MLB Playoff Chances for Every Team at 2019 Season's Quarter Mark
Say goodbye to the first quarter of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. All that remains now are the next three-quarters of regular-season play until the playoffs arrive.
We've marked the occasion by updating the playoff chances for all 30 MLB teams.
We looked at the progress teams have made so far, as well as how well equipped they are to stay the course or perhaps improve. We also considered a potential wild-card berth to be as good as a division title, although races for the former are more difficult to project.
We'll proceed in alphabetical order by city.
Record: 23-19, 2nd in NL West
The Arizona Diamondbacks weren't supposed to be competitive following an offseason marked by heavy losses, yet they're hanging in a tough National League West race.
The D-backs have mostly hit their way into contention, as they've mustered 5.1 runs per game, and their .786 OPS ranks third among NL clubs. Their pitching has been more hit-or-miss, but standout performances by Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Greg Holland and Yoan Lopez are holding it together.
Yet it's not surprising that Arizona's offense has been regressing of late. Unless their offense makes a lasting return to its early-season form, the Snakes will ultimately have to be content with a spot in the NL wild-card race.
Said race has at least eight teams involved in it right now, and the herd likely won't be thinned much as the season moves along.
Odds: 25 percent
Record: 21-20, 2nd in NL East
Although it was exciting in the abstract, the Atlanta Braves' 2018 breakout was ultimately a 90-win season in a weak NL East.
The division is stronger this year, and the Braves are only half-ready for it. Their Ronald Acuna Jr.- and Freddie Freeman-led offense has done its part with a .773 OPS and 4.8 runs per game. Yet the team's pitching staff has mostly looked like a mess while putting together a pedestrian 4.38 ERA.
The Braves will be doomed in both the NL East and NL wild-card races if they don't fix their pitching.
If they can't get their many young arms in line, they could trade them for veterans or sign Dallas Keuchel and/or Craig Kimbrel. Our assumption is that they will do something, so they will therefore finish stronger than they started.
Odds: 35 percent
Record: 14-26, 5th in AL East
The 2018 Baltimore Orioles lost 115 games. The 2019 version is on pace to lose only 105.
Otherwise, looking for reasons to be optimistic about the Orioles is like trying to spot objects in space with a magnifying glass.
Neither Baltimore's record nor its minus-75 run differential exist by accident. The Orioles have struggled to get offense out of players not named Trey Mancini or Dwight Smith Jr., and their pitchers have racked up an MLB-high 5.51 ERA because they're giving up home runs at an all-time rate.
Let's not kid ourselves here.
Odds: 0 percent
Boston Red Sox
Record: 22-19, 3rd in AL East
The 2018 Boston Red Sox won a total of 119 games and the World Series. A team like that ought to be doing more than barely outpacing the .500 mark one year later.
The 2019 campaign has already been a tale of two seasons for the Red Sox. They were 6-13 with a minus-42 run differential at their lowest point. They're 16-6 with a plus-69 run differential since then.
Boston's offense has come alive and scored 6.5 runs per game, and its pitching has produced a 3.08 ERA. Injuries to David Price and Nathan Eovaldi present a challenge to the latter trend, but Chris Sale's resurgence will help keep it going.
Boston's slow start created a significant deficit in the American League East, but the division lead is suddenly close. If chasing that doesn't work out, at least the AL wild-card race doesn't look nearly as crowded as the NL one.
Odds: 75 percent
Record: 24-14, 1st in NL Central
Much like the Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs have also experienced a tale of two seasons so far in 2019.
They played such ugly baseball amid their 3-8 start that it seemed like the second-half slump that wrecked their 2018 season was alive and well. Since then, however, they've more than found their footing with a 21-6 stretch.
With Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo having recently found their strokes, the Cubs no longer need Javier Baez to carry their offense. Questions abound in their bullpen, but that isn't such a big deal as long as starters not named Yu Darvish have a 2.80 ERA.
The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals aren't about to cede the NL Central to the Cubs. But the Cubs' formula has nonetheless put them on top of the division, and it could allow them to get comfortable.
Odds: 80 percent
Chicago White Sox
Record: 19-21, 3rd in AL Central
If nothing else, it's worth watching the Chicago White Sox to see the heart of their lineup do its thing.
