Predicting The MLB Division Races

With 19 days until Postseason baseball (And 20 days till hockey!), there’s still some sorting out to do.  Some divisions have their winners set already, but some have contests between two teams for the division title.  Here, we’re gonna break down those races, or at least what’s left of them, and then predict them.

Not every division will be written about, since not every division has a race.  They will be mentioned, however. 

The Races:

AL East

We knew coming into the season that this division would either A) Suck or B) Be great, and have a race within the final month.  It’s been sorta both.  We have a race, as the Yankees are sitting three games behind Toronto right now, and we have outliers.  Baltimore and Tampa Bay have had terrible runs lately, with the two 12-18 in the past 30 games.  The slide has booted both teams from the division race, and has them sitting behind Cleveland in the AL Wild Card race.

I’m gonna say something about Cleveland quickly.  Them and Boston have been amazing lately, with great win-loss records in their past 30.  While both teams have been out of contention for awhile, this at least makes my preseason prediction look better, as both teams were expected to be very good.  I had the Red Sox winning the AL East, and the Indians getting a Wild Card spot.  Unfortunately, there’s no time left for either.

As for the current race in the AL East, I mean, how much fun could this get?  Both teams have been good over the past month, and have both lost key guys.  Troy Tulowitzki cracked his shoulder blade, which will keep him out the rest of the regular season (Cliff Pennington spotting!).  The Yankees lost Mark Teixeria for the rest of the year (including playoffs) to a broken leg.  Teixeria’s put up a 3.8 WAR this season (FYI:  That’s only the 7th best WAR number of his career…. Talk about efficient).  Teixeria’s power, which has helped put the Yankees 3rd in Isolated Power this season, is now gone.  That doesn’t help considering the team their chasing has hit the most home runs in the MLB the 2nd half of the year.

The Yankees have managed top ten pitching by WAR this season, but the Blue Jays aren’t far behind.  Shorten that time scale to the 2nd half of the year, and Toronto has jumped up to 7th place, with New York in 12th.  Essentially flipping spots, pitching has been what’s pushed the Blue Jays ahead of the Yankees.  So will they keep the lead?

There isn’t much of a difference between the schedule strength of each team, so it’ll really come down to a huge, three games series September 21st-23rd.  It’s the 2nd to last series for each team.  I expect the Blue Jays to hold onto this division.  They’ve been on fire, and nothing has seemed to slow them down.  They just keep cranking out the wins.  New York will get the 1st AL Wild Card, as they’re already 2.5 games up on second place.

AL West

The AL West is the best case in the MLB for a three-team race.  As of now, anything over five games back is too much.  The Angels sit exactly five games back of Texas, currently, with the Astros in the middle of an insane race.

Los Angeles has had a slide lately, going 13-17 in their last 30 games.  They’ve been producing less and less offense as the year has gone on, and have dealt with a frisky bullpen.  That hasn’t helped, clearly and obviously, as their two division foes have only improved.  Texas has came out of nowhere lately, with the best Last30 record out of anyone (tied with Toronto) in the AL.

It truly is the the wild, wild, West…. Even though two of the teams play in Texas, which in my book is the Mid-West.

Enough about geography…. Who’s gonna win this division?

Houston and the Angels have two of the easiest schedules in the AL left, including a series against each other.  Los Angeles plays the Twins though, in what could be a huge series for the AL Wild Card.  Minnesota’s basically on a lifeline, as they’re 1.5 games back of the playoffs. But so are the Angels.

Los Angeles’ best hope is to win the division, because we know how much the Wild Card Game sucks for teams.  I don’t think I can name the Angels division champions.  Saying those words just give me a bad feeling.

As for the Rangers and Astros, and their chances to win this division, well, we’ll see on September 26th.

NL Central

It makes sense that the best divsion in baseball has a divsion race with three weeks left.  The Pirates, thanks to a 18-12 30 game run, are 4.5 games back of the Cardinals.  There’s nothing new with St. Louis.  They just keep winning and winning.  They’re the Cardinals!  Not much else to it.

This divsion is getting three playoff teams.  Whoever wins it between the Pirates and Cardinals, and the Cubs, who’re 7.5 games up on San Francsico for the 2nd Wild Card spot, makes the playoffs.  The Giants are out, but mostly due to the Cubs resillient rise.  You can thank Jake Arrieta for at least part of that.

So can Pittsburgh catch St. Louis with limited games remaining?  With the NL Central being the best division in baseball, every team has a pretty hard schedule left.  However, three of the four series left for St. Louis are against Cincinnati, Atlanta and Milwaukee, three of the worst teams in baseball.  The Pirates schedule is much tougher, with series against the Dodgers, Cubs, and Cardinals left.  There’s at least four losses within those series, and that’s being super optimistic.  Losing 3 out of 4 to the Cubs didn’t help Pittsburgh lately; Once again: St. Louis just continues to win.

The Cardinals are winning this division, but Chicago and Pittsburgh have easy routes to the playoffs with the NL Wild Card situation, setting up a division showdown on October 7th.

Quick Hits on other divisions: 

  • AL Central: Kansas City’s had this in the bag for awhile now, but the fun stuff lurks behind them.  Minnesota sits 1.5 games back of the AL Wild Card, and if the Angels (as I wrote about above) don’t shape up, Minnesota controls their own destiny.  The Twins, after a slide after the All-Star break, have been on a roll.  They know how much it means to their fans, and they know how special this season has already been.  If they miss it, they can only blame themselves.
  • NL East: They’re amazing, aren’t they?  The Mets have taken the whole league by storm, going on a tear through everyone in the Bigs.  There’s no stopping them.  Washington fell apart quickly, and as soon as they did, we knew to write them off.  New York has some good baseball teams playing right now.  To see the better one, you need a subway south.
  • NL West: The Giants have been limping to the finish, leaving the Dodgers to run away with this division.  Now let’s see if they can take that momentum to October, where they’ve had big time struggles before.