With about one-quarter of Major League Baseball’s regular season remaining, it makes sense for Bally Sports to take a weekly look at the playoff races in the American League and National League, from the division contenders to the wild-card hopefuls. While things have a funny way of changing quickly in MLB, it does appear that a lot has been decided already.
Via the odds page kept by Baseballj-Reference, six teams are listed with a 99.3% or greater possibility to make the 12-team postseason field. Two additional clubs are around 90%, eight more have at least a 20% chance and two sit with about a 2-4% chance. There's still a lot of time for all of these odds to change. Twelve teams have less than a 1% chance, which almost certainly won't change. That leaves 18 teams (with the Boston Red Sox being the least likely) who have "a shot" for a spot in the playoffs.
|AL Wild Card||No. 3 Guardians (66-57) vs. No. 6 Mariners (68-57)|
|AL Wild Card||No. 4 Rays (69-55) vs. No. 5 Blue Jays (68-55)|
|AL Division||No. 1 Astros (81-45) vs. No. 4-5 winner|
|AL Division||No. 2 Yankees (77-48) vs. No. 3-6 winner|
|NL Wild Card||No. 3 Cardinals (72-53) vs. No. 6 Padres (68-58)|
|NL Wild Card||No. 4 Braves (78-48) vs. No. 5 Phillies (70-55)|
|NL Division||No. 1 Dodgers (86-37) vs. No. 4-5 winner|
|NL Division||No. 2 Mets (80-46) vs. No. 3-6 winner|
The Los Angeles Dodgers own the best record in MLB and have the biggest division lead at 19 1/2 games ahead of the San Diego Padres. If the Dodgers lost the rest of their games in the regular season, they'd finish 86-76. If they go just .500, they'd finish 105-57. So even a huge nosedive would get them into the mid-90s for total victories. Their only possible regular-season worry is finishing with one of the two top records in the league and ensuring a bye in the first round of the postseason. Really, it's a matter of what happens to the Dodgers once they make the playoffs.
San Diego contended for most of the 2021 season before finishing with 34 losses in its final 46 games. That probably won't happen again, but that doesn't mean the Padres aren't in danger of missing the playoffs again. FanGraphs lists them at 64.8% to make it, but that also means there's a one-in-three chance they won't qualify. Losing star Fernando Tatis for the final push was a big blow, but San Diego also didn’t have Juan Soto in the lineup and Bob Melvin in the dugout a year ago. The Padres also have more depth in their starting pitching, which almost completely fell apart last year.
The San Francisco Giants kept winning and winning in 2021, defying everyone's projections. They're just not getting the same kind of performances this season up and down the roster, which is why Baseball Prospectus lists them as having only a 5.4% chance to make the postseason.
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies will hope to lose fewer than 90 games.
The St. Louis Cardinals needed a 17-game winning streak to ensure a one-game postseason appearance a year ago, but FanGraphs and others put them about 86% to win the division this time. They're less than 1% to clinch a bye this season, but at least there's no one-game wild card to worry about anymore.
Via Baseball-Reference, the Milwaukee Brewers are almost a 50-50 proposition to make the playoffs and about 4% to win the division. But they still have four games on the schedule against the first-place Cardinals, whom they trail by six games.
The Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates are playing for something other than the playoffs.
The New York Mets and Atlanta Braves face each other three times at Truist Park over the final week of the regular season, and the series might decide who gets the other first-round bye in the NL. New York has taken nine of 16 so far. Baseball Prospectus gives the Mets a 75.2% chance of winning the division, though the Braves are 99.9% to at least reach the playoffs as a wild card.
The Philadelphia Phillies are given a 96.9% chance to make the playoffs by Baseball-Reference, but it's worth noting that among the Phillies, Brewers and Padres, one won't make the postseason. MLB would use tiebreakers, if necessary, instead of a game 163.
The Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins are working on their fantasy football drafts.
A month ago, people were talking about the New York Yankees setting records for regular-season victories. Now they just want to hang on. With a 7 1/2-game lead, they probably will not only hang on but also gain a first-round bye. Still, Baseball Prospectus says that if the Yanks finish the season on the same down note that dominated most of August, their lead on the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays would get mighty thin at the end. They also still have time to win 100-plus games and are viewed as a 92.5% lock by FanGraphs to win the division.
Baseball Prospects lists the Blue Jays (85.3%) and Rays (86.5%) as probable playoff participants. The Baltimore Orioles have about a 33% chance of being the third AL wild-card team (depending on where you check), but it’s about 33% more than anyone expected.
The Boston Red Sox aren’t out of it, strictly, but they have a 2% chance — which is not great.
Projecting to go about 86-76, the Cleveland Guardians have a 70.1% chance of making the playoffs, per FanGraphs, with a 65.4% chance of winning the AL Central. One factor in favor for the Chicago White Sox is the weakest opponent's schedule, both in the division and among the wild-card contenders. They only project to win 82 games at the moment, which gives them about a 30% chance to make the playoffs.
Baseball Prospectus still gives the Minnesota Twins (15.3%) a better chance than the White Sox (13.9%) to take the division, but it will be tougher than hoped with outfielder Byron Buxton back on the injured list.
The chances for the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers went quietly into that good night some time ago.
Baseball-References says it has "90 percent confidence" that the Houston Astros will win 107 games if they give their best effort. At worst, Houston will win 97 games. Either way, it would be good enough to take the division and, probably, gain a first-round bye.
The Seattle Mariners haven't made the playoffs since 2001, but all projection systems among Baseball Prospectus (81.2%), Baseball-Reference (86.1%), and FanGraphs (91.3%) say that streak ends this October.
The odds universally tell the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics to go back to the drawing board.