Now that we are at the All-Star Break, the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pretenders and will continue to do so. There are about five or six teams that seem to be locks at this point, but crazier things have happened.
In this article I'll be looking at the chances that every single team has of making the playoffs. I'll be looking at how they have been playing so far as well as how other teams are playing in their division. Teams in closer races in their divisions may get hurt a little bit even if they have been playing extremely well.
So, we'll now get on to the list.
The Diamondbacks are one of the biggest surprises to me in the first half. The team has been powered by the sweet swing of Justin Upton and have scored a ton of runs for their pitching staff this season.
They take a bit of a hit for me because they play in the same division as the San Francisco Giants and are currently down three games at the break. They get knocked down a few more spots because they are five games out in the wild card race behind the next team on the list.
If the pitching gets a good bit better in the second half the Diamondbacks' chances greatly increase in my opinion.
The Braves have the third best record in the majors and have the second best pitching staff statistically in the league. They are led offensively by Brian McCann, but the story has been that pitching. Jair Jurrjens has the lowest ERA in the National League, and the Johnny Venters-Craig Kimbrel duo is tough to beat in the eighth and ninth innings.
The Braves may have to settle for the wild card though, as one of the two teams with a better record than them at this point are the Philadelphia Phillies, who are 3.5 games ahead in the division.
The Braves are five games up from a group of teams in the wild card race, and they do have the second best record in the National League by a few games. At this point, I think they are a safe bet to win the wild card because of their pitching.
The Baltimore Orioles have some pretty good young talent in guys like Zach Britton and Adam Jones, but they are still probably a few years away from really making some noise in the AL East.
The Orioles are currently 18 games back in the AL East and 17 out of the wild card race. Barring one of the best turnarounds in recent memory as well as some big flops from other teams, the Orioles won't even be that close to making the playoffs.
After their tough start to the season, the Red Sox have been playing baseball as well as anyone in league. They have been powered by guys like Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz to have the best offense in the majors. They've also managed to put together solid pitching numbers despite how terrible John Lackey has been.
The Red Sox currently lead the AL East by one game over the New York Yankees, who lead the wild card by five games. That gives the Red Sox a six-game cushion at the break to make it to the playoffs.
The way they've been playing this season, that should be plenty going forward.
The Cubs have not been good this year. They are 37-55 this year and are fifth in the NL Central and 12 games back. There have been few bright spots on the team other than the second base-shortstop duo of Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro.
The Cubs have some pieces to build around for the future, but they are looking at "next year" again to end the World Series drought.
The White Sox are a hard team to figure out. It seems like nothing has gone right for them other than Paul Konerko and they are 44-48 on the season, yet they are only five games back in the division.
They will likely have to win the division as its gets tough trying to win the wild card as they are currently 11 games out of that race.
The White Sox may be the best team in the AL Central on paper, but I don't see them turning the season around enough to win the division and make the playoffs.
The Reds can really hit, but the problem is that they have three teams ahead of them in their own division. They haven't gotten very good pitching and it is really hurting the team right now.
Being four games back in the division isn't that bad at the break, it's that there are three teams that you are going to have to pass to win that make it tough. They are also nine games behind the Atlanta Braves in the wild card race with six teams ahead of them.
A move may have to be made to get some pitching in there for them, but we'll have to wait and see if that happens.
After getting off to a great start through May, the Indians are just 15-22 since the beginning of June and now find themselves a half game back in the AL Central.
Now I'm asking myself how much I should believe in this team. They have some very good players, but have faltered lately and are playing more like the team everyone expected to begin the season. That's usually not a goof sign.
I do believe that they will be in the race all the way through and I feel they have just as much a chance at winning the division as the Detroit Tigers. They need to get things turned around though.
The Colorado Rockies have started the season off slow again this year and are just 43-48 on the season. They are also eight games behind the San Francisco Giants and 10.5 behind the Braves.
It just doesn't look too good for the Rockies, but they have put together some strong surges in the past. Will they have enough to overtake the Giants and Diamondbacks? Only time will tell, but I don't think that they will make the playoffs.
