Updated 2015 MLB Playoff Odds with Just 6 Weeks to Go

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2015

Updated 2015 MLB Playoff Odds with Just 6 Weeks to Go

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    With about six weeks remaining in the 2015 MLB campaign, the postseason races are beginning to take shape.

    In most cases, the picture remains in flux, with multiple teams jockeying for position. Really, other than the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central, no division or wild-card winner is a foregone conclusion.

    But we've seen enough baseball to officially label this the homestretch and assess the odds of each contender advancing past the regular season.

    In arriving at these odds, we'll primarily consider three factors:

    • Current standings
    • Recent performance, including any recent key injuries
    • Remaining schedule

    As for the squads we dismissed as out of contention: Obviously no one has been mathematically eliminated at this point, but we're only weighing the odds of clubs with a reasonable shot. That could change, of course, with a miraculous winning (or losing) streak.

    Finally, we'll add a dash of gut feeling. Because, particularly with the advent of the second wild card, MLB's October scramble is bound to toss in a few curveballs.

AL East

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Contenders

    Toronto Blue Jays (71-55; 2 games up in AL East)

    The Toronto Blue Jays have been flying high since adding ace southpaw David Price and All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at the trade deadline, including an 18-4 record so far in the month of August.

    And while they haven't gained enough separation to be labeled postseason locks, they appear an increasingly safe bet to bust the franchise's 22-year playoff drought, the longest in North American professional sports.

    The Jays and New York Yankees clash seven times in September—three times in Toronto and four times in the Bronx—with those contests likely to decide the outcome of the division race.

    Postseason Chances: 95 percent

    New York Yankees (69-57; 4 games up for the No. 1 AL wild card)

    Toronto has crashed the Yankees' party and forced the Bronx Bombers into the wild-card fray.

    As mentioned, however, New York has seven more cracks at the Blue Jays, including four games at home. Yes, there are questions surrounding the starting rotation and the aging offensive core.

    But these Yanks haven't scored the second-most runs in MLB (behind Toronto) by accident.

    Postseason Chances: 90 percent

    Baltimore Orioles (63-63; 2 games back for the No. 2 AL wild card)

    The Baltimore Orioles have lost seven of their last 10 to drop back to .500.

    Yet the defending AL East champs are just two games off the pace for the second wild card. And they offered fans a glimmer of hope Wednesday as they knocked around Kansas City Royals ace Johnny Cueto in an 8-5 victory.

    Still, the O's had better crank up the urgency, as skipper Buck Showalter outlined.

    "There's so much negativism around you when things are going poorly, and there's so much over-positiveness when things are going well," Showalter said, per Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. "You try to stay in reality, but because of the reality of how many games we have left and where we are trying to get, it does put a different spin on it at this time of the year."

    Postseason Chances: 15 percent

    Tampa Bay Rays (62-64; 3 games back for the No. 2 AL wild card)

    You might have forgotten the small-market, unassuming Tampa Bay Rays were still in this thing. But here they sit, on the fringes of the wild-card chase thanks to a pitching staff that ranks fourth in the AL in ERA (3.70).

    The Rays will be tested over their next 10 games, all of which are against teams with .500 records or better, including three on the road against Baltimore.

    That stretch may well determine whether Tampa Bay can keep its intriguing, improbable contender act going.

    Postseason Chances: 10 percent

    Non-Contender

    Boston Red Sox (58-69)

AL Central

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Contenders

    Kansas City Royals (77-49; 12 games up in AL Central)

    The only true open-and-shut division leader in baseball, the Kansas City Royals can safely begin making their October plans.

    Surely those plans include a return trip to the Fall Classic, and this time a Commissioner's Trophy.

    That's a long way and a lot of drama off. For now, the Royals are repeating their winning formula—speed, defense, timely hitting and a shutdown bullpen—with unimpeachable results.

    Postseason Chances: 99 percent

    Minnesota Twins (65-61; 0.5 game up for the No. 2 AL wild card)

    First, let's take a moment to appreciate the Minnesota Twins, a club virtually no one expected to be holding on to a postseason spot this late in the season.

    The Twins have reeled off six straight victories to vault back into the wild-card money, and they will play 18 of 28 games in September against clubs with losing records.

    Catching Kansas City is essentially out of the question, but Minnesota could still shock the world and punch a playoff ticket.

    Postseason Chances: 20 percent

    Non-Contenders

    Cleveland Indians (60-66)

    Detroit Tigers (60-66)

    Chicago White Sox (59-66) 

AL West

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Contenders

    Houston Astros (71-57; 5.5 games up in AL West)

    The Houston Astros play 24 of their 27 games in September against AL West foes, so the division remains in play, theoretically.

    Practically, however, Houston is getting closer to wrapping up a postseason appearance after three consecutive 100-loss campaigns between 2011 and 2013 and a 92-loss "rebound" in 2014.

    Whether the upstart 'Stros can make a deep playoff run remains to be seen, but they'll almost surely get a chance to find out.

    Postseason Chances: 90 percent

    Texas Rangers (64-61; 0.5 game back for the No. 2 AL wild card) 

    The Texas Rangers will play the Astros, their Lone Star State rivals, seven times in September, meaning they don't have to settle for the wild card.

    But assuming they don't catch Houston, the wild card represents a realistic path for Texas, which has gone 14-9 in August.

    "It kind of sparks your level of play back up to what we know we're capable of doing," ace left-hander Cole Hamels, who came over in a trade-deadline deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, told Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "This is the reason we train in the offseason. This is what we enjoy most."