With plenty of added swagger from the former, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada have combined for an .875 OPS, 17 home runs and 16 stolen bases. The White Sox are also getting Jose Abreu's usual power, plus a breakout offensive season from catcher James McCann.
It's a bummer that the rest of the White Sox's lineup isn't so good, and that the team's starters (a group which is now sans left-hander Carlos Rodon) have struggled with a 5.80 ERA. These things considered, they're perhaps lucky their record isn't worse.
In the meantime, it doesn't exactly bode well that they're sharing the AL Central and AL wild-card races with powerhouse contenders.
Odds: 5 percent
Record: 18-23, 5th in NL Central
The Cincinnati Reds have scored 30 more runs than they've allowed, so they can claim they're the victims of bad luck.
At the least, Reds pitchers don't need to do any better than they already are. Thanks in large part to excellent work by Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, they own a 3.36 ERA that ranks as the NL's best.
Reds hitters, however, have mustered only a .685 OPS and 4.2 runs per game. And according to Statcast's xwOBA metric, only Miami Marlins hitters have been hitting the ball with less punch than Cincinnati's.
That will change if Yasiel Puig and Joey Votto live up to their track records, but time is a'wasting. If the Reds aren't in contention by July, they'll almost certainly cut their losses at the trade deadline.
Odds: 10 percent
Record: 21-19, 2nd in AL Central
The Cleveland Indians have won two more games than they've lost, but they've also allowed 12 more runs than they've scored while generally racking up a laundry list of red flags.
It would be bad enough if their offense was their only problem. It was stripped down over the winter, so it's no surprise that the Indians are scoring only 3.5 runs per game with a .643 OPS that's tied for last in the AL.
True to form, Cleveland's pitchers are still carrying the team. But with Carlos Carrasco struggling and Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger out with injuries, how much longer can that last?
In years past, the silver lining would have been a dearth of competition elsewhere in the AL Central. But this year, the Minnesota Twins look more than up to taking Cleveland's crown, and the Indians are up against some tough customers in the AL wild-card race.
Odds: 40 percent
Record: 19-21, 4th in NL West
The Colorado Rockies won 91 games last year, but there was no small amount of luck involved.
The Rockies haven't been so, well, lucky so far in 2019.
Their offensive struggles from 2018 have gotten even worse, resulting in one of the franchise's worst-ever offenses. They need more from players around Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon.
Things are looking up, however. The Rockies offense has found a groove with an .865 OPS and 6.6 runs per game amid a 16-9 stretch. That's likely a truer measure of its quality. If so, the merely good enough pitching the Rockies have gotten so far (see: their 99 ERA+) may also be good enough for the long run.
Colorado's slow start has already created difficult paths in the NL West and NL wild-card races. But if nothing else, the latter should be in play as the season progresses.
Odds: 20 percent
Record: 18-21, 4th in AL Central
The Detroit Tigers got off to a respectable 8-4 start largely because their pitchers blew away expectations by posting a 2.50 ERA.
Since then, however, Tigers pitchers have put up a 5.73 ERA while the team has gone 10-17. Save for a few exceptions—namely breakout stars Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull—that figure speaks more accurately to the overall ability of Detroit's moundstaff.
Lest they escape blame, Tigers hitters are the bigger problem. Young guys like Christin Stewart and Ronny Rodriguez are showing potential, but Detroit's lineup is a largely hopeless affair that's saddled with an over-the-hill Miguel Cabrera. Hence its average of 3.5 runs per game.
In short, this is only a marginally better version of the Tigers club that dropped 98 games in 2018.
Odds: 5 percent
Record: 27-15, 1st in AL West
After crossing the century mark in both 2017 and 2018, the Houston Astros are currently on pace to notch three 100-win seasons in a row. As a result, it's hard to spot any glaring flaws on this team.
Their loaded offense has produced 5.5 runs per game and an MLB-best .860 OPS, and they've played more efficient defense than any team in the majors. That's been of use to a pitching staff with a rock-solid 3.57 ERA.
Perhaps the only question is whether the Astros have any legitimate threats to their AL West supremacy. They did last season when the Oakland Athletics surged to 97 wins, but the A's have taken a step back this year, and no other team is threatening to get on Houston's level.
So, the Astros should be fine if they just keep doing what they're doing.
Odds: 95 percent
Kansas City Royals
Record: 14-27, 5th in AL Central
To their credit, the Kansas City Royals' minus-20 run differential is better than those of the White Sox and Tigers. That's a testament to an offense that's centered a round a darn good quintet of hitters.
Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield, Alex Gordon, Adalberto Mondesi and Jorge Soler have combined for an .881 OPS, 38 home runs and 21 stolen bases. However, the rest of Kansas City's offense is...well, less good.
There's an even smaller handful of standouts on the Royals' pitching staff. It has a 5.01 ERA overall, and the starters (5.20 ERA) and relievers (4.70 ERA) are both to blame for that.
So while the Royals are better than they look, they're far from good enough to make noise in the AL Central or AL wild-card races.
Odds: 5 percent
Los Angeles Angels
Record: 20-21, 2nd in AL West
Perhaps the Los Angeles Angels can hope for their offense to carry them to October.
The Angels offense will mostly be the Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani show for the rest of the year, but there's some sneaky depth at work, too. Kole Calhoun has rebounded from a rough 2018, and the Angels have dug up some winners in Tommy La Stella and Brian Goodwin. Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons has been hot, and Justin Upton will eventually return from turf toe.
However, pitching is another matter. The Angels rotation's 5.84 ERA is the worst in MLB. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill, in particular, have been huge disappointments.
The Angels can stick in the AL wild-card race if their offense functions up to its full capacity. But without better pitching, they'll struggle to climb the ranks.
Odds: 20 percent
Los Angeles Dodgers
Record: 27-16, 1st in NL West
The Los Angeles Dodgers have won the last six NL West titles and played in each of the last two World Series. This year, they're the class of the National League once again.
As of now, the only real threat to the Dodgers' supremacy resides in their bullpen. The whole unit has mustered a modest 4.24 ERA, and veteran closer Kenley Jansen hasn't helped with a 4.42 ERA.
However, the Dodgers haven't been hurt by their bullpen because of how strong they are in every other facet of the game. Their Cody Bellinger-led offense is scoring 5.3 runs per game. Their defense is among the best in baseball. Their eclectic starting rotation has a 3.24 ERA.
If the Dodgers can fix their pen—which they can with a trade or two—they should waltz to yet another division title.
Odds: 95 percent
Record: 10-29, 5th in NL East
Might the Miami Marlins have a miracle postseason run in them this season?
Well, maybe if...you know what, let's not do this. The answer is no.
It isn't just the 10-29 record. It's also the minus-91 run differential, as well as the utter shortage of things to feel positive about. Including breakout star Caleb Smith, there's some good talent in Miami's starting rotation, but not nearly enough of it elsewhere for the team to even rise to the level of "watchable."
Wait till next year, Miami. Better yet, the year after that. Or the year after that.
Odds: 0 percent
Record: 24-19, 2nd in NL Central
The Milwaukee Brewers aren't quite on pace to match their 96-win output from 2018. But considering how they've played out of the gate, it's impressive that they're even close to doing so.
Although Milwaukee's offense is scoring runs at a better rate than it did a year ago, reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich has had to do almost all the heavy lifting. Meanwhile, the team's pitching staff has regressed from a 3.73 ERA to a 4.37 ERA.
But while the Brewers have been fortunate thus far, they aren't doomed to pay the bill for that as the season moves along. Their lineup isn't lacking talented hitters around Yelich. Likewise, they have some good arms, and they've shown as much with a 3.13 ERA over their last 17 games.
The Brewers should keep pace in a tough race for the NL Central. Failing that, they can achieve relative comfort in the NL wild-card race.
Odds: 60 percent
Record: 25-15, 1st in AL Central
The Indians' early struggles with pitching injuries and a punchless offense have created an opening for the Minnesota Twins. They clearly aim to take advantage of it.
The Twins' winter maneuver to make their offense more powerful is paying off. They're tied for the MLB lead with eight hitters who have at least five home runs, and they rank third with 73 homers overall.
The bigger question coming into the year was whether the Twins would pitch well. Albeit with some help from a quality defense, their pitchers are answering the call with a 3.77 ERA and the franchise's highest-ever strikeout rate. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, in particular, have been an excellent one-two punch.
In other words, the Twins truly deserve their record. Even if they don't hold on to that, holding on to the AL Central lead or an AL wild-card berth should be easy.
Odds: 95 percent
New York Mets
Record: 19-20, 3rd in NL East
The New York Mets aren't functioning as expected.