The Detroit Tigers were down six games after April when the Cleveland Indians were setting the world on fire. Now they have a half-game lead in the division and have been playing good baseball the past few weeks.
The Tigers have a good shot at making the playoffs, but they are going to need to win the division most likely. The New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox are most likely going to win the wild-card, but the Tigers still have control of the division.
It's going to be a fun second half in the AL Central.
The Marlins have the same record (43-48) as the Colorado Rockies yet they are 14 games back and last in the NL East. At this point it would really take a miracle for the Marlins to make it to the playoffs, as they are going to struggle to even get to third place.
The Marlins have a below-average offense and an average pitching staff statistically. Since the front office doesn't make moves to make the team better immediately, they are what they are at this point and have no real chance at making the playoffs.
The Houston Astros are 30-62, which is by far the worst record in the major leagues. There are rumors surrounding the team trading its top two players in outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, which would really put the club into rebuilding mode.
The Astros may be setting up for a couple of years of not contending as they also have a weak farm system. This team is in trouble, and their 2011 season is already over.
The Royals have a very bright future, but their present is still a little rough. They are currently in last place in the AL Central by 11.5 games.
The Royals just aren't ready to contend for a playoff spot, but they are a team that is competitive and will play teams tough through the rest of the season. That's about it though.
Jered Weaver and Dan Haren form a dynamic duo at the top of the rotation. The pitching staff has been phenomenal all year and has made up for the lack of a big-time offensive player.
The Angels are one game out of the AL West behind the Texas Rangers and are one of the seven teams in the league with at least 50 wins.
The Angels are going to be a team that will be in the hunt the whole season, I just worry that they won't quite be able to keep up with a healthy Rangers team down the stretch and I don't think they'll win the wild card. They do have the pitching that will undoubtedly give them a chance though. A big move may be made to give them a power hitter that they desperately need, but I don't think it will.
Weaver and Haren are going to have to be just as dynamic in the second half.
The Dodgers don't have much going right for them outside of Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, and it is showing this season. They are 11 games out of the division race in the NL West and don't appear to have any hope of making a playoff push.
The Dodgers are in flux as an organization, so don't be surprised if they drop some of their better players in a trade with the deadline closing in.
Even though they are tied in the division, I think that the Brewers are the class of the NL Central. They have an explosive offense that is doing just about everything for the team right now. The fact that Zach Greinke has been as bad as he has been and they are still in the position they are in is really amazing.
Once the pitching comes around to where many expected it to be at the beginning of the year, look for the Brewers to explode and possibly separate themselves from the rest of the division.
The Twins odds are a lot better than I would have had them a month ago, but the team still has a little ways to go in the division.
They are currently sitting at 41-48 and 6.5 games back despite having their best player, Joe Mauer, struggle and miss some time due to injury. The Twins are going to need him to heat up if they are to win the division. The opportunity is there and they could very well win it. I just don't think they will this year.
The Indians and Tigers have been playing pretty well all year, and I expect that to continue, so the Twins are going to have to keep turning it up to win it.
If the Mets were in another division, their chances of making the postseason would be a lot better. Playing in the same division as the Braves and Phillies is always tough though as both are among the top three or four teams in the league.
There have been talks of trading away some of their best players, in particular Jose Reyes, but I don't think that is going to happen to be honest. Statistically, they aren't really THAT far from being a serious contender.
The Yankees currently have the third best record in baseball and are just one game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. They have a good balanced lineup and are pitching better this year than they have the last few seasons.
The fact that they are five games up in the wild card also helps their chances of making the postseason. The Yankees are just too talented and have played too well at this point to not think they will make the playoffs.
Crazy things happen, but I feel sure that they will either win the division or take the wild card.
I'm pretty surprised at how much the Athletics have struggled this year. The struggle has been in large part because they just can't produce any offense despite having one of the best pitching staffs in the league.