    Postseason Chances: 25 percent

    Los Angeles Angels (64-62; 1 game out for the No. 2 AL wild card)

    This is shaping up to be quite a battle in the AL West, with the Los Angeles Angels still very much in the fray.

    The Halos play their next seven games on the road against clubs with losing records before returning to Southern California for a huge homestand that includes three games against the Rangers and three against the Astros.

    We'll know a lot more about where things stand for Mike Trout and Co. after that.

    Postseason Chances: 25 percent

    Non-Contenders

    Seattle Mariners (59-68)

    Oakland Athletics (55-73)

NL East

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    Laurence Kesterson/Associated Press

    Contenders

    New York Mets (70-56; 6.5 games up in NL East)

    The New York Mets always had the pitching, and now they have the hitting. Really, it's that simple.

    An offensive bottom-dweller for much of the season, the Mets have plated 64 runs in their last six games. Not coincidentally, they've won them all and widened their division lead over the reeling Washington Nationals.

    Credit the arrival of trade-deadline acquisition Yoenis Cespedes, cite the return of injured David Wrightjust make sure you acknowledge the Amazins are rolling like few teams in baseball.

    As Grantland's Katie Baker recently noted, "If you'd told any Mets fan before this season that the team would hold first place in the NL East in the dog days of August, they'd eagerly take it."

    Now, the Queens faithful are permitted to think even bigger.

    Postseason Chances: 90 percent

    Washington Nationals (63-62; 6.5 games back in NL East)

    The good news for the Nationals is they have a cushy September schedule. 

    They'll play 18 of their 28 games in the calendar month at home, and 20 of them come against teams with losing records.

    A 10-game stretch beginning Sept. 11 that features nothing but dates with the hapless Miami Marlins and basement-dwelling Philadelphia Phillies affords an especially ripe opportunity.

    The bad news is the Nats sit 10 games off the pace for the NL's second wild-card slot, meaning it's almost surely division title or bust.

    The Nationals and Mets meet six more times, including three to close out the season in New York. If Washington hopes to resurrect its wildly underwhelming campaign, it had better win mostif not allof those games.

    Postseason Chances: 15 percent

    Non-Contenders

    Atlanta Braves (54-73)

    Miami Marlins (51-76)

    Philadelphia Phillies (50-77)

NL Central

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Contenders

    St. Louis Cardinals (81-45; 4.5 games up in NL Central)

    The St. Louis Cardinals own baseball's best record thanks to a pitching staff that boasts the game's best ERA (2.65), plus a winning culture that's difficult to define but impossible to ignore.

    These are the Cards, the club that's appeared in four consecutive National League Championship Series and mixed in a World Series win. Don't question success.

    That said, St. Louis isn't a lock to win its division. The Cardinals and Pirates will clash six times in September, meaning the Bucs could steal the Central.

    Right now, though, the Redbirds are soaring as per usual.

    Postseason Chances: 99 percent 

    Pittsburgh Pirates (76-49; 3 games up for No. 1 NL wild card)

    As mentioned, Pittsburgh has an opportunity to overtake the Cardinals and avoid the one-game wild-card crapshoot, which the Pirates have navigated each of the last two seasons, winning one in 2013 and losing in 2014.

    If they fall short, however, the Pirates still have the second-best record in the Senior Circuit and a firm hold on the NL's No. 1 wild card.

    Postseason Chances: 95 percent

    Chicago Cubs (73-52; 6.5 games up for No. 2 NL wild card)

    Easily MLB's best third-place team, the Chicago Cubs are young, hungry and ticketed for October.

    The Cubbies have gone 18-5 in August to separate themselves from the wild-card pack, and while catching the rival Cardinals might not be realistic, a shot at a playoff run seems all but assured.

    Plus, keep in mind, these kids from the North Side are just getting started. Anything they accomplish this year is neon relish on the Chicago dog.

    Postseason Chances: 90 percent

    Non-Contenders

    Milwaukee Brewers (53-74)

    Cincinnati Reds (52-73)

NL West

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Contenders

    Los Angeles Dodgers (69-56; 2.5 games up in NL West)

    After a disconcerting five-game skid, the Los Angeles Dodgers have rebounded to win two straight and maintain a narrow lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

    The Dodgers, as I recently noted, have not been playing contender-esque baseball despite the presence of co-aces Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw and MLB's gaudiest payroll.

    The bullpen remains suspect, and there are significant holes in the lineup. But with the Giants treading water (see below) and the bulk of their remaining games against teams under .500, the Dodgers have a solid shot at defending their division crown.

    Whether they can make a deep playoff run is another story.

    Postseason Chances: 75 percent



    San Francisco Giants (67-59; 2.5 games back in NL West)

    First, let's toss the odd-year talk into the bay. Curses don't exist, and the Giants are fully capable of winning another title.

    That said, with injuries to Hunter Pence, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco (about half the regular lineup) and a wobbly starting rotation aside from stud southpaw and October hero Madison Bumgarner, the defending champs look exceedingly vulnerable.

    After a brutal August schedule, things get a bit easier for the Giants. They also play seven more games against the Dodgers, including four at AT&T Park.

    It'll be an uphill, odd-year battle for San Francisco, but watch for this race between historic rivals to go down to the wire. 

    Postseason Chances: 25 percent

    Non-Contenders

    Arizona Diamondbacks (62-64)

    San Diego Padres (62-64)

    Colorado Rockies (51-74)

    All statistics and standings current as of Aug. 26 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.