Published On: Fri, Aug 19th, 2016

MLB's 5 most compelling playoff races

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Div/WC %Chances of winning the division (or securing a wild-card berth), as provided by Fangraphs, based on thousands of Monte Carlo simulations that include up-to-date player projections, current roster composition, playing time projections, and remaining schedule.

American League East

Team Record Run Differential Div %
Toronto 69-52 +96 44.5%
Boston 67-53 +112 44.4%
Baltimore 67-53 +37 10.9%

For the first time in years, the American League East is living up to its reputation as the best division in baseball, even with the rebuilding Yankees on the periphery of the playoff picture.

With only six weeks left in the regular season, the top three teams in the division remain separated by 1 1/2 games, and two of them – the Blue Jays and Red Sox – rank among the top-five in the majors in run differential.

Will Toronto’s prolific but strangely inconsistent offense and newly implemented six-man rotation be able to thrust the Blue Jays to a second straight AL East title? Can David Ortiz and Mookie Betts help the Red Sox overcome pitching woes and grab their first division crown since 2013? Will the tenacious Orioles continue to outperform their run differential and avoid the one-game playoff that is the Wild Card?

Oh boy, are we ever going to find out.

American League Central

Team Record Run Differential Div %
Cleveland 69-50 +104 91.8%
Detroit 64-57 +13 7.7%

Even with LeBron James exorcising his city’s sports demons a few months back, it’d still be very Cleveland-like of the Indians to squander a six-game division lead down the stretch and allow the Tigers their fifth AL Central title in the last six years.

A collapse of that magnitude is unlikely – and, having taken 11 of 12 games against Detroit this year, the Indians won’t be intimidated in their two remaining series against the Tigers – but Cleveland’s vaunted rotation has stumbled to a 4.83 ERA since the All-Star break, and Detroit has been playing .571 ball since the beginning of June.

Crazier things have happened.

American League Wild Card

Team Record Run Differential WC %
Boston 67-53 +112 44.2%
Baltimore 67-53 +37 43.3%
Seattle 64-56 +45 25.8%
Detroit 64-57 +13 22.5%
Houston 61-60 +41 5.3%
New York 61-59 -38 2.6%
Kansas City 61-60 -35 1.2%

In all likelihood, at least one of the AL East teams that misses out on the division is going to grab a wild-card spot, and, at the moment, there’s a pretty good chance that two teams from the putative best division in baseball end up in the one-game playoff.

With 10 wins in their last 13 games, however, the Mariners’ odds of snapping their 15-year playoff drought – the longest active streak in baseball – are now better than 1-in-4, while the resurgent Tigers are only three games back of returning to the postseason a year after finishing in fifth in the AL Central.

National League West

Team Record Run Differential Div %
Los Angeles 67-53 +72 67.5%
San Francisco 67-54 +48 32.5%

Despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw hasn’t taken the mound since late June, the Dodgers boast a 1/2-game lead over the Giants in the NL West standings as September looms.

Narrative certainly favors San Francisco, but the Dodgers are third in the league in run differential, and the Giants still have to play them another nine times, including a season-ending three-game series in San Fran. With the way things have gone, the division could definitely come down to the season’s final game.

National League Wild Card

Team Record Run Differential WC %
St. Louis 64-56 +73 64.4%
San Francisco 67-54 +48 50.7%
Pittsburgh 62-56 +6 36.4%
Miami 62-59 +10 11.3%
New York 60-61 -9 9.1%

Though the longstanding hierarchy in the National League has been upset this year, with the Cubs finally usurping St. Louis, the Cardinals still seem destined for a postseason berth, as they boast the highest WC% in either league, setting them up for a likely matchup with the team that doesn’t win the NL West.

In accordance with MLB policy, though, the Pirates aren’t allowed to not play in the NL wild-card game – they’ve lost each of the last two, beset with matchups against Madison Bumgarner and Jake Arrieta, respectively – so, naturally, they’ve won four in a row (and seven of their last nine) to pull within one game of the Cardinals.

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