[MLB] Playoff Race: Wild Card Ranking The AL
As the regular season is coming close to an end, it's time to start talking playoffs. The American League has, arguably, some of the best teams in baseball right now. And the AL has had its fair shares of risers and fallers, as well as shining stars and burn outs. There's still plenty of time for some of the teams on the edge to make a resurgence, and plenty of time for the top contenders to slip. So at this stage, educated predictions are all we can make. That being said, let's jump right into some of those predictions.
Dead In The Water: Teams most not likely to make the playoffs.
Oakland Athletics (15th, 10.5 GB): The A's have had a less than stellar year. Although they aren't the worst team in the MLB, they are most certainly the worst in the American League. With a team batting average of .250, and an OPS of .694, it's fairly obvious that the team just isn't producing with the bats. Team stars Stephen Vogt, Billy Butler, and Brett Lawrie have both hit under .263. The team only has two of five starting pitchers with a W/L record at, or above, .500. Sonny Gray has had some dominate success in his 24 starts, keeping his ERA at an outstanding 2.04. However, a team can't survive on one solid pitcher. All numbers aside, the team looks bad on the field. With 99 errors thus far, they're he worst in the AL. Rookie mistakes have kept this team from excelling.
Boston Red Sox (14th, 8.0 GB): Boston was one of my favorites going into this season, but they have certainly not shown their full potential. David Ortiz, once a power hitter to be reckoned with, has dropped off the map. At 39 years old, maybe he has an excuse. But Boston has to answer to the fans on why they'd start him, watch him fail to produce, and keep playing him. He does have 26 home runs on the season, so that's a plus. A negative would be their defense, and you can tell. With the numbers, their fielding percentage is near the bottom of the division. Without the numbers, they look like a team that was thrown together last minute; chemistry doesn't exist in Boston.
Seattle Mariners (13th, 7.0 GB): Second to last in BA and SO, third from last in OBP and runs, and last in producing the sac fly. That's how Seattle has found themselves on our Dead In The Water list. Let's not forget to add: second from the bottom in homers allowed and base on balls. With no starting pitcher with less than 3.65 ERA, not much is happening on the mound for the Mariners. On a brighter note, Hisashi Iwakuma pitched a no-hitter. On an even brighter note, at least the Seahawks might be worth watching this year...
Cleveland Indians (12th, 6.5 GB): Cleveland hasn't been talked about much this year. The reason why? Well, there isn't much to talk about. They're in the middle of the road in most stats, they've fielded an okay team, but aren't really doing anything. No one predicted them to be so terrible, and definitely no one thought they'd go all the way. Fans should appreciate something the Indians are good at, that almost every team in the Wild Card wishes they could mirror: number ONE in complete games. That's right, their pitchers are going all nine. And in these complete games, they're number one in strike outs, and number two in hits. It's a shame they're not going places.
Chicago White Sox (11th, 6.0 GB): Much like Cleveland, the White Sox aren't much to be talked about. Second worst OBP, worst slugging, which leads to the worst OPS. It's no wonder they have the least amount of runs in the AL. The pitching staff is average, and average in this case isn't good. Average pitching doesn't take you to the World Series. And that's exactly where the Chicago White Sox are going, not to the World Series.
Movers, Shakers, and Producers: Teams with a chance to extend baseball season.
Detroit Tigers (10th, 3.5 GB): Did you notice the hefty difference in games back from the White Sox to the Tigers? This is why Detroit has a chance. They've played good ball this season. 3.5 games can easily be made up with as much time the season has left. At this point, Detroit is trying their hardest to lose, and hoping the next four teams ahead of them encounter some bad luck. They've got the best batting average in the AL, with Miguel Cabrera boasting a whopping .358! Detroit is definitely a team that the other movers, shakers, and producers have to keep their eyes on.
Tampa Bay Rays (9th, 3.0 GB): The Rays have had some struggles since the All-Star break. Their inability to have pitchers go deep into games has caused some undue strain in the bullpen. Chris Archer being their most valued pitcher since the David Price trade, just threw a one hit shutout. This late in the season, that's a vital performance to rest an overworked bullpen. Evan Longoria is without a doubt one of the best third baseman to ever play the game. However, he isn't 22 years old anymore. His hitting ability has slowly declined. And the Rays can't depend on him alone to make the playoffs. Watching the Rays is like watching an action movie. The storyline blows, but the explosion scenes are epic. When Tampa does well, they are such an impressive club. And when they're not hot, you just keep watching because you know something's going to happen eventually.
Minnesota Twins (8th, 3.0 GB): Tied with Tampa in games back from a Wild Card spot, the Twins are trying to inch their way to the playoffs. With only three starting position players under 25, this might be Minnesota's last chance to make the playoffs before an inevitable "rebuilding" year. This kind of stuff is what can fire a team up. One of the biggest things that baseball stats and scouts can't prove, is the will power to win. With a reasonable shot at making a playoff run, you never know if something is just going to click for the Twins, shooting them past the next three or four teams.