They seemed to build up a deep offense over the winter, yet they rank in the bottom half of the National League with a .732 OPS. They also seemed to have an elite starting rotation, yet reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom has regressed and the whole group has a modest 4.37 ERA.
There are two silver linings, however. One is that the NL East hasn't left the Mets behind. The other is that they can rise to the top of the division if their offense and rotation snap out of their early doldrums, and both units are deserving of the benefit of the doubt.
In short, the Mets are one of many NL clubs that can't be counted out despite their problems.
Odds: 35 percent
New York Yankees
Record: 24-16, 2nd in AL East
Given that Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances are among the 13 players on the New York Yankees' injured list, they ought to be on the fringes of the AL playoff race.
Instead, they're in the thick of it.
Sluggers Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit and veteran hurlers Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ have done their part, but the Yankees have also benefited from a list of unsung heroes that's frankly too long to spell out.
If the Yankees were stuck with their current roster, there would be reason for skepticism regarding their ability to maintain their current pace. Over time, however, they're going to get healthier and stronger.
As such, keeping pace in the AL East and leading the AL wild-card race is likely the least these Yankees are capable of.
Odds: 85 percent
Record: 19-24, 5th in AL West
The Oakland Athletics are in a precarious position one year after pulling off a surprise 97-win season.
Apart from their bullpen—which leads MLB in FanGraphs' wins above replacement—the A's have struggled to carry over the offense, defense and starting pitching they enjoyed in 2018.
There's some hope for better days ahead. Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien and Khris Davis have done enough on offense, and the A's should get more from Jurickson Profar, Stephen Piscotty and a now-healthy Matt Olson as the season progresses. They're otherwise still a strong defensive team.
It's harder to be optimistic about their rotation, however, which likewise means it's hard to count on the A's to stick in the AL wild-card race, much less the AL West race. And the clock is ticking, as they'll probably be trade-deadline sellers if things are looking bleak in July.
Odds: 15 percent
Record: 24-16, 1st in NL East
The Philadelphia Phillies aren't without things to be concerned about.
Offensively, big-ticket newcomers Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and J.T. Realmuto have fallen short of expectations. The whole team has also struggled defensively, which hasn't helped staff ace Aaron Nola amid his slow start.
Yet the Phillies have the best record and by far the best run differential (plus-42) in the NL East anyway. An easy schedule has helped, yet it also speaks to the contributions they've gotten from all over as they've waited for their big-name stars to show up.
It's safe to assume said stars will show up eventually. That should help the Phillies ward off what figure to be tougher challenges from the Braves and Mets as the season moves along. If not, they have the NL wild-card race as a plan B.
Odds: 65 percent
Record: 20-18, 4th in NL Central
The Pittsburgh Pirates are over .500 despite having allowed 41 more runs than they've scored, so it's hard not to look at them and see a product of good luck.
Despite Josh Bell's ongoing breakout and generally better work from everyone lately, the Pirates have largely struggled on offense. To wit, the Marlins and San Francisco Giants are the only NL clubs with a worse OPS than Pittsburgh's .680 mark.
In short, this doesn't look like a club that can continue overachieving to stick around in the NL Central and NL wild-card races for much longer.
Odds: 15 percent
San Diego Padres
Record: 22-19, 3rd in NL West
From one perspective, it isn't a good look that the San Diego Padres have won more games than they've lost despite racking up a minus-11 run differential.
They'll take it, however, and they must be pleased that their pitchers have held their own with a 3.96 ERA. That masks some depth concerns, but nobody should rule out the Padres fixing those by trading from their loaded farm system.
In the meantime, the Padres need their offense to muster more than a .704 OPS and 4.0 runs per game. That's been happening lately, and there's a possible future wherein Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Franmil Reyes are all clicking.
The end result may not be a challenge to the Dodgers' NL West superiority, but the Padres are a sleeping giant in the NL wild-card race.
Odds: 30 percent
San Francisco Giants
Record: 17-23, 5th in NL West
It was unclear what, exactly, the San Francisco Giants were hoping for at the outset of 2019, but neither their record nor their minus-36 run differential comes as much of a surprise.
What always appeared to a be a weak offense has produced only a .655 OPS and 3.9 runs per game. Their pitching (and especially their bullpen) has been more reliable, but a handful of stragglers have contributed to a mediocre 4.45 ERA.