A good pitching staff can usually hide a poor offense, but this is not the case for the Athletics and they find themselves 12 games back in the division at the break.
There's really no way that they make the playoffs this season.
As much as it pains me to say as a Braves fan, the Phillies are the best team in baseball. The record speaks for itself in this one.
The Phillies have statistically the best pitching in baseball that is making up for some of the struggles they have had on offense. Now that they are healthy, everything looks like it is falling into place.
The Phillies are 3.5 games up on the Braves in the NL East, which means they are also 8.5 games up over the second highest wild card team. That's a big cushion for the team, and I can pretty much guarantee they will be in the playoffs.
Without question the biggest surprise of the first half, the Pittsburgh Pirates are just one game out of first place in the NL Central with a record of 47-43. The team has attempted to stay balanced and are putting up some decent numbers at the plate and good numbers on the mound.
They are led by Andrew McCutchen, a guy that should be in the MVP talks at this point and is quickly becoming the player that many always felt he had the potential to be.
My only worry is that they won't be able to continue to play so well, and the All-Star Break may not have hurt another team more than the Pirates because they were playing so well.
If they can keep everyone healthy though, they could make a big time move to the playoffs after so many consecutive losing seasons.
The San Diego Padres traded away their best player in Adrian Gonzalez over the offseason as a true sign of rebuilding, so this was expected for the team. They are currently 12 games out at the break with a 40-52 record.
The main problem is a lack of offense, which is usual in San Diego. The pitching has been solid all year, but they haven't gotten much run support. The pitching keeps them competitive though and could make them contenders next year.
Despite not having Buster Posey, the Giants are scoring just enough runs to win games. They are currently three games up in the NL West with a record of 52-40.
The main reason has of course been their phenomenal pitching, which is again one of the very best in the league. Tim Lincecum and company have really pitched well after winning the World Series last year and are setting them up well for another run in the playoffs.
As soon as the Mariners can get another bat or two, they will be all over the AL West. Felix Hernandez leads yet another great pitching staff that unfortunately is joined up with the worst offense in the majors.
The Mariners rank dead last in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. That's not good at all.
The Mariners are 7.5 games back in the division, but the two teams they are behind are the Texas Rangers and the Angels. That's going to make it very tough for them to win the division, but if a trade could happen giving them another couple of bats they just might make it.
As I stated earlier, I think the Brewers are the class of the NL Central and will win out in the long run, but they are currently tied in the division with the Cardinals.
The Cardinals have been doing it lately with the sticks as their pitching has been up and down all year. Being in the top five in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage gives you some room to work with though.
The Cardinals are going to be very, very close to making the playoffs if they don't make it. Only time will tell.
It's tough to be the Tampa Bay Rays. You were 49-41 in the first half, yet you are six games out of first place and five games out of second place.
The Rays have done a good job of scoring runs as well as keeping opponents from scoring. The balance is going to give them a chance, but I feel that they just won't have enough luck to make it to the playoffs. They'll be all over it again in 2012 though.
The Rangers are now healthy with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz back and swinging well, and are up one game in the AL West over the Angels.
With those two sluggers healthy, the Rangers have a chance to make a little separation from the Angels as we start the second half.
The Rangers have the second best offense in the game and pitching has been much better than what it generally has been in the last few years. The good balance that they have makes them a World Series favorite once again.
Jose Bautista has done everything he can do to keep the Blue Jays afloat, but at the break they have a record of 45-47 and are 11 games out of first place in the AL East.
The pitching has been what has held the team back, as they rank 22nd in ERA but sixth in runs scored.
The Blue Jays have their best players locked up for a few years, so there is a chance they make a move in the next few seasons to being a true contender.
The Washington Nationals are currently sitting 11.5 games out of first place in the division and 8.5 games back in the wild card race.
Part of their falling so far behind may be from losing Ryan Zimmerman for so much of the first half, but I doubt he would have made too much of a difference as far as the standings go. The Nationals are an up-and-coming team though with some big time young players, but I think they are still two years away from true contention.