    Playoff Odds: 90 percent

Los Angeles Dodgers

13 of 16

    The Dodgers need a healthy Hanley Ramirez in the lineup down the stretch.
    The Dodgers need a healthy Hanley Ramirez in the lineup down the stretch.Denis Poroy/Getty Images

    Record: 77-60 (first place in NL West)

    Games Left: 25 (15 home, 10 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 9

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .475 (387-428)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 34-25 (.576)

    Key Series: Sept. 12-14 (vs. San Francisco), Sept. 22-24 (at San Francisco)

     

    Overview

    No team in baseball has an easier remaining schedule than the Dodgers, who face a winning team only three times over their final 13 games of the season. But Los Angeles hasn't been able to put significant distance between itself and San Francisco, with only a 2.5-game lead over the Giants and six games left between the longtime rivals.

    Taking two of three from the Giants when they visit Dodger Stadium would all but lock the division up for the Dodgers, given the rest of their schedule, which includes 12 games against Arizona, Colorado and San Diego, against whom the Dodgers have gone 31-14.

    Getting Hanley Ramirez back from injury in late August was a plus, but the uber-talented infielder has looked rusty, hitting only .167 (4-for-24) with seven strikeouts in six games.

    The Dodgers don't necessarily need the MVP-caliber version of Han-Ram to appear, but he's go to provide something at the plate if they're going to hold off the Giants.

    That said, even if San Francisco took the division, Los Angeles would be sitting pretty in a wild-card spot. 

     

    Playoff Odds: 95 percent

Washington Nationals

14 of 16

    Should the Nationals use Ryan Zimmerman as a utility player?
    Should the Nationals use Ryan Zimmerman as a utility player?Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Record: 77-57 (first place in NL East)

    Games Left: 27 (13 home, 14 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 9

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .500 (341-341)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 30-25 (.545)

    Key Series: Sept. 8-10 (vs. Atlanta), Sept. 15-17 (at Atlanta)

     

    Overview

    The good news for Washington is that its last 24 games come against the rest of the National League East, 13 of them in the comfort of Nationals Park, where the club has the third-best home record in all of baseball (43-25).

    While the return of Ryan Zimmerman (hamstring) sometime in September will give the lineup a boost, the Nationals haven't really missed him. Since the All-Star break, they lead baseball in runs scored (184) and OPS (.744) while leading the National League in batting average (.269).

    The team would be insane to play Zimmerman every day upon his return, given his inability to stay healthy (he's missed 80 games this season), but the former All-Star would be incredibly valuable as a part-time utility player. He could fill in at first base, third base and in left field when needed while giving manager Matt Williams a powerful right-handed bat to call upon off the bench late in games.

    The bad news is that the Nationals have to go on an 11-game road trip in the middle of the month, one that will take them to Turner Field in Atlanta. The Braves have had the Nats' number this season, taking five of six from Washington in Atlanta and nine of 13 overall.

    Owners of the National League's best record, the question for the Nationals isn't whether they'll be playing meaningful baseball in October: It's whether they'll do so as NL East champions for the second time in three years.

    Taking care of business against Atlanta in early September would make their follow-up series relatively meaningless.

     

    Playoff Odds: 97 percent

Baltimore Orioles

15 of 16

    Baltimore could be unstoppable if Chris Davis can finally awaken his slumbering bat.
    Baltimore could be unstoppable if Chris Davis can finally awaken his slumbering bat.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Record: 79-56 (first place in AL East)

    Games Left: 26 (13 home, 13 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 14

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .477 (390-427)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 37-22 (.627)

    Key Series: Sept. 12-14 (vs. New York (AL))

     

    Overview

    Sitting with a nine-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East—the biggest lead that any first-place team enjoys—and the easiest remaining schedule among Junior Circuit clubs, it would take a collapse of epic proportions for Baltimore to not reach the playoffs.

    Sure, we've seen stranger things happen before, but the Orioles don't even see a team with a winning record until they welcome New York into Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 12—a team they've beaten eight times in 11 games.

    That they've been able to go on such a run without much in the way of production from Chris Davis (.190 BA, .699 OPS) remains one of the most impressive things about the Orioles. While he's still not hitting for average (.154 BA in August), Davis did hit monthly highs in home runs (seven) and RBI (17).

    If skipper Buck Showalter can somehow figure out how to get the rest of Davis' offensive game going, Baltimore could give Los Angeles a run for its money when it comes to the American League's best record.

     

    Playoff Odds: 99 percent

Los Angeles Angels

16 of 16

    Matt Shoemaker has effectively replaced Garrett Richards as the ace of the Angels rotation.
    Matt Shoemaker has effectively replaced Garrett Richards as the ace of the Angels rotation.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Record: 83-53 (first place in AL West)

    Games Left: 26 (10 home, 16 away)

    Games Left vs. Winning Teams (.500 or better): 11

    Opponents' Winning Percentage: .481 (392-423)

    Record vs. Remaining Opponents: 40-24 (.625)

    Key Series: Sept. 15-18 (vs. Seattle)

     

    Overview

    After ending August with a dominant four-game sweep of Oakland, outscoring the A's 18 to 4, ESPN's David Schoenfield anointed Los Angeles as champions of the AL West:

    When Garrett Richards, the best pitcher on the Los Angeles Angels in 2014 and one of the best pitchers in the league, went down with a knee injury on Aug. 20, the consensus seemed to be: The AL West race is over; the Angels didn't have the rotation depth to survive his loss, especially with veterans Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson not what they once were. 

    The West is over. Except it's the Angels, who finished off a four-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with an 8-1 win on Sunday, and not the A's, who are going to win the division. The sweep pushed the Angels' lead over the A's to five games, had winning pitcher Matt Shoemaker calling it a "huge series for us in regards to the playoffs," saw Angels fans chanting "Sweep! Sweep!" late in the game and caused normally placid Oakland manager Bob Melvin to call out his team: "They should be embarrassed." 

    With baseball's best record and one of the easiest remaining schedules—the Angels play one game against a winning team (a makeup game against Cleveland on Sept. 8)—over the first two weeks of September, it's hard to argue against Schoenfield.

    Mike Trout continues to produce at an MVP level, the team's revamped bullpen has been terrific, pitching to a 2.64 ERA in August despite throwing more innings (102.1) than any other team, and, perhaps most importantly, the Angels have shattered the confidence of its stiffest competition for the division.

     

    Playoff Odds: 99 percent

     

    All schedules and statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs and are current through games of Aug. 31.

    Hit me up on Twitter to talk all things baseball: @RickWeinerBR