Because the Giants are still a veteran team under the leadership of future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy, the possibility of a sudden turnaround can't be ruled out entirely.
But at this point, it's far more likely that the Giants will trade Madison Bumgarner and others at the deadline, ending one of the great baseball dynasties in recent memory.
Odds: 5 percent
Record: 21-23, 3rd in AL West
We've previously discussed how the Red Sox and Cubs have already played two different seasons in 2019. That's also true of the Seattle Mariners, but in a way that's been not-so-great for them.
To be fair, Seattle's slide isn't entirely because of its offensive slump. The Mariners have also struggled to prevent runs consistently, thanks both to an unspectacular moundstaff and a woefully inefficient defense.
As such, the Mariners' plunge from the AL West and AL wild-card races is probably permanent.
Odds: 10 percent
St. Louis Cardinals
Record: 22-19, 3rd in NL Central
The St. Louis Cardinals had a three-game advantage in the NL Central as recently as May 1. They've since experienced a 2-9 reality check.
An offensive slump from 5.4 runs per game to only 3.9 is part of it, but not necessarily the part worth worrying about. Led by breakout star Paul DeJong and stable veteran Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals have plenty of good hitters in a lineup that still owns a .762 OPS. Their guys also play good defense.
Whether the Cardinals have enough pitching is a more pressing question. Their thin rotation and top-heavy bullpen are bigger issues than their combined 4.28 ERA lets on. They need to fix either or both during the summer trading season.
We suspect that they will, although the effect may only be them staying afloat in both the NL Central and NL wild-card races.
Odds: 35 percent
Tampa Bay Rays
Record: 24-15, 1st in AL East
The Tampa Bay Rays played roughly .600 baseball for the final four-and-a-half months of 2018, mostly thanks to their outstanding pitching. So it goes in 2019, too.
Although they've gotten some help from a great defense, Rays pitchers have put together an MLB-best 2.96 ERA. Despite a shortage of home run power, Rays hitters have held their own with a .769 OPS and 4.6 runs per game.
Yet challenges await the Rays in the AL East. The Red Sox have only recently come alive, and the Yankees' best will likely come after their many injuries heal. For their part, the Rays will be without rising ace Tyler Glasnow for a while as he recovers from a forearm injury.
Still, the Rays are too talented to bow out of the AL East race completely. Even if they do, they may not have much real competition in the AL wild-card race.
Odds: 75 percent
Record: 17-21, 4th in AL West
The Texas Rangers have at least one thing working for them so far in 2019: their offense.
Somewhat quietly, they're scoring an MLB-high 5.6 runs per game. Joey Gallo and Hunter Pence both own an OPS north of 1.000, and there's plenty of good depth around them.
However, the Rangers lack the rest of a functional contender. Apart from the underrated Mike Minor, their pitching staff has looked the part of one that would put up a 5.35 ERA. Plus, the guys in the lineup have been undercutting their hitting with poor defense.
The Rangers would need to aggressively pursue fixes for these issues to have a shot at sticking in the AL wild-card race. Even though they say they aren't tanking, that's not likely to happen.
Odds: 10 percent
Toronto Blue Jays
Record: 16-24, 4th in AL East
The Toronto Blue Jays were only a game under .500 as recently as April 21. Around then, it might have been possible to wonder if they could contend if enough went right.
For instance, maybe Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would come up and supercharge the team's offense. Further, perhaps Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Matt Shoemaker would have lasting power as an elite rotation trio.
This isn't how things are turning out. Guerrero has had his moments, but he's mostly struggled since his debut on April 26. Meanwhile, Shoemaker has been lost for the year with a torn ACL, and Stroman and Sanchez have been positively identified as trade bait.
Altogether, the Blue Jays clearly need another year of rebuilding.
Odds: 5 percent
Record: 16-24, 4th in NL East
At least the Washington Nationals' rotation trio of Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg is working. They have a 3.50 ERA and a rate of 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings between them.
Otherwise, the Nationals are pretty much a disaster.
Despite Anthony Rendon's best efforts, Washington's offense is failing to maintain the numbers produced by last season's Bryce Harper-led lineup. The club also has major issues with the back end of its rotation and especially with its defense (last in efficiency) and bullpen (last in ERA).
The Nationals have already been sidelined in the NL East and NL wild-card races. Unless they find ways to mend their many ailments, they'll stay that way.
Odds: 10 percent