As we all know, the last month of the MLB regular season is always hectic. There’s all this clinching, magic number, mathematical elimination, and on the bubble talks going on, and it can be kind of crazy to stay on top of everything that goes on in September, so I’m going to try and clear up some of the confusion, by working backwards…. Seems less confusing, right? It will shortly, hang in there.
Let’s start with the teams who are mathematically, legitimately, and physically eliminated from Postseason play in the year 2018:
Baltimore, Toronto, Kansas City, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago (CWS), Texas, Seattle, Los Angeles (LAA), Miami, New York (NYM), Washington, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.
With last night’s loss, the Tampa Bay Rays have also added themselves to this list.
What this means is that 19 teams out of 30 total have a ZERO percent chance of playing in this year’s Postseason. It is mathematically IMPOSSIBLE for these teams to qualify for a spot in the playoffs.
Now that we’ve clarified that 19 teams WON’T be playing in October, let’s talk about the teams that have controlled their own fates and have already clinched a spot in the Postseason.
First, the Division Winners:
The first team to clinch their division was the Cleveland Indians. This is partly due to playing in such a mediocre division, but this team is not to be slept on by any means. With a solid starting rotation and a deep bullpen paired with a lively list of bats in their lineup, look for Cleveland to be a strong competitor in the ALDS.
Though they actually were the first team to clinch a postseason berth of any kind, the Boston Red Sox clinched their division after the Indians. The boys from Beantown have not only won the American League East, they have also secured home field advantage throughout the entire 2018 Postseason.
Following the Red Sox was the defending champion Houston Astros, who ironically has clinched a postseason berth, but technically have not yet clinched the AL West division title yet. Partly due to the fact that a new division rival has arisen in the Oakland Athletics, however Houston has seen their magic number drop down to 2, with a 4 ½ game lead in the division over Oakland with only a few games remaining.
What that means is that in the American League Wild Card Game, barring any miracles, the Oakland Athletics will be facing off with the New York Yankees in a one-game playoff with the winner facing the Red Sox in the ALDS. Where it gets a little tricky is where this Wild Card Game will take place. If the season ended today, the game would be in New York, but if the Yankees don’t scrape together some wins and hope for a couple more Oakland losses, this game could be played in Oakland. There is a notable series that has yet to be played that has the ability to really alter some plans. This weekend at Fenway Park, the Yankees will face off with the Sox in a 3-game series that could wind up determining the destination of where the Yanks and A’s face off in the do-or-die Wild Card game.
Nonetheless here’s how I think things will finalize:
Wild Card Game: Yankees @ Oakland
ALDS 1: Wild Card Game Winner @ Boston Red Sox
ALDS 2: Cleveland Indians @ Houston Astros
So the 5 teams representing the American League side in this year’s playoffs have already been set in stone, it’s just down to a matter of location and home-field advantages that have to be determined. That part of information will surface within the next few days.
Now on to the National League, where things get a little bit trickier…
The only division winner so far is in the NL East, where the Atlanta Braves have been the only National League team to really run away with their division. And that’s really all that is solidified in the NL, the rest of the teams to play into October have yet to be determined. We have a pretty solid idea, but nothing is definite yet, particularly not in the NL Central…
If the season ended today, here’s how the National League side of the playoff picture would look:
Wild Card Game: St. Louis Cardinals @ Milwaukee Brewers
NLDS 1: Wild Card Game Winner @ Chicago Cubs
NLDS 2: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves
BUT! The Cubs have not won the Central yet, in fact, their lead over Milwaukee is only 1 ½ games. And of course, in case you wouldn’t have guessed that there is a possibility of throwing a wrench into the Cubbies postseason plans, they have a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals Friday-Sunday to close out the season. Keep a very close eye on the Central for the rest of the week.
And the fun doesn’t stop there, either. In the NL West, the Dodgers currently lead the division by only 1 ½ games over the Colorado Rockies and still trail Atlanta by half a game for the better seeding in the Division Series.
However, if the Rockies somehow surpass the Dodgers in the NL West standings, then the Dodgers become a candidate for the Wild Card Game, but things would become real tricky determining who would not make the cut.
There are five possible playoff spots for National League teams to obtain. Atlanta already secured one of them. This means that there are 5 teams fighting for 4 spots with little time remaining. What a spectacular final week of the regular season we are in for, only 4 of the teams below can stay, and one will have to go home far earlier than planned. It could very well come down to the final day of the regular season until we know for sure who’s in and who’s out, and that I am definitely okay with.
Something I am even MORE THAN OKAY WITH would be the potential for one or even a few tiebreaker scenarios, but that is something I will not even bother getting into right now because I feel as though my rambling has gone on long enough. To summarize this entire article of my babbling on and on, here is we know a large portion of the playoff picture already despite how confusing it may seem. We’ll just have to wait another week and see if this is how it actually looks when the regular season is over.