Texas Rangers (7th, 1.5 GB): The problem with Texas is lack of pitching experience. With most of the season gone by without ace pitcher Yu Darvish and backup ace Derrick Holland, Texas has floated pitchers all year. This kind of "rotation hopping" can prevent a pitcher from finding a groove, and under-perform. The Rangers offense is a lot like the Tampa Bay Rays; they have their moments of grandeur, but a slightly few more moments of "Why can't you just hit the ball?!". Texas has some young talent on the squad this year. Odor, DeShields, Gallo, Perez, Kela, and Gonzalez all give fans a hope for a positive Rangers future.
Baltimore Orioles (6th, 0.5 GB): Discussing Baltimore is plain and simple: their the most likely to overcome their Wild Card deficit. Buck Showalter has started whipping this team into shape. By no means are they clear playoff winners, but they have had a decent run. Currently in a series with Minnesota, they need to use this time to win games and push ahead. Their next series against the Royals won't be as easy.
Sitting Sweet: Teams that are currently getting the Wild Card ticket.
Los Angeles Angels (5th, - GB): The Los Angeles Angels have been holding this ticket with a firm grasp for a while now. Their dead even in games back, but have gone 4-6 in their last ten games. They're on a downward trend, but definitely have the ability to keep their spot. Currently in a three game battle with Toronto, the Angels need a couple of wins to help hang on to their spot. The rest of the schedule looks fairly easy for LA, as the only truly tough teams they play are the Houston Astros. That being said, we've seen what "easy" schedules can do when a team tries to rest, or gets arrogant.
Toronto Blue Jays (4th, +3.0 GB): If you could pick one AL team that came out of nowhere and flew past everyone's radar, it's the Blue Jays. Battling the Angels, Toronto looks to keep their Wild Card ticket safe. They're first in doubles for the AL, which explains why their first in runs. They're quick to get runners into scoring position, and it's paid off. They're the second highest in homers this season. Not only are the Blue Jays pretty well secured in the Wild Card spot, they're just 1.0 back from the Yankees to take the AL East. If the Yankees don't watch their backs, They'll be the ones holding a Wild Card ticket, watching Toronto sit on top as one of the cloud nine riders.
Cloud Nine Riders: The teams going to the playoffs.
New York Yankees (3rd): The Yankees are getting over a rough patch where they lost five straight in early/mid August. They've pulled it back together, and we're able to stay on cloud nine. A battle with Houston on the horizon will be the perfect time to shine. They need these wins to solidify their standing, and push Houston down a little closer to the grasp of the Wild Card ticket holders. Let's face it. The Yanks are rich, and they're gonna spend money. They can afford to snatch up every star o,Ayer entering the free agency, and are willing to kick in cash incentives to teams that need it. One of the biggest reasons they can do this is attendance. They have the highest turnout in the AL right now, and the front office is loving it. The team has only a couple of position players under 31 years old. The team has to dump some of these oldies. For now, they're getting the second most runs and second most homers, but at an average team age of 32, they need a young, fresh wave of players. With their bank roll, it won't be difficult. The Yankees play well, but can decline. They just need to stay on their toes a few more weeks, and we'll see what they can do in the playoffs.
Houston Astros (2nd): Houston has some on-point pitching this season. the Astros have the best ERA, given up the fewest earned runs from all pitchers, and given up the least amount of home runs. They've gone the second most innings pitched, and given up second least overall runs. Houston is just shutting down enemy batters. Ace pitcher Dallas Keuchel has had an amazing season, and at 27 years old, should give the Astros a few more. Offensively, they're solid. Putting up the most home runs in the AL, Houston can get the job done. They'll have a series coming up against the Yankees, and I predict a sweep. Houston is on fire, and they'll do what it takes to win ball games.
Número Uno: The team I pick to represent the AL in the World Series.
Kansas City Royals (1st): Whats not to like about KC? They have the second best batting average, third most hits, and third most triples. This makes watching their explosive offense so much fun. Not only are they getting the job done on off nose, but they're getting it done on the hill as well. Boasting the fewest runs allowed, second most successful saves, second best ERA and earned runs allowed by all pitchers, and they've allowed the second fewest home runs. Kansas City is an all around amazing team. With the numbers out of the picture, they look like a phenomenal team. They have chemistry, they look like they have fun, and they're most definitely serious about making this their year. I'll go ahead and say, the Royals have my vote for AL World Series representative.
With the AL being, in my opinion, the toughest, and most dominate league, these power rankings could change on a daily basis. That's what makes the AL so interesting. At any given time, your team might have a chance. Make sure to keep your eyes on those movers, shakers, and producers, as they prove to be the most unpredictable, and most likely to stir up trouble for other playoff competitors.
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